110 Messier Objects with 15 x 70 Binoculars

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I've had my 15 x 70 Oberwerk binoculars for nearly a year now and have really enjoyed observing with them. In September, I started putting them to use on the Messier catalog. My goal was to see if I could observe all 110 objects from home, with as little fuss as possible. That is: no tripod, very little dark adaptation, and only the most rudimentary sketches. I wanted it to be a fun little blitz, to see how far the binoculars could take me. My main advantage is a very clear sky. So, even though glaring light from nearby industry is reflecting off of every nearby structure, the sky clarity makes up for it if you can shield your eyes for just a few minutes.

When I started last September, the bright, feisty objects in the Summer Milky Way made for easy pickings. By the time spring rolled around though, my binoculars faced an imposing load of galaxies. But they gave way bit by bit. Finally, on April 2nd, I finished a tour of the Virgo Cluster and tracked down my last binocular Messier object: M100.

Several of the objects were very difficult, and would have benefitted from a tripod rather than a reclined lawn chair. I was fooled by unresolved groups of stars a couple times too and had to run back out to re-observe those areas. But with close comparison to the star field and comparison to Starry Night software, I was able to verify all the tough ones. The most difficult objects I noted on my list were: M74, M76, M91, M96, M102, M108, and M109.

Now that I've done it, I hope to attempt a Binocular Messier Marathon one day.

My observing notes are in the table at the end of this entry.

If you want to see the handwritten notes with those rudimentary sketches I mentioned, they can be found in this PDF: Binocular Messier Observation Notes

I have also prepared a blank observing record, in case you would like to use it:
Binocular Messier Observation Form (Letter Size)
Binocular Messier Observation Form (A4 Size)

