A messier marathon is a star gazing where we try to spot all one hundred ten objects in one night. Although it is a difficult task, it is doable with some stargazing organizations offering certificates to those completing the marathon.
WHAT ARE MESSIER OBJECT
When Edmund Halley hypothesized that the bright comet that now bears its name would return in 1758, astronomers scrambled to be the first one to spot it. Charles Messier was a junior astronomer working at the marine observatory, began searching for the comet in the areas most likely to contain it. On 1759, when he finally succeeded in finding the comet, he was scooped up by another astronomer. Now he was more than driven, Messier continued searching for undiscovered comets by sweeping the skies on clear, moonless nights. His 4-inch (100 millimeters) aperture telescope was only slightly larger than most beginner telescopes in use today. But the sky was untouched by today’s urban light pollution, which favored him to his advantage.
Every astronomy sky-charting app includes the list of 110 objects, referring to it as the Messier list or Messier catalog. The objects are designated by their “M-codes, M1 through M110 (or Messier 1 through Messier 110). Amateur astronomers commonly refer to the group as the Messiers. Most of these famous objects also have proper names, such as the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Pleiades, and the Beehive Cluster.
This list of the best and brightest showpieces in the night sky is well-known with sky gazers of all experience levels. It’s possible to observe every one of the 110 objects in a single night during the new moon period in early spring each year. The Messier marathon is more likely a bucket-list observing challenge for amateur astronomers. During a single night in late March every year, it’s possible for sky gazers in mid-northern latitudes to see all 110 objects in Charles Messier’s list of celestial showpieces. The marathon requires some advanced planning and brainstorming, and mobile apps are a terrific resource for this. The first two objects to observe, the galaxies Messier 74 and 77, set soon after dusk.
GUIDE FOR THE MESSIER MARATHON
The objects in Messier’s list are spread out throughout the night sky visible from mid-northern latitudes. None of the objects lie in the area between Pisces and Aquarius. So when the sun moves between those constellations in late March every year, it allows sky gazers to see all of the Messier objects between dusk and dawn. The idea of a running a “Messier marathon” originated in 1979 with another comet hunter, Californian Don Machholz.
We can see all 110 objects from locations between 20 degrees south and 55 degrees north latitude worldwide. This is possible due to the fact that most southerly Messier objects are in Scorpius and Sagittarius and most northerly objects are in Cassiopeia and Ursa Major. The sun rises and sets more vertically near Earth’s equator which offers shorter twilight periods. This becomes an added advantage for observers in the Southern U.S, and round 25 degrees north which enables them to view objects observable only after dusk and before dawn.
It is a very enthralling event where we can view relatively deep sky objects (galaxies, nebulae and star clusters) in a single night where we can use world-class telescopes (32” Schulman and 24” Phillips) in an attempt to accomplish this feat. We will be guided by expert hosts who guide us through the heavens in search of Messier’s best and brightest deep sky objects. Weather call is an important element for the planning of the event. As with all Cherry Grove events, the marathon is held only if the skies are clear and will be CANCELLED IF CLOUDY.
HOW TO DO A MESSIER MARATHON EVENT
- The first step in the messier marathon is to check the latitude. The northernmost Messier object is at almost 70 degrees declination, meaning that we have to be north of 20 degrees south latitude. The southernmost is at -35 degrees declination, so you have to be south of 55 degrees north latitude. The best point is around 25 degrees north latitude.
- Second, we need to find the appropriate time of the year. Best viewing time is the night around the spring equinox.
- We need to search for the times the Messier objects will appear at that night.
- Next, we need to create an observational plan wherein we start viewing those objects that are only in the sky for a few minutes after the sun has set, and finish with the ones that rise a couple of minutes before the sun.
- Then we need to find a dark site, away from the cities and where there is no blockage to the horizon. Top of a hill is a good option.
- It is advisable to get to the dark site and start setting up the telescopes before the sunset instead of faffing around.
- Lastly, we want to capture the objects that we see because they are something which is very uncommon. Use a camera that will time and date each photo, so that you have proof that you did it all in one night.
We will be acknowledged and recognized by several organizations if we observe all of the Messier objects. Astroport India is one of the organizations who organize Messier Marathon at their Site.
Event Date– 6th March to 11th March & 30th March to 9th April
For Reservation inquiry– 91-9278767700
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