Monday, March 19, 2007

Messier Half-Marathon

A little background from Wikipedia:

The Messier objects are a set of astronomical objects catalogued by Charles Messier in his catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters first published in 1774. The original motivation behind the catalogue was that Messier was a comet hunter, and was frustrated by objects which resembled but were not comets. He therefore compiled a list of these objects.

The first edition covered 45 objects numbered M1 to M45. The total list consists of 110 objects, ranging from M1 to M110. The final catalogue was published in 1781 and printed in the Connaissance des Temps in 1784. Many of these objects are still known by their Messier number.

Because Messier lived and did his astronomical work in France in the Northern Hemisphere, the list he compiled contains only objects from the north celestial pole to a celestial latitude of about –35°. Many impressive Southern objects, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are excluded from the list. Because all of the Messier objects are visible with binoculars or small telescopes (under favorable conditions), they are popular viewing objects for amateur astronomers. In early spring, astronomers sometimes gather for "Messier marathons", when all of the objects can be viewed over a single night.

Well, that's just what I attempted Saturday night from Canyon of the Eagles. Trouble was that the weather--which started out great--turned to mush and the completely overcast by about 1:00 a.m. As a result I only made it through the first 45. Still, I saw a lot of things I hadn't seen before and want to go back and photograph.

Trudy & Ian came along for the first time. The boy had a pretty good time running around. He & Trudy wound up watching movies on the iBook in the tent after it got dark, but he did come look through the scope a couple of times.

Object Name Start Time Notes
M74 8:39:11 PM very faint
M77 8:43:15 PM ok
M33 8:53:56 PM large faint patch
M31 8:59:57 PM not bad for low in sky
M110 9:00:09 PM averted vision
M32 9:00:34 PM compact
M52 9:02:22 PM nice, easy
M103 9:13:01 PM pretty!
M34 9:16:19 PM big
M45 9:23:53 PM hello ladies! Better in ED80. Some nebulosity visible
M79 9:28:02 PM medium dim
M42 9:28:50 PM great in ED80; a,b,c,d,e & f easy with 13mm Nagler in 10"
M43 9:34:00 PM yup
M78 9:34:27 PM dull
M1 9:44:11 PM 3D-like, maybe texture with ultrablock?
M35 9:49:56 PM too big for 10"
M37 10:22:24 PM nice
M36 10:24:33 PM meh
M38 10:26:40 PM ok
M41 10:28:55 PM yup
M93 10:29:32 PM ok
M46 10:38:39 PM cool w/neb in cluster
M50 10:39:33 PM ok
M48 10:40:32 PM ok
M47 10:40:49 PM ok
M44 10:51:41 PM bah
M95 10:55:40 PM nice
M96 10:56:04 PM nice
M105 11:05:58 PM nice
M81 11:24:33 PM love 81 & 82
M82 11:25:23 PM love 81 & 82
M97 11:31:14 PM dim
M108 11:34:51 PM slim
M109 11:47:35 PM texture w/ averted vision
M40 11:50:37 PM why is this even on the list?
M106 11:55:14 PM definite shape
M94 12:07:50 AM hints of spiral?
M51 12:19:07 AM not bad. definite spiral, no bridge
M53 12:30:36 AM ok
M3 12:36:36 AM nice. tight center, loose edges
M85 12:37:43 AM hazy w/ bright center, like picture
M98 12:41:44 AM unremarkable
M99 12:45:53 AM something w/averted vision
M100 12:48:53 AM faint, no detail (pity)
M86 1:01:39 AM 84 & 86 together ok
M84 1:01:39 AM 84 & 86 together ok

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