IDTypeAL RatingDateTimeDescription
M1SNRChallenge16-Sep-0702:55 AMSmall, soft patch, to NW of Zeta TAU. Actually midway between Mars and Zeta TAU on this night. Great sight!
M2GCEasy17-Sep-0710:05 PMBright, moderately condensed. Lies just north of an arcing group of stars.
M3GCEasy17-Sep-0708:20 PMLarge, strongly condensed. Forms one corner of a downward pointing long isosceles triangle with 2 other stars.
M4GCEasy17-Sep-0708:10 PMFirst quarter moon was 2 degrees from M4, fun challenge. M4 was a large, soft glow, barely discernible over the background sky/moonglow
M5GCEasy17-Sep-0708:50 PMLarge, strong condensation. Bright star and a tweaked 'X' shaped asterism were just southwest of it.
M6OCEasy16-Sep-0709:25 PMBright, fully resolved. Parallelogram formed by bright stars, looks much like a small Lyra, including handle. Orange star at east corner.
M7OCEasy16-Sep-0709:25 PMLarge, fully resolved, fairly condensed. About 20 bright members over about 3 dozen fainter members. Orange star marks sw side of core.
M8DN+OCChallenge16-Sep-0709:35 PMMajestic, bright nebula surrounding fully resolved star cluster. Nebula has 2 bright southern patches and a fainter north patch.
M9GCEasy17-Sep-0709:10 PMSmall, faint, strongly condensed.
M10GCEasy16-Sep-0709:55 PMSoft, moderately condensed.
M11OCEasy16-Sep-0709:30 PMLooks just like a globular cluster. Strongly condensed and round. Bright.
M12GCEasy16-Sep-0709:15 PMSoft, not well condensed.
M13GCEasy16-Sep-0709:35 PMBright, large, broadly condensed core. Forms apex of isosceles triangle with 2 other bright stars.
M14GCTougher16-Sep-0710:05 PMSmall, soft, moderately condensed. Forms right angle with a line of three stars to its north.
M15GCEasy16-Sep-0703:40 AMStrongly condensed, circular. Sits along side of triangular asterism.
M16OC+ENEasy16-Sep-0710:30 PMGrainy star cluster with several brighter members resting over soft, nebulous backdrop. Elongated east to west. 2 bright stars to the south make it look larger.
M17OC+ENEasy16-Sep-0710:20 PMElongated checkmark shaped nebula with east to west alignment and swoosh pointing south on the west end.
M18OCEasy16-Sep-0710:25 PMSmall circular, partially resolved with some distinct stars lying over soft haze behind.
M19GCTougher17-Sep-0709:00 PMSoft, moderately condensed. Sits beneath a trio of wide doubles that seem to point toward it. Neat context.
M20N+OC-16-Sep-0709:40 PMTwo-lobed nebulosity. Southern lobe is brightest. Both are centered on bright stars.
M21OC-16-Sep-0709:45 PMGrainy cluster, enmeshed in Milky Way field. Strongly condensed core.
M22GCEasy16-Sep-0709:00 PMBright, soft, circular with broad bright core. Sits just east of a triangular asterism with an orange apex star.
M23OCEasy16-Sep-0709:50 PMBeautiful, large, finely grained cluster. Bright star rests outside the northwest edge. Not concentrated.
M24SC+OCEasy16-Sep-0710:00 PMHuge, sparkling cloud of stars. Oblong with many bright stars over a fine grained backdrop.
M25OCEasy16-Sep-0710:15 PMBright, irregular, nicely resolved with grainy background. Fairly condensed core.
M26OCChallenge16-Sep-0710:35 PMSmall , circular, not resolved except for 1 star on southwest portion of core. Appears moderately condensed. Forms east apex of right-triangle with 2 bright stars.
M27PNEasy17-Sep-0709:20 PMBright, circular. Two-lobed structure just barely visible.
M28GCTougher16-Sep-0709:05 PMSmall, soft with strongly condensed core.
M29OCEasy16-Sep-0702:40 AMSmall, grainy and condensed. Same field as Sadr.
M30GCTougher17-Sep-0710:00 PMSmall, moderately condensed. Paired with a star of similar magnitude just to its west side. Much brighter star lies a bit further to its east.
M31GalEasy16-Sep-0701:40 AMBeautiful, elongated. Northwest edge sharper. Super condensed core.
M32GalChallenge16-Sep-0701:40 AMSoft, small disc outside south edge of visible portion of M31.
M33GalTougher16-Sep-0702:05 AMSoft, oval, with broad central condensation. Sits within diamond asterism.
M34OCEasy16-Sep-0702:50 AMSparse, fairly resolved. Lies at the heart of a rhombus asterism like a heart in a chest.
M35OCEasy16-Sep-0702:50 AMLarge, soft and grainy with about 10 brighter stars involved. Nice curving string of stars peels away to the south.
M36OCEasy16-Sep-0701:55 AMGrainy, concentrated, shaped like an “A”.
M37OCEasy16-Sep-0701:55 AMSoft, lumpy, concentrated.
M38OCEasy16-Sep-0701:55 AMGrainy, irregular, loose. Sits just north of Cheshire Cat Asterism.
M39OCEasy16-Sep-0702:45 AMLarge, fully resolved, loose, about 2 dozen stars apparent. Crooked peace symbol shape.
M40DblTougher17-Sep-0708:40 PMNeeded to memorize the star field carefully. It showed up northeast of 70 Umaj. Couldn't resolve into 2 stars though.
M41OCEasy26-Jan-0809:40 PMLarge (3 to 4 degrees) with bright well-resolved stars over a foam of fainter stars. X-shaped. Right central star appears yellow-orange.
M42OC+ENEasy16-Sep-0703:05 AMBeautiful, bow/fan shape with loads of bright stars all around in linear sweep.
M43EN-16-Sep-0703:05 AMTough to distinguish from M42. Centered on bright star north of the trapezium.
M44OCEasy26-Jan-0810:20 PMHuge with bright stars. About a dozen bright members with a couple dozen more faint members. Has an almost rectangular appearance.
M45OCEasy16-Sep-0701:50 AMBrilliant, loose collection of bright blue stars. Wonderful streamer of stars hanging off.
M46OCEasy26-Jan-0809:55 PMVery soft, round haze with a grain of about 8 stars emerging above the background. Beautiful pair with M47. About .5 degree in size.
M47OCEasy26-Jan-0809:55 PMAppears fully resolved with a couple dozen stars. Elongated northeast to southwest and about .75 degree wide in that direction.
M48OCEasy26-Jan-0810:10 PMLarge, grainy with more than a couple dozen stars resolving. Elongated northwest to southeast. Great binocular OC.
M49GalTougher30-Mar-0811:00 PMSoft, non-descript patch, nearly midway between 2 bright stars in the “back” of a lawn chair shaped asterism.
M50OCEasy26-Jan-0810:00 PMFull range of resolution, soft, round haze with overlying grain and about 8 or so more distinct stars. Two brighter stars north and south give an oval appearance.
M51GalChallenge17-Sep-0708:25 PMSoft, moderately condensed, appears to be elongated...indicating detection of NGC 5195 in the combined light.
M52OCEasy16-Sep-0702:40 AMSoft, round, mostly unresolved. One bright star superimposed.
