2005 All Arizona Messier Marathon

A Messier Marathon, one of the crazier ways we celebrate our love of the night sky. Try to find all 110 objects on Charles Messier’s catalog in a single night. It is possible, barely, to do this. It is a challenge of skill and perseverance, and a lot of fun. In 2005 I joined a group of friends at Arizona City at the 2005 All Arizona Messier Marathon. This site has hosted the most successful marathons anywhere, a great site and a large group of very skilled observers makes the competition tough.

Ready to Marathon
The author waiting for dark
My immediate competition was my young friend Carter Smith. Carter and I marathoned together, often racing on objects and comparing scores through the night. I had meant to quietly work on H400 galaxies in Virgo, but Carter sucked me into marathoning with him. Great night with good transparency and for once this winter and spring, NO clouds. Seeing was great at sunset with wonderful views of Saturn while we waited for full dark. The seeing deteriorated badly after dark with cool and warm breezes warring over the site. But transparency is what you want for a perfect marathon which is what we got.

Marathon Briefing
Briefing the attendees on the rules of our messier marathon
I managed to stay ahead of Carter most of the night using my 18″ while he was using a 10″. Actually parts of the marathon are much harder with a big scope, particularly the Virgo cluster where a big scope sees all of the dimmer galaxies and not just the M’s you want. I used the setting circles only to confirm objects a few times, so both of us ran this one manually. We ran on purist rules, Telrad and charts the only tools allowed to find the object! The All Arizona Messier Marathon allows setting circles and GOTO scopes, but we are free to make our own rules a little tougher.

Late in the night Carter found my weakness, the 18″ will not depress below 5 degrees elevation, so he could get objects coming over the horizon before I did, after that he was ahead most of the time. Except a few occasions when guile won out against youthful enthusiasm and young, sharp eyesight. In the end we both scored a 109, the best that was possible with M30 being impossible. We had to work on M74, M73 and M72 together to be sure, but the spottings were confirmed by both of us. All in all a great marathon!!!

Messier Marathon Mosiac
The observing field at the Farnsworth Ranch, with the Silverbell Mountains in the background and Kitt Peak just visible at far right. The field is unusually green after heavy spring rains. The clouds are rapidly departing to the east.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

One thought on “2005 All Arizona Messier Marathon”

  1. I enjoyed reading about your scope and travels. It is sites like your’s that encourage the rest of us! Thank You……….I am in the process of going all out making a 10.5″-f 7.3 and a 16 ” 3.8 or 3.3. I mean from scratch…got 22″ scutt kiln ,plenty of glass,all the old books,latest update info,right now building a M.O.M. like grinding machine,and a real desire to do this!! I always like a great challenge and I believe this will be one. Please wish me luck I’ll need it!…………….Phil in tennessee

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