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What is the Messier Marathon?
The Messier Marathon is based on a list of 110 objects "discovered" or compiled by Charles Messier in the 1700's. While Messier worked hard to discover comets, he compiled this list so that he could avoid mistaking the objects for new comets. Today, the Messier Objects form an introduction to deep-sky observing for countless amateur astronomers.
Due to a fluke in the distribution of the Messier Objects across the sky, it is possible to view all objects on the list in a single night during early spring (usually March or April). Amateur astronomers challenge their abilities, or build their observing skills, by trying to locate all the objects on the list.
The 2009 Messier Marathon
For 2009, the best weekend for the Messier Marathon will be March 28. For the remainder of 2008, a special mini-Messier Marathon is planned for the night of August 29.
If your group is planning a Messier Marathon, please contact the AANC Messier Coordinator, Michael Portuesi , with the following information:
- Name of Organization
- Date/Time of Event
- Place of Event (directions to site also welcome)
- Special instructions (permits, registration necessary, open to members only, arrive before sunset, etc).
- Contact person, with phone and/or email
- Web page for the event, if you have one.
Local Marathon Events
San Francisco Amateur Astronomers and the Sonoma County Astronomical Society - The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers and the Sonoma County Astronomical Society will co-host a Mini-Messier-Marathon at Lone Rock Flat, Lake Sonoma, on Friday, August 29th 2008 7:47 p.m.
Directions: Take 101 N to Geyserville (about 20min north of Santa Rosa), take the Canyon Rd exit and turn left (go under the freeway). Take Canyon Road until it ends at a T with Dry Creek Road. Turn right onto Dry Creek Road and continue until it reaches the Lake Sonoma Recreation Area. Make a sharp left turn, over the spillway bridge, at the enter the park. Drive through the lower park area, and continue up the hill past the Skaggs Spring turn off, onto Rockpile Road. Follow Rockpile Road, over the bridge across the rey Pine Flat turnout, on the right, (the alternate observing site). Continue to Lone Rock Flat about 1mi further on the right. Lone Rock is the preferred site, as it has better elevation and horizons.
Registration is not necessary. Please dress warmly with several layers—it is cold this time of year, and the Messier Marathon is an all-night experience!
Rob Hawley's Messier Marathon charts
The SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) web site has an excellent guide to the Messier Marathon, with links to several online resources.
- Messier Marathon General Information
- Messier Marathon Search Sequence List (as icons)
- Messier Marathon Search Sequence List (as text)
- Messier Marathon Observer's Form
- Messier Marathon Log Sheets
Michael Portuesi, AANC Messier Coordinator
AANC Messier Coordinator
Article by Jeff Baldwin on Messier Marathon, from Stockton Astronomical Society Valley Skies Newsletter - Mar 2005