Site: Arizona City, AZ
Date: 03/13 – 14/99
Weather: light clouds wipe out astrophotography and serious observers
forcing them to do the marathon.
Attendance: 49 vehicles and 53 scopes.
This years marathon was scheduled on March 13th, and started out like any of the others with high expectations and a chance to meet old friends. As the Sun set there were light scattered clouds, which most of us thought would disappear when it got dark. We were dead wrong! The cirrus clouds in the West probably prevented many from seeing M74. By twilight Jack Jones and Jennifer Keller had counted 49 vehicles and 53 scopes spread out around the observing field. These counts were much better than last year!
For myself, it is always a pleasure and treat to see old friends and meet new ones from both TAAA and EVAC. Prior to the marathon David Freedman, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, contacted me. He is an amateur astronomer and wanted to write an article about the Arizona Messier Marathon. We met at my house and drove to the site where he quickly joined in like he belonged there. David walked around the site talking to and interviewing everybody. He wound up with a plethora of information for the article. Watch for it in the next few months.
Rick Rotramel talked me into a pep talk at sunset, which was well received. There were several people who picked up the check off list that may not have otherwise had one to turn in for prizes.
As darkness fell astrophotographers were disappointed due to the mushy skies and the serious observers, like Tom Polakis, decided to do the Marathon. By morning twilight 22 observer forms had been turned in; see table for final tally.
From my own experience I started early to bag M74 and M77 which worked out fine and I was off and running. Many of the objects visible in the 8X50 finder, like M101, M68 or M51, were not visible due to the mushy conditions. As it turned out, this was not a big problem, it only added to the challenge.
The biggest problem occurred with M49 where I got lost galaxy hopping. Attempting to recover by star hoping from Denebola was not initially successful due to a string of diversions. First the flashlight batteries had to be replaced, the check off list blew off the truck tailgate and drifted 15′ under a table by David Fredericksen’s truck. Bumping the dec. shaft as M49 was nearing the central meridian didn’t help either. The star hop problem was finally solved as failure to identify pi Leonis correctly only to now discover the telescope tube was rotated to an awkward position. Once these problems were resolved it was easy to find M49, finish the Virgo Cluster and crawl into the truck for a 2-hour respite.
Upon arising the observing site was much quieter and the buzz of electronic scopes was quite distinct. After a while we heard one of the observers complain his battery was going down, but not enough to cause an early exit from the marathon!
As morning twilight approached everyone began to work on the summer Milky Way constellations in a rush to be ready for the grand finale. Things started to slow down trying to bag the globs in Sagittarius. In Pegasus, M15 was tough, real tough. The three Messier objects in Aquarius were too low on the horizon to be found. In Capricornus, just forget M30!
Just after morning twilight the results began pouring in, along with excited and interested participants. This is the time when participants share their experiences, either happy or sad. It is one of the memorable moments of a marathon. Several new to the marathon were happy to have found more than they had originally expected. Tired observers complained of lower backaches and such.
Afterwards several of us retired to a restaurant for needed nourishment and more discussion about marathons and astronomy in general.
Now to do the awards, get some rest and review for any improvements!
Missed or Comments
|108||Steve Gifford||8″SCT||EVAC||30 72|
|108||Gerald Rattley||14.5″f4.4N||SAC||30 72|
|107||Steve Dodder||8″SCT||SAC||30 73 72|
|107||Don Wrigley||10″N||EVAC||30 73 72|
|106||Steve Bell||10″f5.5||EVAC||30 73 72 75|
|106||Andrew Cooper||6″f5.1N||TAAA||30 73 72 74|
|106||AJ Crayon||8″f6N||SAC||30 73 72 2|
|106||Chris Lancaster||11″SCT||TAAA||30 73 72 74|
|106||Glen Nishimoto||10″f5.5||TAAA||30 73 72 74|
|105||Bobby Martin||10″SCT||EVAC||30 73 72 2 74|
|104||Rick Rotramel||16″f4.4N||SAC||30 73 72 2 74 33|
|103||John Evelan?||20″N||EVAC||30 73 72 2 15 75 55|
|65||Roger Walters||16″ Dob||EVAC|
|79||Kevin Bays||8″ SCT||Yuma Astronomy Club|
AJ Crayon & Rick Rotramel
Saguaro Astronomy Club
Arizona Messier Marathon Coordinators