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Methods for Messiers

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Since being sucked into this incredible hobby, i'm becoming more and more interested in hunting Messier objects. I've recently got a new scope for this very purpose which so far i've had good success with.

I'm curious as to peoples methods for DSO hunting. I look up on charts and stellarium for the rough whereabouts of a few targets firstly. Then when im out i've been using a 26mm ep to locate them and thats that really.

How do other people go about it ? What size ep do you locate with ? Do you then increase magnification when you've found a target?

I've read that all you need is a wideview ep like a 32mm or a 26mm and thats it?!

Any other methods?


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Hello Al

As you can see from my signature I have viewed the complete Messier list.

My method was to determine the Messier objects that I wanted to view on a particular evening and log their position against my Sky and Telescope pocket atlas.

I used two items to find these objects - 1) a red dot finder to locate a brightish star 2) 9x50 right angle correct view finder to star hop to the Messier object. Once I think I have the object in view I will use the main scope using my widest 2" EP to study it. Usually I then go to the 13mm Ethos and sometimes the 8mm Ethos.

I also use my Uranometria atlases to find fainter DSOs and I have created a transparent overlay showing a circle the same size as my Eyepiece FOV and this is placed over the atlas so I can cross reference the star field.


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I like to have stellarium next to me when im observing. it really helps in star hoping. I use low power (x30) to find them but because of the small size of my scope (5 inch) i find that i can only boost the magnification up if it is a bright object, if its an object below (or above, it depends which way you look at it) a magnitude of say 8, there is no point, the image will become dimmer and less defined.

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As Mark said above, the secret to successful Messier bagging is forward planning. Make best use of cloudy nights by selecting a small handful of targets that will be suitably positioned for the next time the sky is clear. You've probably got a particular area of sky from where you observe that is least affected by light pollution or obstructions, so you can use something like Stellarium to give you an idea what will be in that part of sky in the coming days. It's best to concentrate on one area/constellation at a time so you can gain familiarity with it. It's surprising how adept you can become to navigating your way around once you've located a couple of objects in a particular area - it's not dissimilar to London cab drivers learning the "knowledge".

On the night it helps to scan the area with binoculars, as that can often help you locate what you are hunting the quickest. Then star hop on the scope with the widest field EP you have. Alternatively, *cough* GOTO *cough*...say no more :D

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I use the Sky Atlas 2000 as a rule, I do not like working with a PC-based system as I find it affects my night vision. Many Messiers I simply found using the 10x50 and 15x70 bins. Great tools for Messier hunting. For fainter DSOs I point the scope to the right area with a 6x30 finder (which i might replace by an RDF), then star-hop using a 16x70 giant finder (with 45 deg erecting diagonal, makes life a lot easier), and then find it with either my 40mm (50x mag, 1.38 deg FOV) or 22mm Nagler (92x , 0.9 deg FOV). I then might move to 143x with the 14mm, if the object is compact (like many planetaries).

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Its a good idea to buy or make some sort of eye patch (the ones that pirates wear).

With this you can protect your observing eye when you go inside of use a computer, and you can also put it on the other eye when you are observing so you dont have to squint as bad.

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I used this maps to complete the list: Messier Maps

They don't demand much planning, just look up, identify a couple of visible contelations and find the corresponding map.

To locate the objects I used a telrad, sometimes the RA 9x50 finder and a wide field EP (32mm and later a 31mm). For observation, mostly the widefield EP but you will want to go up to 150x or even 200x on some globular clusters and planetary nebula (M13, M5, M57, etc..). Some others are best framed at 20mm to 13mm, like the dumbel neb, trifid neb, eagle neb.

After you locate them, the best thing is to try out and see what gives you the best view.

There are a few best seen with binos (beehive and the pleiades).

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With patience you should be able to locate all the Messier objects, you have better equipment than he had, I would suggest you treat yourself to a copy of The Illustrated Guide to Astromomical Wonders, it is not expensive and will take you through all the Messier, a lot of NGC and others, how to find with maps, finder circles, what you can expect to see etc, the book is recommended and reviewed in another section of the forum, but remember, some will be best viewed from dark skies, the different methods to find your targets is well covered in the previous threads :D

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