Chasing Messiers from Dusk to Dawn
Jan Wisniewski, Victoria Centre, reporting from Kingston, Ontario
(also see my 2002 Messier Marathon Report)
One of the surprises which met me after moving to Kingston, was the "discovery" that there actually exists such a phenomenon as clear nights during the spring. Unbelievable and unheard of in Victoria, but true in Ontario. In the last four years the only time I was able to get a peak of galaxies in Virgo Cluster from Sooke was in pre-dawn hours of December - the part of 24 hour cycle which not too many sane people want to experience outside on their free will. So I hope it is not to difficult to understand my excitement about all those "new fuzzies" to observe. Of course I moved East just with a suitcase however that "survival kit" included 10x50 binoculars. Knowing my astronomical anxiety syndrom (well developed during West Coast rainy season) my loving wife shipped me my 6 inch Dobby a few days later by UPS.
One of my first thoughts focused on Messier Marathon. The time of year was right, I got myself a bit further South and Ontario is not knows for its mountains. So in the middle of March I went to Kingston Centre meeting and checked around for observationally inclined souls. Eventually Laura Gagne gave me precise direction to a secluded spot at Gould Lake Conservation Area about 25 km North of the city. A few nights later, when full Moon was not polluting the skies anymore, I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a large grassy and shrubby area with a very low horizon in all directions. There were a few closer clumps of trees but they were reasonably far away so I did not worry about them too much (well, we will come back to that later...). Sky was also very dark with just a bit of light dome of Kingston visible to the South. On that first observing session, to warm up before the real Marathon, I managed to find 60 Messier objects using binoculars and 6 inch scope. By 11 p.m. Moon was rising so I headed back.
During the warm up session I discovered that my 6 inch f4 Dobsonian is really inconvenient to use if set up on the ground. Tube is too short! Unfortunately, the tripod I used to mount it on was still in Sooke. Fortunately on the next trip to Home Depot I have noticed the perfect substitute. For $79 you can get there Black&Decker's Workmate 225 - a portable project center. That "beast" folds flat for storage or transport and can be set up in less than 5 seconds. It is very sturdy and has some height adjustment. It will also be handy when cutting lumber for the observatory or, let's say, building new kitchen cabinets (well, I had to justify that additional expenditure somehow). Anyway, the base of my Dob mounts in a vise-like top of the Workmate - see the picture of the actual field setup below.
Ready for action! 6 inch f4 Dobsonian on a Black&Decker's Workmate "mount"
The last week of March was not too promising, with cloudy skies and some rain. However, it cleared over Kingston on Friday (March 31) afternoon. After getting home from work I tossed all needed stuff into trunk and drove to Gould Lake. When almost there I had realized that my observing chair got left behind ...
Below is a quite detailed record of my observing/musing that followed. I used 10x50 binoculars and a home built 6 inch f4 Dobsonian (with 25mm and 12mm Plossl eyepieces yielding 24x and 48x, respectively). Time of each observation is given in EST. A tabulated summary of my Messier Marathon results is included at the very bottom of this page. Each of the Messier objects mentioned is linked to the corresponding image page - use the browser's "back" button to return to this page.
Hope you find this report interesting ...
I have got to Gould Lake Conservation Area at 6:45pm and parked outside the gate - just in case somebody showed up to close it. It was just after sunset and sky was clear with the exception of a few small clouds hugging horizon to N and NW. I carried scope, Workmate and accessories on top of small hill just inside the gate and set everything up by 7pm. It was getting darker and soon I had first evidence how clear the sky was - Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Sirius were visible by 7:03 and then stars started to pop up all over above me.
I started my Messier hunt with M74 in Pisces. aAri was not too hard to notice with unaided eye so I could star hop past b and gAri to hPsc using 6 inch Dob at 24x. Star hopping is a real pleasure with a rich field scope! I had an expected location of M74 centered - unfortunately it was just above the treetops and sky was still too bright to notice anything there! I watched it sink behind the branches at 7:35pm without detecting the faint glow of the galaxy. Well, there was not too much time to contemplate this first defeat. I Had to swing my trusty Dobby to Cetus. Star hopping from aCet I located the field of M77. Again, just above the branches on the still bright sky. Did not look good. By 7:51 treetops "swallowed" that spot, too. I needed some success.
