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Astroman

Messier Marathon-2006

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This year, all 110 objects were to be available to view. M30 in the morning was to be the toughest, being only 10 degrees above the horizon at astronomical twilight. Weather reports were somewhat dodgy though, with varying sources giving varying degrees of clouds, high and low, and times changing minute to minute. I took off work Friday to set up camp and such, to pick up the wife after work so we wouldn't have to rush. Didn't quite go as planned, but that's another story. It turned out to be a harbinger, though.

Friday night started out clear down to about 30 degrees above the horizon, with intermittent high thin clouds near zenith. Winds were 5-15 mph. I managed a very good polar alignment and we logged a few variable stars, as well as a couple nice Ngc objects. Went to bed fairly early to conserve for the next day.

Spent Saturday catching up on some light reading, (Science, Science News Weekly and Sky and Telescope). :) Clear most of the day, but high clouds stuck to the horizons. High temp around 80ºF. Winds increased to ~20mph. My "road mount" isn't that affected by winds, but the big Dob guys had some trouble.

Darkness begins and the race is on. Building high clouds and horizon clouds put M74 out of reach for all but a very few. M31, 32 and 110 were totally covered by clouds. M33 was caught by fewer than those getting M74, but I managed to see it as it ducked in from behind a cloud. M76 always gives me trouble near twilight, and the Zodiacal Light doesn't help this time of year either. We managed to get everything else up through the Virgo cluster before 11:00pm-ish, but it was more challenging than usual because of the clouds. Did some walking around and chatting with folks for a bit, then turned in for a nap to await the rest of the objects rising. At this point, we had logged ~50 objects, or not quite half.

I awoke to the sounds of our neighbors saying stuff like, "M17! WOW!" and "That's M22?! Holy smoke!". At 2:30 am, I woke up the wife and we went out. To our dismay, the cloud cover was nearly total, with occasional sucker holes drifting across the Arizona sky. The holes were getting smaller and the stars getting dimmer. Jupiter looked like a glow behind the clouds. :) Our usual, liesurely method of logging, probably the best objects on the sky quickly fell by the wayside. My wife, I should say, is basically my guide. She calls out the coordinates and I point the scope and locate the object. Anyway, she hadn't attended an observing session for a year or so, and was quite rusty. She'd also not tried observing specific objects at a moment's notice through sucker holes before. It became somewhat frustrating. I've done it many times at public events, where you had to point and locate quickly and let as many people view as possible. But the size of the holes and swiftness of the clouds made even this tough. In the end, we had to settle for what we could get and hang it up.

The good news is, since we'd known early that we weren't to accomplish all 110 observations, we could at least get the minimum for a certificate, which was the only thing we hadn't received yet->50 objects for the evening. We ended up with a "grand" :lol: total of 74-our lowest total yet.

The night was definitely in favor of the goto crowd. They could point to an object, assuming a good alignment, and just wait for it to appear through the clouds. Sometimes the wait would be short, sometimes long. I heard one say he waited for M52 for 20 minutes! Reminded me of the "good old days" of manually tracking photos. :? First place will go to (goto?) someone claiming 108 objects, with M74 and M110 eluding them. No one got M74 and only a few got M33.

Overall, it was great fun, though the results were disappointing. Maybe next year!

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Thanks for your report Astroman; you paint a clear picture :lol:

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Unlucky AM! Clouds, just when you don't want 'em!

Glad you had fun!

74 is still some achievement, though.

Thanks for the report :lol:

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Nice going Astroman As Daz says nice going :lol:

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Thanks, CC, et al. The wife was expecting it this time, so no damage done to me at all. :lol: I do feel for ya, though.

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