2009 All Arizona Messier Marathon

| 7 Comments

The 2009 All Arizona Messier Marathon has been over for a few days. And only now have I been able to recover my senses enough to write about it. My first Messier Marathon in 2006 was plagued by a clouds, and was only able to log an even 100 objects. I went into this year's marathon with the ambitious goal of not just observing all 110, but sketching each of them.

I managed 104.



Excuses: I did not count on how difficult it would be to star hop to M74 in the murky twilight along the horizon. Nor did I realize how badly the Phoenix light dome would assault M31's companions. Then a 2 am onslaught of clouds tore into the Summer Milky Way and I ended up losing M72, M73 and M30.

I arrived at the Farnsworth Ranch site at about 5:30 pm and set up my SkyView Pro 6LT (6" f/8 Equatorial Newtonian) next to the Polakises and wandered around for a bit to see what I could see. The CloudyNights encampment included Tom Watson, Ron Boe, Scott K and Greg K. Ron had a gorgeous set of eyepieces he planned on evaluating during the night. Scott had his 15 x 80 binoculars set up for marathoning while Greg was set up next door. Tom Watson brought his trusty three-legged Newt and a sturdy old refractor he was employing in another observing project. The 6:30 pm pep talk was MC'd by Rick Tejera and Jack Jones. The rough count of attendees was 90 vehicles and about 140 people. As the twilight faded, the sky looked great, and I had high hopes for a great run.


Tom & Jennifer Polakis and grandson Richard


Tom Watson


Scott Kroeppler


Greg Kettell


Ron Boe


Ron's eyepiece collection, including an
evaluation set of colorful Paradigm Eyepieces


Prep Meeting

Starting the evening off by missing M74, M32 and M110, took some of the wind out of my sails. But I did my best to shake it off. The time I spent trying to acquire them put me seriously behind schedule, and the sparkling delights of the Winter Milky Way didn't make it any easier to catch up. Most of the open clusters were breathtaking as usual, and it was difficult keeping the sketches loose, simple and fast. As I logged the time for each drawing, I celebrated the objects that took 3 minutes to find and draw while coaching myself on the ones that took more than 5 minutes.

As the evening deepened, the desert took on a nice chill, and I realized I really needed to put on my warmer clothes. But I didn't want to break the momentum I had going through the rest of the open cluster bonanza. By the time I reached M67, my head was aching from the cold and my fingers were starting to get stiff and numb. Once the balaclava, heavy jacket, ski pants and snow boots went on, I felt renewed. A few fig newtons and some coffee got me rolling again.

The Virgo Cluster was a blast. Nudging a degree here and a degree there to hop from galaxy to galaxy got things rolling at an excellent clip. Doubling up several objects into single sketches was also a nice bonus. Sadly, after a few objects, I made a spastic move and spilled my coffee. The ensuing five minutes of table & checklist wiping ate into the progress I was making, and I put a lot of effort into chastising myself for not securing the cup in my lawn chair beverage holder.

By 2 am, a deja-vu inducing flotilla of clouds tore into the rising Summer Milky Way. I spent the rest of the morning hours fighting for every globular cluster in Sagittarius. The worst part was trying to latch onto the last six objects as astronomical twilight began to eat into the sky. The high cirrus kept them all in no-man's land and the lengthy right-angle sweeps from Alpha Capricorni, Epsilon Pegasi, and Jupiter kept leading to nothing. I rotated among these jump points until I whittled away M55, M75, and M2 through random thinnings in the cloud-veil. The other three--M72, M73 and M30--simply faded away with the blazing twilight. And that was that. 104 objects sketched. A full 110 will have to wait for another year.

Although I didn't hit my target, I was excited to have broken 100 sketches. It also proved to me that I could definitely sketch all 110 in one night--as long as I could actually find every single one. I'll definitely try it again at the next good marathon year. Anybody want to give it a shot too? You can see the scanned sketch sheets and a blank template below.


M1 - M20
Large Version

M21 - M40
Large Version

M41 - M60
Large Version

 


M61 - M80
Large Version

M81 - M100
Large Version

M101 - M110
Large Version

Messier Marathon Sketch Template (PDF - 56 Kb)

7 Comments

You sir, are an artist and an author extraordinare! Nice report, beautiful sketches (your "loose" sketches are much better than my "best" ones!) It's an honor and a pleasure to observe at the same encampment! ;-)

Scott K.

An excellent report that motivates me to get my act together and write up one of my own. And speaking of motivation, I can't help being attracted to the notion of trying the sketch marathon myself. I'd be amazed if I proved up to breaking the century mark, but having now seen it done I find the idea catches my fancy.

Maybe next year?

Tom W.

Nice report. I do miss attending the AAMM and the great observers you can set up with. Just taking the midnight walk from scope to scope is an experience. We did do our MM from the slopes of Mauka Kea, nice location, but just not the same group of people.

Very site you have here Sir. Very nice indeed. You and the others are much more motivated than I. Perhaps it's the hot coffee I'm missing. Still can hardly believe you pushed to & sketched while Greg and I (mostly Greg) using goto plodded along visually. We did get to play a bit which cost Greg valuable battery time early in the morning.

Hope to see you out and about again.

Hi Jeremy.
the past AAMM 2009 was a wonderful experience.
I am observing 109 Messier Objets.
your Job is excellent¡¡
I Hope meet with you next AAMM 2010
Congratulations for your work¡¡ :-)

Dr Salvador Aguirre
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

PD usted habla español??
veo algunos links en su pagina en mi idioma

Hi Jeremy.
the past AAMM 2009 was a wonderful experience.
I am observing 109 Messier Objets.
your Job is excellent¡¡
I Hope meet with you next AAMM 2010
Congratulations for your work¡¡ :-)

Dr Salvador Aguirre
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

PD usted habla español??
veo algunos links en su pagina en mi idioma

Scott, the pleasure was mine. I hope to run a binocular marathon one of these days. Congratulations on catching 103 in yours!

Tom, I look forward to reading your report. If you try sketching part of the marathon next year, be sure to at least include the Virgo Cluster & galaxies around Ursa Major. They're quick ones and should help boost the total number you can finish off.

Andrew, it is a very nice crowd. I enjoyed your Mauna Kea report. Bummer about the ill-placed cinder cones :)

Thanks Ron! It was good to see you there. From here on out, every blank sketch template will remind me of your view of M33.

Dr. Aguirre, thank you, and congratulations on finding 109 objects that night! (For anyone looking at the panorama photo above, Dr. Aguirre is the man in the foreground in the maroon shirt, looking back wondering what I'm doing with a camera held over my head clicking pictures over and over again. :) ...Solamente hablo un poquito Español. Yo asistí a tres años de clases de Español en escuela secondaria. Puedo comprender alguno de lo que cada sitio dice. Yo pienso que es importante incluir todos sitios sobre dibujo, cualquiera que sea el idioma. Sin embargo, sitos escritos en Español están mas fáciles de comprender para mí. :) ¡Espero que nosotros reunamos de nuevo en 2010!

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy Perez published on April 1, 2009 5:55 PM.

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