So I got the Hare. I mean a celestial one. Hopping through that constellation below Orion I was able to notice 7.8 mag globular cluster M79 without any difficulty at 7:54pm. After all sky was completely dark there already! Soft glow of this globular was particularly nice at higher power (48x) but my scope was not resolving any stars there. Ok, the first Messier object in. But in the evening things tend to set up quickly so I had to rush to Andromeda and found M31 by 7:57pm. At 24x Dobby showed me also M32 and a faint streak of M110 in the same field. Only M31 was visible in binoculars. Then I pointed Dobby between bAnd and aTri and noticed M33 in Triangulum at 8:00pm. Both 6 inch scope at 24x and binoculars revealed no more than a large diffuse glow of this nearby galaxy.
M33 galaxy in Triangulum (mosaic of Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT images )
After catching those five objects fleeing toward western horizon, I had some time to look casually around the sky. Well, was I surprised? Bright, though diffuse, pyramid of light was rising from Western horizon and reaching up to Pleiades. This cone-shaped glow was tilted and its noticeably brighter axis run right through Mars (getting into treetops by that time) and Jupiter, then ending up just South of Pleiades. Saturn was clearly off to the side of it. Its wide base spread from aAri to aCet. Yes, there it was - Zodiacal Light in its full splendor. Last time I saw it so clearly from Texas Star Party in May of 1996.
Then it was time to hunt "fuzzies" again. By offsetting my Dobby at 24x from bCas I tracked down M52 at 8:13pm and then M103 just off dCas at 8:20pm. Both open star clusters were visible in 10x50 binoculars and 6 inch resolved them into individual "diamond grains" at 48x. NGC654, 659 and 663clusters were standing out of Milky Way backdrop near M103 in the 6 inch scope as well.
M76 was a little bit more challenging. I always had some difficulty navigating that are around the junction of Perseus, Cassiopeia and Andromeda so it took me until 8:27pm to find the 10 mag. planetary nebula with Dobby at 24x. At 48x it showed elongated, two-lobed structure. After this catching M34 off Algol (bPer) was a snap at 8:32pm. Even 10x50 binoculars resolved this loose open cluster. So far nine Messiers found and two missed.
Next destination - Puppis. M93 was found by offsetting from hCMa at 8:36pm. Unfortunately a few streaks of thin clouds were hanging over this area by now. That made star hopping pointless, however, by scanning with 6 inch scope at 24x upwards from M93, at 8:40pm I found both M46 and M47 well above that obstructing curtain. While both were visible in binoculars, only M47 was fully resolved in 10x50 glasses. 6 inch telescope at 48x was needed to completely resolve M46 - at that power planetary nebula NGC2438 was detectable with averted vision off the cluster's center.
M46 and M47 open star clusters in Puppis (mosaic of Cookbook CCD camera / 135mm telephoto lens images)
I am up to 13th object now. Just to be on the safe side I pointed Dobby below Sirius and grabbed M41 at 8:48pm. Even binoculars resolved this bright, loose star cluster. Then a short star hop North of Sirius led me to M50 at 8:50pm. At 24x it nicely stood out of Milky Way background as a "flock" of individual stars. It was also easy to find with binoculars, which still managed to partially resolve it. The next object, M48, required a bit longer star hop from M50, through M46 and M47, then past aMon. I located it with Dobby (24x) at 8:54pm. This large loose cluster was also resolved by 10x50 binoculars.
Getting a bit tired, I decided to visit old friends in Orion at 8:59pm. M42 and M43 pair (otherwise known as Great Orion Nebula), while visible in 10x50 glasses, showed its stunning beauty in 6 inch scope. At 48x the field was filled with the "Bat's" wings. Trapezium was also resolved at that power. Then, with 6 inch at 24x, I wandered NE of zOri and located M78 reflection nebula at 9:05pm. Two bright stars immersed in its diffuse glow were clearly visible at 48x. M78 was also noticeable in 10x50 binoculars.
Then, at 9:10pm I have revisited Pleiades (M45) noticed earlier with the unaided eye at the apex of Zodiacal Light. As usual that open cluster was delightful in binoculars however 6 inch scope revealed also the faint fan of Merope Nebula. That view contrasted with my next target - M1. I located Crab Nebula at 9:13 just of zTauri with the scope at 24x and later sighted it in 10x50 glasses as well. It is hard to imaging that this soft glow was born in a violent supernova explosion just under a thousand years ago (at least as noticed from our place in space).
