Half Messier Marathons

Many astronomy enthusiasts have thought and dreamed about the Messier Marathon, seeing and bagging the 100+ objects over the course of one night. But the prospect is so daunting that only the most daring, hardy (and crazy?) people actually attempt it.

For the rest of us, the SJAA is presenting an opportunity to save yourself from the after-effects of such an all-nighter.  Try your hand at star-hopping your way to half of the M objects in the SJAA Half Messier Marathon event.

Our next half marathon is:
  date : Saturday March 21, 2015
  time : 6pm – midnight (sunset: 7:19pm)
  place: Mendoza Ranch near Gilroy

Sign up is here.

Need some reference material?
Here are a few examples.  These should be considered only as starting points to do your own search.  There are other worthy alternatives.  Please note you will need some type of sky atlas.

Atlas of the Messier Objects: Highlights of the Deep Sky, 2008, Stoyan, et. al.
This one doesn’t show you how to find the M objects, but does have pictures, sketches, and descriptions of what you’ll see for a range of instruments including naked eye.

Sky & Telescope’s Pocket Sky Atlas, 2006, Sinnott
This is an inexpensive, compact, and sturdy sky atlas.  Has the detail needed.

A Walk through the Heavens: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and their Legends, 2004, Heifetz and Tirion
Not sure of the location of an M object is because you don’t quite know your constellations yet?  This one teaches them one at a time.

Sky Safari 4 for iOS, Mac OS, Android
Paper atlases are still very useful, but a number of us make heavy use of this planetarium software in the field.  It’s not free (basic version is only $3) but does have some great features, including descriptions and images of the M objects.  Observers should skip the basic version and get either the “Plus” or “Pro” version.

The Messier Catalog
Has lots of details for all of the M objects, including background, descriptions, and pictures.

Larry McNish’s Messier Marathon Planner
Enter the date and location, and this calculator will generate a sequence of objects and some info and comments about each object.  Note that the sequence assumes a March date, so you need to start somewhere in the middle of the list depending on the time of year.

Messier Objects Log book (PDF)
You can use this as a logbook to record your observations for all the M objects.  This gives a list of useful abbreviations to use.  And what’s really nice is a list of questions to ask yourself when viewing each type of object.