Messier Marathon

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Victoria Centre holds an  Annual Messier Marathon each Spring at the Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO), and its environs, on West Saanich Road. Start is about hour before sunset and finish is the following morning at dawn.

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Past Messier Marathons

March 8-9, 2013

The Centre�s Annual Messier Marathon was held on March 8-9, 2013 at the VCO. In attendance were Micah, Jim, Greg, Urmila, Michel, and I. We had perfect weather conditions with clear skies from sunset to sunrise. Greg, Micah, and I had our Dobsonian telescopes set up on the observation pad by 18:30 and awaited darkness.

By 19:15 I had my first observation, M74 the galaxy in the constellation of Pisces, and the race was on. I kept M79 in the back of my mind as I missed this object in 2009. By 23:30 all three runners had observed the galaxies in Virgo and were ready to move on to the lower parking lot. After setting up we carried on with our hunt. Light pollution from the city definitely slowed things down, especially for objects low in the sky. Greg and I struggled with M83, the Southern Pinwheel in Hydra. It took me an hour to locate it.

Meanwhile, Micah charged ahead, helped I�m sure with larger eye pupils. By 4:00 my gear was covered with dew and had to be warmed up in my vehicle. At around 5:20 we witnessed a beautiful moonrise and gave up a few minutes later as it was getting too light to observe. In the end I came short of my goal of observing 100 Messier Objects by 7 for a personal best of 93 Messier Objects. Micah observed and logged a remarkable 102 Messier Objects.

Congratulations Micah! I went to bed at 7:00 and got up three hours later to find the sky covered with clouds�our lucky break.


P.S. If you�d like to experience our Messier Marathon in less than 30 seconds checkout this time lapse video I created 2013 Messier Marathon

2013 Messier Marathon
from RASC Victoria Centre

At the 2013 Messier Marathon on March 8-9, my mom drove me to the gate at the bottom of the hill where we met up with Charles at 17:55. At 18:10 we drove up to the VCO and I started setting up and collimating my telescope. Greg arrived shortly after. At 18:50 it was dark enough for me to see m42 and 45. 74 and 77 soon followed along with the other setting objects. At this time my dad was able to arrive along with Michel and Urmila.

Many other Messiers followed shortly. At around 23:00 we had all found everything there was to see and we all waited for Virgo to rise. When it did, the fun and torment began. Another 40 Messiers later the Virgo cluster exhausted, we all loaded out gear into our vehicles and drove down to the lower parking lot where we all got to work on the rising sky. Here, my first object was 39 and I was also treated to a great view of the Blinking Planetary and the Cat Eye Nebulae.

As Ophiuchus rose, I got to work on the "summer sky" finding all the Messiers that were visible above the sky-glow and low rising clouds. At the end of the night, I had logged 102 messiers so at 05:30, Charles offered to drive me home so that I did not have to phone my parents to come pick me up (as my dad had left at 01:30 to get some sleep at home). We loaded his car and he drove me back home. When I woke up from my day of sleep at home, the sky was completely cloudy.

Micah Aalder

March 23-24, 2012

The 3rd Annual Messier Marathon was held last night, and was a modest success .... In attendance were Nelson Walker, John McDonald, Greg Higgs, Janet Wallace, Liz Davidson, Dorothy Paul, Jim Stilburn, Jim and Micah Aalders, and Michel Michaud.

All were set up on the pad outside the VCO (except those with binos only, and Michel, who was inside working on his latest project.

In any event, the conditions were somewhat variable, although always in large part clear (5/7). Readings on the SQM were in the low 20's. Observers described it as a "bit milky."

We plugged away until at least 2:00 AM, by which time all had left, except for Micah and his dad, and your humble narrator. At that time, Gregg Higgs had logged at least 51 objects, all from the VCO.

The three of us that remained the trundled down to the lower lot, where for the next four hours, Micah went to work on the Messiers in the Southern Sky, plus a few rising in the East. With his fully manual 6" dob and an IPod, he chipped away at these objects, one by one, over the city lights of Victoria. There were exactly five stars that could be seen in Scorpius, and exactly none that could be seen in Sagittarius, yet he knocked off one after the other. Occasionally he would say something like "I've got the Wild Duck Cluster," or "Do you want to see M14?" I would look at the sky and see nothing that would even lead one to find any cluster, let alone one on the list. Jim had nodded off in the back of their SUV, no small feat given the floodlights on the east wall of the shop. I tried to muster the energy to put my scope back up, but could do little more than watch Micah at work, and listen to crackpot radio, and reports of people claiming to be members of the Illuminati, or that they were in communion with aliens.

I'm anxious to hear from Micah how many objects he saw. When I asked, he said he was keeping track of it on the IPod. We were off the hill by 6:00 AM.

Nelson Walker

Here is a message I received from Micah:

Dear Mr. Walker,

It was fun observing with you last night and thank you for staying all night. Just so you know, I counted everything I saw and I found 81messiers!!!

69,70,54,) 7ngc's(188,7635,559,884,869,752,2392) and one caldwell(41)

April 1-2, 2011 - Unfortunately, due to bad weather, this Messier Marathon was cancelled.

March 12-13 & 19-20, 2010 - Unfortunately, due to bad weather, this Messier Marathon was a bust.

Victoria Centre's First Annual Messier Marathon was held at the Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO), and its environs, on West Saanich Road, March 25/26, 2009. This was an all night session. Several hardy members attended this "baptism by icy air."

This is the first of what is hoped will be the annual Messier Marathon for the RASC Victoria Centre. March 28, 2009 was the predicted best weekend of the year for a marathon, however March 25 gave us the best weather.

The Victoria Centre made history last night by holding its first Messier Marathon. Myself, Nelson Walker, Joe Carr, John McDonald, Bruno Quenneville, Rand Collins, Li-Ann Skibo, Paul Dickson, and Miles Waite attended this "practice run".

At around 20:15 we were treated with a spectacular ISS-Shuttle flyby. Joe noticed the Shuttle zipping-by followed by the brighter ISS. The two units were separated by about five degrees. We tried our best to observe M74 and M77 but failed to see these two galaxies. I log my first object, M33, at 20:34. After observing the galaxies in Virgo it was time for me, Nelson, and Miles to strike down our gear and move to the lower parking lot where Joe and Bruno were hard at work. Observing the Messier Objects located in Scorpius and Sagittarius was challenging due to light pollution and marine air. Clouds moved in fast at around 05:00 and put an end to the race. In the end I was able to observe 89 Messier Objects. I missed the following four objects before giving up: M74, M77, M79, and M83.

Thanks to Nelson for organizing this event and Joe for bringing "Mission Control" on site.

Charles Banville

Many thanks to Charles for posting this report of Messier Marathon "practice session."

It was a great event. Observatory hill imposes some "challenges" that might not be found at a dark sky site (heck, anyone can find Messier objects from Mt. Kobau), but what a great history the place has, what an ambiance! Hunting Messiers in the shadow of that huge white dome! We are indeed fortunate.

Nelson Walker

Please see Observing Highlights 2009 for more Messier Marathon observing reports.

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Last updated: January 29, 2014

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