Sean Ceaser

Last night (March 28, 2003) was a beautiful clear night for doing the Messier Marathon.
Not a cloud passed overhead all night.  Seeing was fair as there was a lot
of moisture in the air.  Lindsay, Gail and Scott showed up at the 248 site
and by the time the morning came around everything was drenched.  Gail
finished off her Finest NGCs last night, Scott was sketching M35 (and
loving it :) and doing some variable observing and Lindsay was working on his
Beginners Cert.
I began the marathon at 8 PM.  Cetus and Pisces were mostly below the
horizon and M77 and M74 weren't visible.  The sky was bright from the
moisture which made some objects hard to find (M102) however surprisingly
M 83 was fairly easy as was M101 and M33.  Later on the sky brightened
considerably and I got the poorest look at M17 in a dark sky that I've
ever had with only portions of the neck showing.  I saw 94 objects from 8 PM to
5 AM when the sun rose.  I ended in Sagitarius and missed M22, 28, 69, 70,
54, 6 and 7 although they were up.  The sun was coming up at that time and
most of the objects were low to the ground and washed out.  There were 96 Messiers that I found tonight.
M 77, 74, 75, 55, 72, 73 and 30 weren't visible from Winnipeg this time of year.
During the Marathon I took a look up at Jupiter and bumped it up to 400X
mag.  It was fairly steady, about 5/ 10 seeing due to moisture.  Two
equitorial bands were visible and a hint of the temperate bands too.
Saturn was beautiful, as usual.  I was able to see the Cassini division but not
the Enke at 400X.  Saturn's shadow was visible on its rings.
Aurora was up most of the night and at about 2 AM it came overhead, by
4:15 it disappeared.  I slept in the car (with no heat!) from 3 AM to 4:30
AM waiting for Sagitarius to come up.  WHen I awoke Sagitarius was fully
visible but M6 and M7 weren't visible to the naked eye.  The limiting
visual mag during the night was 5.3 and the limiting telescopic mag was 11.0.
I'm out again tonight for another Marathon- any takers?  Anola maybe?  The
clear Sky Clock is looking pretty good except for some predicted cloud between
11 and 2 AM.


          March 29/03 Last night Gail, Stan and I went out to observe at Anola.  I was planning on doing the marathon again and gAIL was working on the Herschel 400s. But our plans were preempted by a beautiful aurora (and strong winds).  Stan showed up and we all sat and watched it.   It began at about 830 PM and didn't end until about 3 am this am.  It was incredible- it went into the southern sky with much overhead display.  It danced and shot like lightening.  Stan commented that it looked like "rock and roll hair".   There were long whispy strands that appeared like highlights in hair.  It pulsated and flickered- especially overhead.  The wind picked up and it got fairly chilly.  We decided to look at Jupiter at high mag but seeing was very poor.  It seemed that there was high humidity and Jupiter looked like it was underwater.   Much better seeing the night before.
There were clouds overhead at the beginning of the night but it was clear for the remainder.  It would have been a perfect night for observing but for the aurora and poor seeing (which got better as the night progressed).  We changed venues and travelled to Glenlea so we could use the warm room.   There we looked at Messiers and watched the aurora.  We also observed 4 Vesta, a bright asteroid now in Virgo, fairly close to Vindemiatrix.  I sketched the asteroid at 10:06 Pm and then later at 1:50 AM.  It was about 6th mag and slightly bluish.   It glowed exactly like a star.  Without a finder chart I couldn't have found it.  It had moved about 20 arc minutes in just under 4 hours travelling in a north- west direction.
Stan, gAIL and I left Glenlea at just before 3 AM, but I ended up turning around and setting up again as I wanted to capture the morning Messiers that I had missed the night before.  I slept for another hour in the warm room and got up at 4:15 AM to catch the Messiers in Sagittarius.   I found M6 and 7 low in the sky, which I had missed the morning before.  I also observed M22 and 28.  I searched for M69, 70 and 54 but they were too low and washed out.  Surprisingly I glanced to the eastern horizon and I spotted two familiar stars in Pegasus; Enif and Baham.   M15 was up!  I glanced over and saw the double stars alpha and beta Capricorni.  M 72 and 73 were up too and M2 as well!  I was able to observe M15 and 2 but couldn't see M 72, 73 or M75.  So I stand corrected in the number of Messier's observable from Wpg at this time;   Assuming that M54, 69, 70, 72 and 73 can be seen there is a total of 106 Messiers that can be seen at this time.  Only M77, 74, 55 and 30 can't be seen.  Last night and tonight I've observed 98 of them.

Look up!

Sean