The objects within the Messier Listing are distributed all through the night time sky seen from mid-northern latitudes. Not one of the objects fall within the space between Pisces and Aquarius, so when the Solar strikes between these constellations in late March yearly, it permits observers to see all 110 of the Messier objects between nightfall and daybreak on a single night time. The “Messier marathon” itself was invented independently by American astronomers Tom Hoffelder, Don Machholz and Tom Reiland, based on Machholz’s website.
Essentially the most southerly Messier object is in Scorpius, and probably the most northerly one is in Ursa Main. Because of this, you may see all 110 objects solely from areas on Earth between about 20 levels south and 55 levels north latitude. Observers within the southern United States round 25 levels north have a bonus for viewing the objects observable solely after nightfall and earlier than daybreak as a result of the Solar rises and units extra vertically close to Earth’s Equator, providing shorter twilight durations.
To higher see the fainter objects, decide a moonless night time inside a day or two of the brand new Moon on Saturday, March 13. A transparent sky all night time lengthy is a should, so verify the forecast and select the night time that gives the most effective circumstances. If a couple of night time seems promising, make your try on the primary night time, so you may have the choice for a second attempt.
Decide an observing website free from synthetic lights and lightweight air pollution, with open sight traces to the horizon, particularly to the west and the southeast. The next elevation website offers you extra time to watch the low objects. Deliver heat garments, and top off on snacks and drinks — you’ll be awake all night time!
Make sure to arrange your telescope and set up your different gear nicely earlier than sundown. In case you are utilizing a GoTo telescope, align it upfront and you’ll want to have an sufficient, long-lasting energy supply for it. If you happen to can’t star-align the telescope earlier than sundown, take into account beginning your marathon just a few hours earlier than daybreak and observe the morning objects. Then depart the telescope aligned all day and resume your session at sundown. You’ll nonetheless have run your marathon inside 24 hours.
The Messier Listing viewing plan
We will study loads from astronomers who’ve carried out Messier marathons previously. Here’s a website with a planning tool from RASC’s Calgary Centre. The objects aren’t seen within the order they set, as a result of brighter objects will be picked out throughout twilight, whereas dimmer objects want extra darkness. (Watch out to not confuse the viewing order with the Messier quantity!)
To start out your marathon, you will have to shortly catch the objects that set within the west after sundown, particularly the dim galaxies M77 and M74. By the point the sky has grown darkish sufficient to see them, they are going to be low within the west, so restrict the time spent on the primary galaxy in order to not miss the opposite one. Instantly after viewing these two, discover M33, the massive, face-on spiral galaxy within the constellation Triangulum, after which the Andromeda galaxy trio of M31, M32 and M110.
From this level, you should have time to work your means systematically throughout the sky from west to east. As you accomplish that, extra objects will rise within the east. By late night, it is best to arrive on the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. When you may have seen the 17 Messier objects there, you may take a break till the following group rises into view at round three a.m. native time.
The ultimate wave of objects consists of M55, M75, M72, M73 and M2, which rise within the predawn. The final object, the globular cluster M30, will rise within the east as daybreak begins to interrupt — so will probably be a problem to see that object. Observers farther south may have a bonus right here.
And that’s it! Whether or not you run the complete Messier Marathon, fall a wee bit quick, or solely pattern a portion of it, you’ll take pleasure in a beautiful journey underneath the celebs, seeing the most effective that the night time sky has to supply. And, hey — there’s at all times subsequent yr!
Chris Vaughan is a science author, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you may observe him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He may convey his Digital Starlab moveable inflatable planetarium to your college or different daytime or night occasion. Contact him by AstroGeo.ca to tour the universe collectively.