|In the mid to late 18th century French comet hunter Charles Messier cataloged a list of roughly 100 diffuse or "fuzzy" sky objects that could be confused with comets. Though not his goal (which was to facilitate his comet hunting), he cataloged some of the brightest and most beautiful galaxies, star clusters, and nebulas in the sky in the northern hemisphere. Nearly all of these objects can be seen with binoculars or small telescopes from dark skies--many are visible with the naked eye--and are obvious and delightful imaging targets.
||There are, of course, many catalog designations for deep sky objects. The two great accomplishments of John Louis Emile Dreyer, the New General Catalog (NGC) and Index Catalog (IC), cover thousands of deep sky objects. The bibliographer/academic in me feels compelled to offer direction to a couple of excellent sites that detail the history of these remarkable catalogs: The NGC/IC Project, and the SEDS Interactive NGC Catalog from which you can discover much about these remarkable achievements.