This weekend is your is your best chance to participate in this year’s Messier Marathon. What is Messier marathon you might ask? It’s the one night of the year where you can see all 110 objects cataloged by Charles Messier. Well who is this Charles Messier you might ask? Charles Messier was a French astronomer and Comet Hunter In the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While trying to locate comets in the night sky he observed these 110 objects that were not transitory, but permanent. Due to the lack of sophisticated astronomical equipment most nebula and galaxies appeared as fuzzy blobs in the telescopes of the day. So Charles decided to catalog all of these objects so that other astronomers wouldn’t waste their time while searching for comets. Ingeniously, modern astronomers now identify this catalog of objects with the designations of M1-M110, how original. Actually, almost every object in the heavens as a designation of NGC followed by a number. NGC stands for the new general catalog. Again, not so original but infinitely practical. I actually have friends who have vast amounts of the NGC memorized. I of course use a computer.
If you’re just starting out in astronomy or an old hand this is the weekend for you. Try to find a local astronomy club and where they meet to look at the stars and go join them. Remember to dress warmly because it’s been a great deal of time just standing around marveling at the heavens.
This year, weather permitting, I will complete my 1st full photographic Messier Marathon. Wish me luck.
– Ex astris, scientia –