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Star Hopping Guide to the Messier Marathon.

by Rob Hawley


6th Revision

Each year in the new moon in March amateur astronomers trek out to dark sky sites to take the opportunity to see all of the Messier Objects in one night.

A Marathon is great experience that can really help a beginner learn to efficiently use his scope. That was certainly my experience. Yet many beginners quake at the prospect of traversing Virgo. It basically comes down to not having the correct tools. This book will supply all of the charts required for a beginner to complete the evening. Many of the charts will prove useful for finding the Messier objects during the rest of the year as well.

Don Machholz's The Messier Marathon Observer's Guide and his book The Observing Guide to the Messier Marathon  are the gold standard for information on the Marathon. This work is intended to supplement those works. The object orders and many of the star hops are taken from the former.

Why produce another guide when there is so much information already available? In 2004 I was getting ready for my first Marathon. I bought Don's book, but after some practice sessions decided that it was not enough information for a beginner to successfully complete the marathon. The finder charts in Don's book are small. It lacked the detailed charts necessary to navigate Virgo. Finally the directions in Don's book are optimized for using a German Equatorial Mount. For example, his directions for locating M37

From M35 go 3.7º preceding W and 8.2º preceding north to M37

are easily translated into actions using a GEM. Using an Alt/Az mounted Dobsonian such directions where less useful. I realized that what I needed was a set of overview and detailed charts that are optimized for star hopping to the objects. Using my Planetarium program SkyMap Pro I created a detailed script for the evening. I could zoom out for overviews, yet when it came to Virgo I had a detailed script that contained finder fields of view (FOV) and specific star hops that I could just execute. This paper converts that work into book form.

I have also included a chapter for beginners on how to Star Hop.

After several tries I was unhappy about the quality of the charts included in the Word copy of the document. I also received a number of requests for a book of only the charts. To address these problems I broke the document into two pieces;

A Text Document that includes the Star Hopping Tutorial and text descriptions of all of the star hops

A Chart Document that contains 58 High Resolution Charts generated using SkyMap Pro v11.

The chart only book will be easier to manage at the eyepiece. For a more experienced star hopper it will be all they need.

Star Hopping Tutorials - New

All of my material assumes that you are proficent at star hopping in the first place.  If you are not you should check out my new 30 minute video tutorial.

You can also look at the book "Star-Hopping: Your Visa to Viewing the Universe" (Cambridge University Press, 1994, 1997) by  Bob Garfinkle.


Star Hopping Guide in PDF

Star Hopping Guide to the Messier Marathon(text) 519 kB

Star Hopping Guide to the Messier Marathon(charts) 18.7 Mb


Here is an example of a Visual Chart (20Kb), a finder chart (128kB),  and an eyepiece chart (92 Kb).

All documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader Version 5.0 or later
 Get Adobe Reader

Table of Contents (text)

INTRODUCTION	
STAR HOPPING 101
SUNSET OBJECTS (TWILIGHT - 9 PM)
WINTER MESSIER OBJECTS (9 PM TO 10 PM)
LEO AND CANCER (10 PM - 10:30 PM)
URSA MAJOR OBJECTS (10:30 PM - 11:30 PM)
DOWNTOWN VIRGO (11:45 PM - 1 AM)
EARLY SUMMER OBJECTS (1:15 AM - 3:30 AM)
SUMMER MILKY WAY (3:30 AM - 4 AM)
SUNRISE OBJECTS (4 AM - TWILIGHT)
ACTUAL OBSERVED OBJECT TIMELINE
ENDNOTES

Because the chart book now contains the high resolution charts, the individual charts have been removed from the website.

Table of Contents (charts)

01  Visual Early Evening Objects
02 M 74
03 M 77
04 M 33
05 Eyepiece M 33
06 M 31 32 110
07 Eyepiece M 110
08 M 52 103
09 M 76
10 M 34
11 M 79
12 deleted

13 Visual Winter Objects (42 43 45)
14 M 78
15 M 1 35 37 36 38
16 M 41 93
17 M 47 46 50
18 M 48
19 Visual Leo Cancer (67 44)
20 M 65 66 95 96 105
21 Eyepiece M 95 96 105
22 M 65 66

23 Visual UMa Cvn
24 M 81 82
25 M 40 97 106 108 109
26 Eyepiece M 40
27 M 63 51 94
28 M 51 101
29 M 102
30 M 3 53 64
30a M3

31 Visual Virgo
32 Virgo Overview ( 49 61 )
33 Eyepiece M 84 85 86 98 99 100
33a Enlargement of M84 86 area
34 Eyepiece M 58 59 60 84 86 87 88 89 90 91
35 Visual M 68 83 104
36 M 104
37 M 68
38 M 83

39 Visual Early Summer Objects
40 M 5
41 M 13 92
42 M 12 10 14 107
43 M 56 57
44 M 4 9 80
45 M 29 39
46 M 27 71
47 M 19 62
48 M 6 7

49 Visual Summer Milky Way
50 M 11 16 17 18 24 26
51 M 8 16 17 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 28
52 M 54 69 70

53 Visual Sunrise Objects
54 M 55 75
55 M 2 15
56 M 72 73
57 M 30
58 EyePiece M 30



SkyMap Pro Data

All of the charts were created using the planetarium program SkyMap Pro v 11. Here are the data sets used to overlay the search instructions

Feedback Needed

If you decide to download these and use them in a marathon, then I would appreciate some feedback.


 

Creative Commons License
Messier Marathon by Robert J. Hawley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.robhawley.net/mm.

rjh 2/20/09