Sunday, December 7, 2008

Messier Marathon

The Messier Marathon, for many is a annual event, which runs from dawn to dusk on a moonless night in March. During the 10 hours from approximately 8:00PM to 6:00AM the observer will attempt to visit all 110 Messier objects in his eyepiece.

  • Messier Objects
Source: Wikipedia

The Messier objects are a set of astronomical objects first listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in his "Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles" ("Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters") included in the Connaissance des Temps for 1774 (published in 1771). The original motivation of the catalogue was that Messier was a comet hunter, and was frustrated by objects which resembled but were not comets. He therefore compiled a list of these objects[1], in collaboration with his assistant Pierre Méchain.

  • Observing Date
The only time of year a Messier Marathon can be run is mid to late March. The dates from now until 2050 can be found at the link provided. For the up coming 2009 season the primary date is Mar 28.

  • Observing Order
Several observing plans exist for this marathon and the one I will use is at the OAOG Yahoo Site in the files folder. There is a loose association with the set and rise times for these objects.

# - Messier - Setting Time
1 74 8:45PM
2 77 8:50PM
3 79 8:55PM
4 33 9:00PM
5 31 9:05PM
6 32 9:05PM
7 110 9:10PM
8 52 9:15PM
9 103 9:20PM
10 76 9:25PM

The first hour targets 10 objects.

The following items are all critical to a successful marathon.

  • Since I will have to use my goto mount to be able to find all the objects an efficient and early alignment will be critical. This will have to be done prior to 8:30 before M74 disappears below the western horizon. (I do not know if at this time of evening I will be able to see Polaris, The sun sets at about 7:00 p.m. on March 20.)
  • A site with a clear view of the western and south-western horizon will be critical to observe M74, M77 and M79 before they disappear by 9:00PM
  • I plan to use C11" SCT, w/ Megrez 90 FD Doublet piggybacked. This will give me a generous widefield field-of-view as well as a larger light gathering higher magnification FOV.
  • Mount will be the Celestron CGE w/ Goto capability. I'll go without the laptop to remove this as a failure mode and allow me to focus on the tasks at hand. This will also reduce my power requirements.
  • Dew, I have dew protection only on the C11, I am unsure if I would need a anti dew strip for the Megres.
  • DC Power, The only devices needing power will be the mount, and anti-dew protection.
Creature Comfort
  • It will get cold, warm dressings and coffee will be a must.

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