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I'm running a Messier Marathon!


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I have been lumbered....errr...volunteered to run Basingstoke Astro Soc's Messier Marathon this year (thanks guys). Having never ever even been to one before, I could do with some tips! I am particularly interested in the logistics for the event, e.g. drinks, food, shelter and heating. What has worked for you? We have a reasonable amount of technical experience, e.g. what order to do them in etc but any advice would still be welcome.

If anyone is interested in attending it will be held at Cliddesden Junior School, near Basingstoke on Friday 16th March. Time TBC. If cloudy, it will be postponed to Saturday 17th.

Thanks, P

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Having participated in ~8 Messier Marathons, and successfully completed all 110 objects, I'd be glad to help. Not just now, though. I'll write up something for you and post it later on today, (local time), ok? May be tomorrow for you, but hopefully you'll find it useful.

And hey, Congratulations! Our MM is being held Saturday March 17th into Sunday, the 18th.

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Having never ever even been to one before, I could do with some tips! I am particularly interested in the logistics for the event, e.g. drinks, food, shelter and heating. What has worked for you? We have a reasonable amount of technical experience, e.g. what order to do them in etc but any advice would still be welcome.

If anyone is interested in attending it will be held at Cliddesden Junior School, near Basingstoke on Friday 16th March. Time TBC. If cloudy, it will be postponed to Saturday 17th.

Thanks, P

Running a Messier Marathon can be a lot of fun. It can also be a lot of work, but only if you make it so. Keep your guidelines simple. Use an "honor system" for logging objects. Print out a suggested list, of which one is available here:

http://www.saguaroastro.org/content/messier-images/Marathon_order.pdf

Skipping the first page here, the list will print on both sides of one page. All you need have participants do is observe the object through the main optics of their scope or binocs, check off the object on the list and move on to the next one. Upon reviewing entrants for any or all prizes awarded, objects not seen by most will be glaring for those that "think" they saw it. Of course, the actual rules and exectuion thereof is up to you, but the simpler and more fun you make it, the better. (Each year, we here in AZ have someone bring up the argument of manual/starhopping vs. computer GOTO. Here, it doesn't matter how you find the object, only that you actually see it.)

When I run the marathon, I generally find the hard ones first, which for us are typically M74, 77, 33, 31 et al and a few others. I can generally find M42, 45 and such before it's actually dark. After the tough stuff is done, it's just a matter of pacing. I generally go through the list systematically until I get through the Virgo cluster. I'll then stop, get a bite to eat, socialize some and take a nap until ~2 or 3am when the remainder of the objects come up. It's then a mad dash to the finish when Sagittarius and Capricornus come up. The hardest objects on the other end are M72, 73 and M30. They may not rise in time to observe before dawn, so they're generally a wash, depending on your latitude.

Now, I understand you may not be able to see all 110 objects from your location, no matter if conditions are ideal. My club awards the top 3 NUMBER of entries, no matter how many. In other words, you don't have to have all 110 to get first place. (Although the lowest 1st place I got was 107 because of the aforementioned M72, 73, 30 thing.)

As for running it, it's important to saty warm, hydrated and add an extra meal or two to keep your stamina up. If you'll stay up all night, you'll need at least one extra meal. I'll have some soup or something warm before my nap and wake up with coffee and maybe oatmeal or something. Gets the blood flowing again and keeps you warm.

The most important thing is to HAVE FUN! Don't get too competitive or you'll ruin it. Shouting out, "I've got M74! Woohoo!" and stuff may be fun at first, but if someone missed M74, it's gonna spoil it.

Can't think of anything else right now, but if I do, or you have any questions, feel free. HTH 8)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Its tricky from our latitude, this time last year one of the UK astro mags did an excellent guide to attempting a MM in the UK giving the suggested 'running order'. I'll try and dig it out if I've still got it.

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Thanks, Gaz, that'd be great.

One of our club members gave a talk about the scheduling of a MM from northerly latitudes, suggesting it may be changed to accommodate some of the more southern objects. Some that we find easy in mid March may be better observed in April from the UK for instance. Conversely, some, like M31 and M76, may be circumpolar for you chaps. I'll poll him and see if he has the specifics. The UK may be limited by the location od the southern objects such as M69, 70, 55 and so on, but since the whole idea is to see as many as possible, and not necessarily all 110, you should do fine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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