AAA February 2020 Messier Marathon Trial Run at Evergreen Cemetery

We had more than 24 attendees at the event in The Evergreens Cemetery, including Dan Oberhaus from Wired, whose loaner eVScope was impressive for many as a sleek and accessible way to see detailed images of objects, and on a first outing. Kim’s green laser pointer was a highlight for me on the equipment side 😉

The weather was unbelievably warm, dry and near windless for a February evening to enjoy stargazing and each other’s company.  Members chose a number of different ways to enjoy the event, from serious Messier object hunting and astrophotography to casual observing/chatting.  Several new members remarked on the wide array of equipment, approaches for observing, and astrophotography on display.

Great work again by Tom to receive permission for the all-nighter and thanks to him, Alison, Ben, Peter, and others who took pics — more are welcome to share! Please email images to our email groups as well as the Eyepiece editor so they can be posted in this article.

Alfredo was busy with many EAA targets, despite battery limitations, so I look forward to those pics, when processed. Dan’s were immediately on display with his and others’ iPhones via the eVScope, but the reliability/learning curve seemed steep on that.

Alan and I shut it down a little around 5am.

Based on feedback from members for the AAA March Messier Marathon, it seems desires are to head to a relatively nearby dark-sky spot.

Anthony Wayne seems the likely spot; others include N-S Lake, or Ward Pound Ridge (if members support), and I’m open for any other suggestions.

We’ll finalize that in the next week or so; please stay tuned and email me directly on it.

Here’s my observing report:

Weather conditions were outstanding, other than the 17.8SQM bright sky arguably Bortle Scale 8 (M44 was visible to experienced observers with averted vision, and because of clarity stars down to 4.3 magnitude were observable (e.g., Diadem near Zenith). Generally 3.5 magnitude or higher were not for me.

Temperature went from 40 down to 33F, near zero wind, haze was minimal, and conditions were dry with no issues on condensation/dew point.

For my Messier work, a lot of fun was had spending time sharing views on the scope for Orion Nebula (M42) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), plus a few of the harder-to-find objects, including M76 (with an OIII filter on a 13mm Nagler Type 6, with Bart Fried), M32 with Tom Haeberle and Dave Girard, and a number of starhopping tutorials with binoculars and telescope. Big and surprising misses included M78, M110, and M64 despite being right on both…and my results are:

Equipment: visual, 15×50 Canon IS bins, TelRad finder, Z61 finder scope with Baader Hyperion Zoom 8-24mm, and Celestron 8” with Nagler 24mm Panoptic. All on a Stellarvue M2C AltAz manual mount. No filters were used for objects, except for Nagler 13mm Type 6 on nebulae, Baader OIII filter in that case, as needed.

52 Messier objects attempted, 42 observed.
I had success on first-half objects, not much thereafter… bagging 36 of my first 42 attempts but it took until 0245 to do that.
Many of the galaxies required averted vision and I was pleased to observe 12 of them.
Given my enjoyment of earlier viewing and socializing, I fell behind and managed to bag only a few of the Virgo galaxies, not sure I would have found many more if I had time, and didn’t persevere through the Sagitarrius cluster finish after 0430, but managed to see the stunning globulars (M13 and M92) and M57 (the Ring Nebula) for my last objects.

Thanks again to all who helped and joined!

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