M53GCTougher30-Mar-0810:50 PMBright, round, with a broad, robust core. Situated between diadem and a rough streamer of stars.
M54GCChallenge16-Sep-0709:10 PMSmall, but strongly condensed core.
M55GCEasy17-Sep-0709:35 PMHuge, bright, only slightly condensed. Circular.
M56GCChallenge16-Sep-0710:40 PMSoft, moderately condensed. Possibly overlapping star makes it look like a double-core aligned northwest to southeast.
M57PN-16-Sep-0710:35 PMActually nicely visible. Almost stellar. Forms apex of a flat isosceles triangle of stars that is also connected to another triangle.
M58Gal-02-Apr-0809:35 PMA bit difficult, just below a bright star. Somewhat condensed.
M59Gal-02-Apr-0809:20 PMDifficult. Near M60. Just a soft patch of haze.
M60Gal-02-Apr-0809:20 PMRather easy. Soft patch. Good concentration at center.
M61Gal-30-Mar-0811:10 PMSoft patch in a bright, starry field.
M62GCTougher17-Sep-0708:55 PMTough sighting with moon in this part of the sky. Strongly condensed.
M63GalTougher17-Sep-0708:35 PMTough sighting in this part of the sky. Very subtle. Elongated 2:1.
M64GalTougher30-Mar-0810:50 PMSlightly oval, soft with gradual brightness profile. Sits below the base of a wide isosceles triangle of stars.
M65GalChallenge30-Mar-0810:35 PMRelatively easy to spot. Round. Forms a right triangle with M66 and a bright star.
M66GalChallenge30-Mar-0810:35 PMLarge and easy to see. Highly elongated with a bright core, situated between two bright stars and elongated in their direction.
M67OCEasy26-Jan-0810:20 PMSoft ellipse aligned southwest to northeast. A hint of granularity, with 1 bright star on the northeast edge.
M68GCChallenge02-Apr-0809:05 PMSoft, unresolved spot. Only slight condensation with averted vision. Easy to confuse with nearby group of stars.
M69GC-16-Sep-0709:15 PMSmall, faint, soft patch with a notable star just north of it. Mildly condensed.
M70GC-16-Sep-0709:20 PMSoft, faint patch, mildly condensed. Rests north of two angled star groups.
M71GCChallenge16-Sep-0710:45 PMFaint, soft, barely condensed. Wants to hide in the lumpy Milky Way.
M72GC-17-Sep-0709:50 PMVery faint and small. Located next to a star in the lower left corner of a rhomboid asterism.
M73Ast-17-Sep-0709:55 PMFaint, and nearly stellar. Part of a line of 3 other stars.
M74Gal-16-Sep-0703:25 AMExtremely difficult. Midway from Eta PSC to star pair with a mag 10.5 star .25 degree to the east. Appears as a small, faint glow.
M75GCChallenge17-Sep-0709:45 PMSmall, faint, moderately condensed.
M76PN-16-Sep-0702:15 AMVery difficult. Small, faint, soft patch .25 degree north of 6.6 mag star in Perseus.
M77Gal-16-Sep-0703:15 AMNearly 1 degree east-southeast of Delta CET. Small, soft, faint spot at end of star chain.
M78RNTougher16-Sep-0703:00 AMSmall, soft patch at right angle with Orion belt stars.
M79GCTougher21-Sep-0703:00 AMSmall, faint, fairly condensed. Notable companion star just to its south.
M80GCTougher17-Sep-0708:15 PMSmall, moderately condensed. Sports a close neighbor star on its northeast side. First quarter moon 4 degrees away. Still showed up nicely.
M81GalTougher16-Sep-0703:30 AMSoft, oval with condensed core, just south of M82 for great pair. Sits at north apex of triangle formed with 2 stars.
M82GalTougher16-Sep-0703:30 AMSoft, highly elongated. Bright axis running along its core, but fainter than M81 to the south.
M83GalTougher02-Apr-0811:15 PMLarge! Softly circular, with mildly condensed core.
M84Gal-02-Apr-0810:45 PMFairly easy, right next to M86. Round and condensed. (NGC 4435 and 4438 combo also visible on other side of M86.)
M85Gal-02-Apr-0811:10 PMSituated right next to a star of similar magnitude. The well-condensed core forms a “double” with that star. Circular.
M86Gal-02-Apr-0810:45 PMAn easy catch, fairly condensed and slightly elongated. Right next to M84 and NGC 4435/4438 on either side.
M87Gal-02-Apr-0810:40 PMFairly easy, large, well-condensed.
M88Gal-02-Apr-0810:30 PMNot too difficult. Soft, relatively large.
M89Gal-02-Apr-0810:20 PMDifficult. Almost stellar, but still soft with a well-condensed core.
M90Gal-02-Apr-0810:20 PMDifficult, larger than M89, couldn't detect condensation.
M91Gal-02-Apr-0810:35 PMVery difficult. I think only the core was showing. Looks like a faint star on the left corner of a triangle of other stars.
M92GCEasy16-Sep-0709:35 PMBright, soft, strongly condensed core.
M93OCEasy26-Jan-0809:45 PMSoft elongated (east-west) glow with 4 or 5 stars starting to resolve out of the mist.
M94GalTougher02-Feb-0811:25 PMBright. Round and sharply condensed.
M95Gal-30-Mar-0810:25 PMVery difficult. Forms shorter edge of right triangle with M96 and a brighter star. It also sits just east of another faint star.
M96Gal-02-Feb-0811:35 PMSoft, formless patch.
M97PNChallenge02-Feb-0810:55 PMNot easy, but much easier than nearby M108. A faint soft star-like object.
M98Gal-02-Apr-0811:00 PMPretty difficult. Elongated and no condensation that I could see.
M99Gal-02-Apr-0810:55 PMFairly easy, round, moderately condensed.
M100Gal-02-Apr-0810:55 PMFairly easy, round, larger than M99 and moderately condensed.
M101GalChallenge17-Sep-0708:45 PMLarge! Very softly defined. Slightest hint of condensation and elongated northeast-southwest slightly.
M102Gal-17-Sep-0709:30 PMRequired lots of effort. Very small. Moderately condensed. Needed to compare closely to star field.
M103OCEasy16-Sep-0702:35 AMLinear shape, grainy, three prominent linear stars. North star brightest.
M104GalChallenge02-Apr-0809:10 PMFairly straightforward to see near a couple nice binocular doubles. Is easy to see elongation pointing toward brighter double.
M105Gal-30-Mar-0810:10 PMAlmost stellar, with slight diffuseness. Forms right triangle with 2 nearby stars. Ended up spotting NGC 3384 right next to it!
M106GalChallenge02-Feb-0811:20 PMRelatively easy. Elongated and brighter towards the middle. Rests along one edge of right triangle of stars.
M107GC-17-Sep-0709:10 PMExtremely difficult with light pollution and low altitude. Appeared as slightest sky brightening with no detail to see at all.
M108Gal-02-Feb-0811:00 PMVery difficult and intermittent. But at right position at end of an arc of stars. Very soft, but elongated.
M109Gal-02-Feb-0811:15 PMVery difficult. Right next to a 9th magnitude star. Appears as a soft glow hanging off this star.
M110Gal-16-Sep-0701:40 AMVery faint patch brightening sky northwest of M31 and perpendicular to M31's axis.