M1 (Crab Nebula) (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
Next I entered the trail of great open star clusters. It started above hGem where at 9:17pm I came across M35 using 6 inch scope at 24x. It was also fully resolved in 10x50 binoculars. When inspected in the telescope at 48x power, the cluster's stars were spilling beyond single field of view joined by more distant cluster NGC2158. Then at 9:22pm I pointed my scope half way between qAur and bTau and focused it at M37. While an impressive object at low power or even in 10x50 binoculars, it turned into an intricately textured cloud of stardust sparkled with brighter stars when inspected with the 6 inch scope at 48x. Next, using binoculars, I moved to the heart of Auriga and spotted M36 and M38 at 9:26pm. Both were resolved into individual stars in the 6 inch scope and, while populated by brighter stars, none was as rich as M37. When viewed at 24x, M38 seemed to be embraced by two streams of brighter stars outlining the shape of heart. They converged on a smaller, distant open star cluster NGC1907. Then at 9:36pm I turned back to the East and spotted M44 with unaided eyes at the center of Cancer. This loose open star cluster was completely resolved in 10x50 glasses and overflowed field of view afforded by my 6 inch scope at 24x. The last treasure in this group consisted of M67 tracked down with binoculars off aCnc at 9:38pm. Dobby resolved it at 24x and when viewed at higher power it resembled previously mentioned M52 as well as reminded me of still awaiting me M11. All those three open star cluster containing single bright giant star presiding over the tight and sparkling congregation of less luminous members. They truly resemble intricate jewels.
After conquering 26 Messier targets, it was time to take a break. I needed it before attempting to navigate the maze of Virgo Cluster as well as it was getting co-o-old ! I would really give a fortune (well, a small one) for a mug of hot chocolate.
To get the "fuzzies" I first tracked Leo and at 10:02pm, after offsetting my Dobby at 24x from oLeo I spotted M95, M96 and M105. All of them were visible in 10x50 binoculars, too. M105 was accompanied by two additional galaxies, NGC3384 and NGC3389. Higher magnification (48x) was necessary to se the later of them in the 6 inch scope. Then I moved into neighborhood of qLeo and, with binoculars, noticed M65 and M66 galaxies at 10:10pm. 6 inch scope revealed hints of spiral structure in them and clearly showed NGC3628 to the North of them. How could Messier miss that one?
M66 (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
Now it was time to hunt in Virgo Cluster of galaxies. To avoid confusion I decided to use Dobby alone in that area - it is really easy to get lost in the maze of softly glowing fuzzies there, as Messier objects are outnumbered by NGC galaxies well within the reach of the 6 inch scope. Galaxies were located at 24x and further inspected at 48x.
At 10:21pm, by star hopping from eVir and rVir I found M59 and M60. The later looked a lot brighter and at higher magnification its satellite, NGC4647, became apparent. The faint glow of M58 was also visible in the same low power field. M89 and M90 were just a short hop away and I found them at 10:30pm. Higher magnification revealed the large extend of elongated M90 and showed some hints of structure, while M89 was a lot fainter with the bright nucleus standing out of its diffuse glow.
Then at 10:37 I turned toward nearby M87. This bright giant elliptical galaxy did not offer any detail at 48x other than broad central core. M91 and M88 joined the list of my "trophies" at 10:43pm. M91 was fainter of the pair and had really diffuse appearance. M88 on the other hand was bright, elongated and very well defined, displaying hints of spiral structure at 48x. At that magnification it nucleus was well visible and Western edge of galaxy seemed a lot sharper the opposite side.
After tracking my "steps" back to M87, I moved West of it at 10:50pm toward M84 and M86. Those bright elliptical galaxies reside on the Western end of the so-called Markarian Chain - the arrangement of bright galaxies crossing the "heart" of Virgo Cluster. The remaining "links" were revealed at higher magnification, including NGC4435, NGC4438, NGC4461, NGC4473 and NGC4477. Then I pointed the scope toward 6Com and located M98 and M99 in its vicinity at 10:57pm. When inspected at higher magnification, round and diffuse M99 nicely contrasted with very elongated M98. My next target, M100, was located to the NE of 6Com at 11:01pm. Its large diffuse glow was pierced with the bright point-like nucleus noticeable at 48x. A giant elliptical galaxy M85 was a bit further North. I found it at 11:06pm. A star was visible close to its edge and higher magnification revealed NGC4394 nearby.
