How to prepare for a Messier Marathon by Ken Anderson
What is a Messier Marathon? • Special time of year when all 109-110 Messier objects are visible during the same night, and an individual or group of astronomers attempt to find all (or most) on that New Moon night (or closest weekend). • Between March and April. Between +40 North and -20 South Latitude. • Not the longest night (late Dec) 12 hrs 45 min (5:30PM-6:15AM), but March would be better than April. • John Kirchhoff normally sets up a March Messier Marathon at Lake Hudson for all the local clubs – Working together with a group makes it more enjoyable and team support keeps you going.
Strategy: • Good Site • When • Equipment • Training/Practice • Messier Object Summary
1. Good Site • Dark skies (Lake Hudson, Mich Thumb, UP) • Low horizons (W (evening), S, & E (morning)) – Lake Hudson Beach Site • Between +40 North and -20 South Latitude • Low traffic (headlights, public distractions). • Good weather. • Comradery (Lake Hudson)
2. When • March-April • New Moon Night • Closest Weekend to New Moon Night • Scheduled Event (Lake Hudson)
3. Equipment • Nothing New! Be familiar with all your equipment (scope, finder, eyepieces, filters, binos, charts, atlas, books, etc) – This is not the time to try our or learn new equipment • Ensure Telrad and finder are aligned at least the day before. • Arrive Early – Setup and Laser culmination before dusk or when it gets completely dark. • Use wide TFOV eyepiece (30mm 82 AFOV) to enable you to quickly find objects so you can check them off; this is not the time to study objects (save that for other days). • Switch eyepieces if they get dewed up or iced up. • Dress Warm – Hunters/Ski clothing, Insulated Boots, Hunters gloves where index finger only can stick out for the small screws, hand/feet warmers (prevent quitting because you got cold).
4. Training/Practice • Learn constellations that Messier Objects are in (and/or constellations stars that will assist you). • Observe objects as often as possible. • Practice the starting objects at least one month before (i.e. M74, M77, M31/M32/M110, and M33). Use UW binos to help locate stars at the beginning! • Practice the ending objects before they go behind the sun in winter (M55, M75, M15, M2, M72, M73, and M30). Use UW binos to help locate stars near the end! • Practice Virgo-Coma Cluster Often (M49, M59/M60, M58, M84/M86, M87, M88, M89, M90, M91, M98, M99, M100, M85) • Harvard Pennington’s “Year Round Messier Marathon Field Guide” – Must for Marathon! I tabbed M numbers, and listed chart orders for all other months (Pennington’s off season chart is too small for night reading with red flashlight) • Stephen James O’Meara’s “Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects” to learn objects (not really used during marathon, except for black & white drawings) • Brent Watson’s Laminated Telrad “Finder Charts of The Messier Objects” – Must for Telrad Owners during Marathon! • Sky & Tel Laminated Messier Card – Must for Marathon! • Sky Atlas 2000 to learn sky and constellation objects – Not used during Marathon, except possibly the Virgo cluster page.
Second M 2nd M77
5. Messier Objects (14 Types) Charles Messier (1730-1817) & Pierre Mechain; 3.5-7.75” telescopes, Paris • 38 Galaxies • 1 Double Galaxy (M51) • 1 Galaxy Nucleus (M54) • 28 Globular Clusters • 25 Open Clusters • 6 Nebulous Clusters • 1 Milky Way Bright Patch “Star Window(Cloud)” • 1 Possible Asterism (M73) • 1 Double Star (M40) • 4 Planetary Nebula – Use Ultrablock and/or OIII • 1? Emission Nebula (M43) M42/M43, M8, M20, M17 – Use Ultrablock • 1 Reflection Nebula (M78) – Use Skyglow • 1 Supernova Remnant (M1) – Use Ultrablock • 1 Duplication (M102) • 110 Total Messier Objects
6. Errors Found in References • Harvard Pennington’s “Year Round Messier Marathon Field Guide” – No picture for M95 in Leo (Use O’Meara to Identify). • Brent Watson’s Laminated Telrad “Finder Charts of The Messier Objects” – Map for M105 and M95/M96 are switched – make a note on the charts!
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