how to prepare Messier Marathon

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 (5:30PM6:15AM), 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.
1. Good Site
2. When
3. Equipment
4. Training/Practice
5. 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)
Lake Hudson 3/17-18/2007
Lake Hudson 3/17-18/2007
2. When
New Moon Night
Closest Weekend to New Moon Night
Scheduled Event (Lake Hudson)
No. of Messier Visible
by Month & Lattitude
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
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
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
Stephen James O’Meara’s “Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects” to
learn objects (not really used during marathon, except for black & white
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.
Training Jan-Jun Chart Order
Training July-Dec Chart Order
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
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!
Lake Hudson 3/17-18/2007
Last Men Standing at Dawn
& Answers

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