The I had to move to the Southern outskirts of Virgo Cluster. At 11:17pm I located M61 galaxy in the field of 16Vir. Inspection of this heavyweight spiral at 48x showed point-like nucleus (with averted vision only) as well as hints of arms. Then a short "starry trail" to the North led me to the large glow of M49 at 11:21pm. Bright star was visible at 48x East of its bright and broad nucleus. Finally, at 11:26pm, I reached the last Messier member of Virgo "family" by following "pointers" above Corvus. The bright spindle of M104 as well as its dark dust lane were clearly visible at 48x.
M104(Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
For a change of view, I moved the scope below bCrv and spied out M68 at 11:31pm. That globular cluster looked like a large hazy and unresolved spot even at 48x. Then, following the tail of Hydra, I pointed Dobby to gHyd and star hopped to M83 at 11:40pm. The fuzzy outline of this barred spiral galaxy was clearly visible at 48x despite some haze present over this area of the sky. Later, once that haze dispersed around 1:00am, I was able to see M83 in 10x50 binoculars as well!
Next, I moved overhead to Ursa Major. I pointed my scope above its head and at 11:49 I spotted M81 and M82 galactic pair. While both are clearly visible in binoculars, the 6 inch scope reveals the striking contrast between the large fuzzy oval of M81 and cigar-shaped silhouette of M82. Then, a short jump past bUMa I caught another pair of "fuzzies" at 11:55pm. The round outline of M97 planetary nebula was quite easy to notice while narrow spindle of M108 was harder to spot. However, at higher magnification, that galaxy showed some mottling.
At 11:58pm I have got to the toughest of targets in Ursa Major. While M109 is conveniently located close to gUMa, that "blinding" neighbor makes spotting the faint galaxy impossible at low powers. While noticeable in my 6 inch scope at 24x, only at 48x, once gUMa was out of the field of view, its soft oval glow stood nicely against the black sky background. From there I moved to the most unlikely member of Messier's "family" - double star Winnecke 4. I spotted M40 at 0:02am (Fool's Day, April 1 - what a coincidence?) just off 70 UMa and was able to see both components even at 24x. Then I offset the scope to Mizar (zUMa) and, by following the chain of pointer stars 81, 83, 84 and 86 UMa, came across M101 at 0:07am. Diffuse glow of this spiral galaxy did not yield any detail through the scope, however, it was detectable in 10x50 binoculars as well.
After spending so much time with the Bear it was time to get acquainted with the Dogs pursuing her. By hopping of the tip of her tail (hUMa) I spotted both galactic components of M51 at 0:10am at 24x in a 6 inch scope. Spiral structure of the larger galaxy was clearly noticable at 48x. M51 was also plainly visible in 10x50 glasses.
I got up to 58 observed M objects already so it was time for a short break. I was glad to discover that a drink left in a car did not freeze quite yet... When I resumed observing there was no trace of the haze left anywhere on the sky!
At 0:28am I found M63 in Canes Venatici. While visible at 24x, at higher power this bright galaxy was clearly elongated. Even binoculars revealed that "fuzzy" without difficulty. Then, at 0:43am, I located the bright patch of M94 between a and bCVn with 6 inch scope at 24x and in binoculars as well. When inspected at 48x, M94 displayed point-like nucleus surrounded by bright and sharp-edged core as well as faint and diffuse outside halo. M106 fell into the field of view of my scope at 0:48am. I found it by star-hopping from bCVn at 24x. At 48x it showed some structure reminiscent of a tilted spiral. This large and bright galaxy was also easy to locate in 10x50 binoculars.
I spotted my next trophy at 0:54am next to aCom. M53 globular cluster, while visible as a hazy spot in binoculars and at 24x in a 6 inch scope, started to resolve into a fuzzy ball with a few sparkling diamonds at 48x. Nearby poor and dim globular NGC5053 was only detectable at 48x. Then, at 0:58am, I star-hopped to M64. It was visible as a bright oval at 24x and 48x - no trace of black eye, though. Binoculars also revealed that galaxy.
M64 (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
My next target, M3 in Canes Venatici, was found at 1:00am by offset from bCom with a 6 inch scope at 24x. This great globular cluster was partially resolved into a densely packed ball of stars at 48x. M3 was easy to spot in binoculars as well. My trail led me then to the mystery M object - M102. NGC5866 was hard to find because of a long range star-hop from hUMa. 48x magnification was required to see its bright but small spindle.
