Messier Marathon 2005

Jan Wisniewski, RASC - Kingston Centre

East Hawkesbury, Ontario

March 19/20, 2005

Weather was bad last year so I have did not want to miss my chance to see majority of Messiers this year. There was one big problem, though - or should I say "bright" problem - Full Moon comes on March 25 in 2005.

Therefore, I knew that visually it was going to be a washout. However, I have realized that, while unused for long time, my Cookbook CCD camera is still operational...

Surprisingly enough, while weather was really unstable earlier (during New Moon ), it got really clear for a number of nights around and after First Quarter. On one of those clear late afternoons, March 19, I have decided to try hunting down as many Messier objects as possible with my CCD camera. So I have set up my 8 inch SCT in a snow covered field. It required a very long extension cord to get power to the North end of my property and a lot of snow had to be shoveled out to reach ice layer stable enough to support the tripod. Fortunately, afterwards it stayed clear until sunrise and there was no wind.

I have used f3.0 focal reducer to get larger field of view with Cookbook 245 camera. Telescope was only roughly aligned on Polaris during a few minutes I could spare at evening twilight and I used short exposures to avoid excessive trailing. Anyway, due to the fast rate at which objects had to be found, there was no time to acquire any longer integration and with time (faced with approaching morning twilight) I had to reduce the number of short integrations from five to three, then two and finally single shots...

Due to bright Moon (almost 10 days old, it eventually set around 4 am) majority of Messier objects and fainter field stars were not visible in 8x50 finder (which I have used to point the telescope). That caused significant delays in finding some targets and eventually caused more objects missed in the morning.

However, I was still able to image 106 objects. By neccessity, some of the images show only a very small part of the object - for example M24, M45 and M44.Three additional objects (M72, M73 and M55) were within reach if I was not delayed so much and run out of time before sunrise. Those objects were 6 to 10 degrees over horizon at nautical twilight (5:06 am EST) - and I was still imaging M54, M2 and M75 past that time. Only M30 was left below horizon! So I am quite confident that imaging 109 M objects in a single is possible...

However, comparing to visual Messier Marathon, such CCD adventure is exhaustion as there is no break at all during the whole night....

Anyway, you can follow my CCD Messier Marathon 2005 by following this link!

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Jan Wisniewski