2013 March 16/17th – AAS Messier Marathon

Terry's 20" in the foreground, my 16" to the right in the background

Terry’s 20″ in the foreground, my 16″ to the right in the background

The night of March 16-17th was our scheduled club event for the Messier Marathon for the Austin Astronomical Society. The weather was iffy but many of us made the trek to the Eagle Eye Observatory at Canyon of the Eagles (COE) with optimism that the weather would hold. That Saturday was also the COE’s public star gazing night, so it was fun to see the observatory opened up for outreach as well. This was to be my 2nd Messier Marathon of the week. The first was on March 13/14th from my property. 2013 March 13/14 Messier Sketching Marathon. I had observed 106 Messiers and sketched 103 during that session.

My primary mirror became severely out of alignment between dismantling/traveling/and reassembling the telescope again at COE that the collimator’s laser wouldn’t return to the focuser drawtube after bouncing off the primary. Thanks to the help of Mike Krzywonski and Terry Phillips, the three of us were finally able to collimate the scope with time to spare before the event. It was a warm evening and other than a few clouds along the horizon, it would be a great night.

I started off with a few bright targets, M42/43, naked eye of M45, and M103. Next came a successful spotting of M74! It appeared nearly stellar and then eventually a faint halo appeared around it. I called Terry over for a look and for verification. So happy to have caught M74, I moved on to M52 and M77 and then grabbed sketches of M31/32 and 110, which I missed sketching in the prior marathon! I steadily made my way through the sky, taking my time and enjoying the company of Kass Brown while sketching and hunting down targets. The wind was atrocious to the point that I had to scrunch up the shroud around the base of the struts to minimize wind resistance. Too many times the wind pushed the scope up or swung it around during while sketching in between views, forcing me to find the target yet again. It was still a great night and time was on my side. I knew I would have no problems finding and sketching all the Messier objects until the morning when the large hills to the SE would block out a handful of morning targets.

Close to midnight while working through Ursa Major, the weather took a turn for the worse. It completely blindsided me. I didn’t bother with fresh weather updates during the course of the evening and was very disappointed that the sky became 90% overcast. I grabbed two more targets, M106 and M97 before the last few sucker holes closed up completely. It was time to put the clipboard down and make my way over to the small group of observers still in that part of the field. Drinks, snacks and good company were in order before tearing down and heading home! What a great night regardless of having to turn the event into a “mini” marathon.

Somehow, I had miscounted how many pages of templates I had sketched through and believed that I had bagged 62 objects up to that point. Yes, I know, it seemed pretty high for just after midnight. It’s funny how your mind can get you to ignore reason at times like that. This morning, I finished unpacking the last of the gear that I had drudged into my office. I should say it wasn’t surprising when I reviewed my sketches and found that I had only bagged 42. Ha!

Below are the links to the results.

20130316 results – This pdf shows a comparison between both marathons during the week.
20130316 sketch results – pdf of the sketches

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~ by Erika Rix on March 18, 2013.

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