Next I pointed Dobby below hHer and located M13, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, at 1:15am. While a view at 24x resembled one afforded by binoculars, 48x resolved many of cluster's bright stars and transformed it into a real showpiece. I could not admire it for to long, as there were still 42 objects waiting for me. I moved on to another globular in Hercules - M92. It was found at 24x between i and pHer at 1:16am. Higher magnification resolved that globular into swarm of stars, not so impressive as M13, though. Both Hercules clusters were easy to spot in 10x50 binoculars, too. To follow up on impressive globulars, I tracked down M5 in Serpens Caput at 1:20am. While just a fuzzy patch in binoculars or 6 inch scope at 24x, it presented an impressive view when partially resolved at 48x.
Now it was time to step into dense "fog" of Milky Way, already high in the eastern sky. For Messier hunters that is a "land of plenty". I started on its edge with M57 in Lyra. This bright planetary nebula was easy to spot at 1:22am between b and gLyr using Dobby at 24x and displayed annular structure at 48x. Once I memorize its location in the crowded star field, it was easy to find in binoculars as well - however in 10x50 glasses if looked just like a star. The second M object in Lyra, M56 globular, was a bit more challenging. Hidden amongst Milky Way's star, it required a careful star-hop from Albireo (bCyg) - a beautiful blue/yellow double star. Found at 1:26am, it looked like an unresolved hazy spot even at 48x. In binoculars, however, it had a star-like appearance.
For the contrast effect, I zoomed my binoculars North of Deneb to find M39 in Cygnus at 1:28am. This loose open cluster sits at the center of octopus-like pattern of dark dust bands superimposed on the bright glow of the Milky Way. Resolved stars of this cluster nicely fit into the field of view of my Dobby at 24x. Then, at 24x, I located M29 close to gCyg at 1:31am. This small open cluster is hidden among bright field stars, however its Pleiades-like pattern is hard to miss at higher magnification. I had to memorize its location before being able to find it with binoculars again.
At 1:35am I spotted M71 in Sagitta using the 6 inch scope at 24x. Even at 48x it still showed as just a hazy spot. This faint globular cluster was visible in binoculars as well. Nearby M27 in Vulpecula was easy to locate with binoculars at 1:39am. In the 6 inch scope at 48x the central, hourglass-shaped region was clearly visible against more diffuse lobes of this great planetary nebula.
M27 (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
Next, I moved to Ophiuchus to track its family of globular clusters. I located M14 at 1:47am with my 6 inch scope at 24x. While visible in binoculars as well, its large haze was still unresolved even at 48x. Then, using binoculars, I found M12 and M10 at 1:56am. My 6 inch scope started to resolve M12 at 24x and at 48x it resembled a sparkling ball of stardust. M10 proved to be a little bit more difficult, with higher magnification only starting to resolve its hazy appearence. Nearby M107, while visible in binoculars, was first found at 2:03am with my Dobby at 24x by offsetting from zOph. It appeared small and faint even at 48x, though some of its brighter stars were noticable at that power. Then, moving south, I star-hopped from hOph to M9 at 2:08am using the 6 inch scope again. That hazy patch showed some resolution into brighter stars only at 48x. While located quite low over the horizon, it was still visible in 10x50 glasses.
The great globular M4 in Scorpius was my next target at 2:11am. It was clearly visible near Antares in binoculars. Dobby resolved it quite well at 48x, nicely showing its equatorial band of bright stars. Then I moved to nearby M80 at 2:15am. This compact and quite bright globular was visible as a small fuzzy spot in binoculars. The 6 inch scope did not resolve it even at 48x. Next I moved my scope to nOph and star-hopped to the large diffuse glow of M19 by 2:18am. Again, even higher magnification did not show any individual stars in this cluster. M19 was detectable in binoculars, too. Then, at 2:25am, I came across M62. While this globular was already visible in 10x50 binoculars, Dobby did not bring any resolution out of this compact fuzzy ball.
After this rich crop of globulars, I shifted my attention to the Scutum Star Cloud. By pointing my scope to lAql I noticed Wild Duck Cluster (M11) at 2:31am. While it is a nice object even in binoculars, at 48x my Dobby transformed it into an impressive cloud of sparkling diamonds dominated by the single bright giant star.
M11 (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
Then at 2:35am I tracked down M26. This inconspicuous open cluster, while visible in binoculars, required 48x power to be completely resolved. Next, on my way South toward Sagittarius, I noticed M16 at 2:38 am. My 6 inch scope nicely showed not only the hazy Eagle Nebula but also completely resolved the associated open cluster. The nebulosity with entangled stars was well visible in 10x50 glasses, as well.
