Messier Marathon 2003
Jan Wisniewski, RASC - Kingston Centre
(also see my 2000 & 2002 Messier Marathon)
It seems like Messier Marathon starts to be my annual quest. This year me, Fred and Doug as well as a few other members of Kingston Center planned to undertake that challenge on March 29/30 from Fred's "Dark Sky Reserve" near Maberly. Moon would be just a bit shy of New and conveniently (as none of us is retiered or hit a 6/49 jackpot, yet) it was Saturday night as well. Of course I do not have to state the odds of such a night being clear... So, just in case I arranged for a 4-day long weekend to improve my chances.
While, after lo-o-ong winter, SE Ontario enjoyed a week of warm weather, a new cold front was crawling back and skied got shrouded by clouds. So "the perfect night" was a bust. However (should I say "of course") it started to clear on Sunday, though it was still hazy and extremely windy. I have tried to get M74 and M77 from my driveway but failed despited completely flat W horizon. Then, on Monday, Clear Sky Clock predicted almost unbelivable - it could be clear for the whole night (as well as New Moon on April 1). Contrary to such optimistic forecast for Kingston, in Harrowsmith big clouds started to appear in the afternoon with occasional snow... It was clear along N horizon and Sky Clock suggested very good conditions around Maberly. So, on the short notice I have "warned" Fred, "tossed" needed equipment into my stationwagon and hit the road...
I got to Fred's "Dark Sky Reserve" just past sunset - Fred just managed to get back from work as well. We hauled scopes to the side of a hill used a year ago. Fred's 8 inch SCT was a snap to get there. On the other hand getting my 20 inch (almost 200 lbs) through a ditch and up the steep slope was a lot more serious... By the time I managed to lug the rest of my stuff it was almost completely dark.
This year I decided to try Messier Marathon with 20 inch f4. It was equipped with Paracorr coma corrector and 31mm Nagler type 5 giving FOV just over 1° across at 75x ! This "monster" rich-field scope was pointed with a help of a simple red-dot finder (from K-mart "Astronomy Department") and giant 6 inch f4 finder (this was my main Messier Marathon scope in 2000 and 2002, giving 2° FOV @ 24x :-).
Because of the late time (March 31) M74 and M77 was already out of reach. Shrubs on the side of the hills claimed M33 and M110 as well, though I did managed to spy M31 and M33 in between the branches. M33 and M110 could be observed in the morning again so that did not seem like a huge loss at that time...
I found the first object, M79, at 19:36 EST (March 31, 2003). I hunted them one by one until reaching the total of 97 Messier objects with M15 detected through an increasing haze at 3:42 EST (April 1, 2003). Individual objects and time of their detection are listed below:
|Target #||Messier Object||Object Type||Constellation||Time Detected (EST)||Comments|
|2||M31||galaxy||Andromeda||19:41||seen through shrubs, M110 not visible|
|8||M45||open cluster||Taurus||20:08||Merope Nebula visible as well|
|10||M46||open cluster||Puppis||20:45||NGC2438 visible in M46|
|12||M41||open cluster||Canis Major||20:50|
|13||M50||open cluster||Monoceros||20:53||Seagull Nebula detectable nearby|
|14||M42||nebula||Orion||20:55||Quite intense Aurora developed over N horizon !|
|18||M1||nebula||Taurus||21:01||Saturn nearby - fits in the same field FOV of 31mm Nagler!|
|22||M35||open cluster||Gemini||21:34||I have spied IC443 nearby as well as Medusa Nebula (both with OIII filter)|
|23||M44||open cluster||Cancer||21:45||This one was accompanied by Jupiter ! Took a while to recover my night vision afterwards...|
|25||M105||galaxy||Leo||22:10||So many galaxies around - not just NGC3384 and NGC3389.|
|28||M65||galaxy||Leo||22:15||Plus NGC3628 in the same field of view - lots of detail even at a relatively low power (75x) !|
|29||M60||galaxy||Virgo||22:19||M60's companion (NGC4647) clearly visible|
|36||M87||galaxy||Virgo||22:26||plus all the members of the Markarian's Chain|
|49||M81||galaxy||Ursa Major||23:52||same field of view in 31mm Nagler|
|51||M97||planetary||Ursa Major||23:54||same field of view in 31mm Nagler ! Owl's eyes visible, too.|
|54||M40||double star||Ursa Major||0:03|
|55||M101||galaxy||Ursa Major||0:08||spiral arms easy to see|
|56||M51||galaxy||Canes Venatici||0:10||Spectacular, bright spiral. Structure visible in disrupted companion as well.|
|58||M94||galaxy||Canes Venatici||0:13||bright inner region contrasts with faint outer parts|
|59||M106||galaxy||Canes Venatici||0:16||found at 24x|
|60||M53||globular||Coma||0:23||NGC5053 visible in the same FOV of 31mm Nagler|
|61||M64||galaxy||Coma||0:48||Black eye was very distinct through 20 inch scope ! I visited NGC4565 as well - what a treat...|
|62||M3||globular||Canes Venatici||0:50||spectacular view|
|63||M102||galaxy||Draco||1:00||NGC5907 and NGC5879 clearly visible as well|
|64||M13||globular||Hercules||1:01||plus NGC6207 in the same FOV of 31mm Nagler|
|67||M57||planetary||Lyra||1:04||it had bluish color through 20 inch with some red as well !|
|81||M16||open cluster + nebula||Serpens Cauda||2:53|
|97||M15||globular||Pegasus||3:42||barely visible through the increasing haze|
By 4am both me and Fred had enough. Haze above horizon and clouds precluded any chance of seeing more objects. On the bright side though, getting 20 inch Dob down the slope was a lot easier !
March 16 seemed to be a bit early last year. Obviously March 31, again - see Messier Marathon 2000, is too late. March 23 may be then the best time to observe both evening and morning Messiers. Hopefuly next year it will be clear during New Moon on March 20, 2004 (Saturday). Only in 2009 and 2012 Moon would present again no more than thin crescent around March 23:
|Year||New Moon||Date of my Messier Marathon|
|2000||April 4||March 31|
|2001||March 24||bad weather|
|2002||March 13||March 16|
|2003||April 1||March 31|
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© Jan Wisniewski