4 Comments

As a galaxy hunter I would love you to extend this to NGC galaxies you have seen in 70/80mm bins...

I have done 1023/2403/2655/2682/2841/2903/3077/3115/3384/3521/3628/4490/4494/4631/5005/5195/7331..

I am sure I could spot more..interested in the fact you saw the eyes in Virgo..

I have mag 5.5 skies so this does limit me somewhat..

Mark Stuart
Bristol

That sounds like a great project, Mark! I've estimated a limiting magnitude of 6.2 from my home, and the SQM sometimes gets to 20.4 mag/arcsec^2. So there's definitely a lot that should be accessible with binoculars. Thanks for the suggestions.

I was just looking through this for some guidance for a group observation. There's a lot of objects here and I wondered if this is for southern hemisphere or northern?

Hi Nicolle, that's a great point. The Messier objects are more ideally placed for northern hemisphere observers. Depending on how far south in the southern hemisphere you are, some of them won't be visible.

I just did a quick search and this is a link to a PDF document of a Modified Messier Marathon for Southern observers by Leo Cavagnaro (hosted by the Rose City Astronomrs):

www.rosecityastronomers.org/sister_clubs/pdf/2012_04_leo_S_Messier.pdf

Although that list is geared for a single-night marathon, it could also be useful as a year-round observing project. I'm not sure about binocular visibility of the different objects swapped into the list, but I'm sure they're worth a try. I hope that can help!

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy Perez published on April 7, 2008 10:26 PM.

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