The nearby Swan Nebula (M17) - an easy trophy for binoculars - was found at 2:41 am. Dobby revealed intricate wisps of nebulosity in this celestial showpiece. I located my next target, M18, with binoculars just South on M17 at 2:43am. This loose open cluster was fully resolved in 6 inch scope at 24x. Then I used binoculars to spot and admire M24 Star Cloud at 2:45am. This "oversized" object cannot fit in the field of view of my scope even at the lowest power but many knots of stardust and patches of dust were visible when it was scanned at 24x.
Then I shifted my scope to M25 at 2:46am. This large open cluster was resolved into individual star not only at 24x but in binoculars as well. Next, a little bit further South, I came across M22 at 2:48 am. This globular cluster was well visible both in binoculars and in a 6 inch scope as a large and bright hazy patch. Then, by offseting my scope at 24x, I located a much smaller and fainter glow of M28 at 2:50am. This globular was nonetheless visible in binoculars as well. From there I used my Dobby at 24x to scan the Sagittarius Star Cloud until I happened across M8 at 2:53am. The bright cloud of Lagoon Nebula glowed brightly against the Milky Way background and was well defined even in 10x50 field glasses. Then at 2:54am, just North of M8, I spotted both M20 (Trifid Nebula) and M21 open cluster in a single field of view with a 6 inch scope at 24x. Sky background was getting significantly brighter over the horizon already, so those fainter objects were not obvious in binoculars. However, M23 was still an easy binocular target when found a little bit higher at the same time. Dobby fully resolved this loose open cluster at 24x.
M20 (Trifid Nebula) (Cookbook CCD camera / 8 inch SCT image)
There was still quite a number of objects left in Southern Sagittarius - unfortunately they were raising behind a patch of trees mentioned in the beginning ... Other then converting them into firewood (which would keep me warm but was not an option, as I did not have my trusty axe with me) I had to wait until the celestial spheres turn just a bit more.
So in a meantime I decided to fish out a few more Messier objects still scattered here and there. Scanning the horizon below Cygnus I noticed that ePeg was quite high already. Then finding M15 globular cluster was a snap at 2:57am. Both binoculars and Dobby at 24x showed its round glow. Next I zoomed my 10x50 field glasses back to Scorpio and caught M6 and M7 open clusters high above Southern horizon at 3:00am. Even at that power they were fully resolved.
After scanning the SE horizon again, I knew that there was time for a break. There was no more objects to see at the moment (other than behind those trees...). Coyotes were restless, too - I could hear their howling all over nearby woods.
After about 30 minutes it was time to resume the hunt. I started with star-hopping from ePeg and at 3:35am succeeded in finding M2 globular in Aquarius with my 6 inch scope at 24x. Next I scanned Sagittarius for anything lurking from behind those trees and noticed tiny haze of M69 at 3:52am followed by nearby M70 at 3:56am. As the sky was getting awfully bright, their identities were confirmed at 48x power as well. Then I waited for M54 to roll from amongst the branches at 4:01am. While barely noticable at 24x, increasing the magnification to 48x darkened the sky around it and allowed its positive visual confirmation.
Then I "jump" over to the other side of the tree patch and, starting from aCap, successfully located tiny "disk" of M75 globular at 4:07am. Next I star-hopped from aCap into Aquarius again and faint glow of M72 globular cluster at 4:14am. Its neighbour, M73, took another five minutes. Even as it was located in the same low power field of view, the sky got so bright already, that only a very careful inspection at 48x revealed tiny but completely resolved Y-shaped asterism at 4:20am.
Then I went back to M54 and carefully tracked down the apparent location of my second last target, the great globular cluster M55. The field stars around it proved that it just cleared the tops of infamous trees, however, after a lot of hesitation I had to surrender. There was no chance of seeing even this brights Messier object against the glowing pre-dawn sky. A quick scan of the horizon revealed that dCap was well above it, however the last Messier object, M30, did not even rise yet.
With this double defeat I had to conclude my Messier Marathon 2000. It was time to go home, thaw half-frozen extremities and get some sleep ...
Summary of my March 31, 2000 Messier Marathon results:
number of objects:
|objects seen with the 6 inch Dobsonian:
|objects lost to twilights:
M74, M77, M30
|objects hidden by trees:
objects seen in 10x50 binoculars
binoculars were not used in the Virgo Cluster and in the early morning sky
Number of visitors:
© Jan Wisniewski