Messier Marathon 2004
by Sean Ceaser

March 20, 2004. For this year’s Messier Marathon I was drawn to darker skies than the previous year which proved to be
very fruitful as some of the tougher Messier objects- M83, 77, 74, 101, etc. were easier to find and very discernable
in the eyepiece. I will certainly continue to find skies as dark as these for future Messier Marathons! I began the
marathon at 7:50 pm Saturday, March 20 at Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. We began observing (Paula, Jeff
and I) near the southern tip of the bison sanctuary. Paula and I moved north in the park in order to get a better view
of the southern sky for the morning Messier objects in Sagittarius. The “Evening Rush Hour” objects were not
difficult this year and we had the most fantastic view of M42 that I have ever seen. The fine wisps of nebulosity were
strikingly apparent as was the dark cloud near the Trapezium. It was stunning as the sky was very dark. I had kept
track of the limiting visual magnitudes throughout the night and it had actually got down to 6.3 at one point. It was
spectacular.
It was perfectly clear all night long. We had met a couple which was at the site in order to photograph the aurora.
There was a faint aurora to the north but nothing spectacular so they decided to take a peek into the telescope. Jeff
was taking a look at Saturn and Jupiter which they delighted in and I was giving them glimpses of the Messiers as I was
going through them. Paula actually saw all 101 of the Messiers that I observed on this night and Jeff saw a majority
of them before he left a t about 2:30 am. Paula and I observed until 5:30 am. Astronomical twilight ended at 5:19 am.
I had made the mistake of going north from Winnipeg and this cut off my viewing of the most southerly Messiers in the
morning: M54, 69, 70, 55, 75, 2, 72 and 73, which I missed. I did manage to find the remaining 101 Messier Objects
without the aid of a finder chart. Both the order of the Messiers for the marathon and their positions in the sky were
memorized before the Marathon. Next year I will head a little further south to dark skies to find those elusive
morning objects. This year was perhaps the most enjoyable Marathon of all due to the company I had during the Marathon
and also sharing the spectacular views with others.

Look up!

Sean Ceaser,
Winnipeg, RASC