A Messier short-marathon for UK observers
2014 January 26
The ‘Messier Marathon’ is a challenge to observe all the objects in the Messier Catalogue in a single night. It was ‘invented’ in the US in the 1970s but it was only in 1985 that the first recorded successful completion of the challenge was made.
From the UK it is pretty difficult, if not impossible, to observe all the Messier objects at all, let alone in one night. But for those still interested in the challenge, but perhaps who don’t want to attempt the full marathon, I have prepared this alternative sequence of 85 Messier objects, a short-marathon. It is derived from the sequence in Don Machholz’s book The Messier Marathon Observer’s Guide.
It will still take all night to complete the challenge as some objects are only available for a short time at sunset or before sunrise. In choosing the objects, I have excluded those of very low declination, and those that are low setting at sunset or rising at sunrise. This should enable those with a more restricted horizon to complete this short-marathon.
Of course this does not mean that the challenge is easy: you may be able to pace yourself more slowly, and perhaps take a little more time observing each object, but you will still need to press on to complete the list. Particularly challenging will be the objects in Sagittarius towards the end of the marathon; these will need to be picked up when they are low in the east.
The challenge is officially for the visual observer with a manual telescope (no GOTO allowed!). But if you do wish to try using a GOTO telescope, then why not? However, for imagers, it would certainlybe a challenge to take a picture of each object on one night. As all the Messiers are comparatively bright, long exposures would not be necessary, though the differences in object size could make it an interesting project.
March is the favoured month for Messier Marathons, and in 2014 there are two New Moons in March, on March 1 and 30 – the latter weekend being preferred, but it might be worth having a practice run on the first if it is clear.
If you have a good southerly location, and want to try the full marathon, then there are many excellent internet resources. I would recommend starting at http://messier.seds.org/xtra/marathon/marathon.html
This challenge is really just a bit of fun – but it will require skill and luck to complete. Please do send any reports, successful or otherwise (unsuccessful attempts are just as interesting!), to the Deep Sky Section Director.
Callum Potter, Director, Deep Sky Section
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