The Messier marathon was not invented by Charles
Messier himself but rather by two American astronomers, Don Macholz
and Tom Hoffelder in the 70`s. They first found out that all 110 Messier
objects can be seen in one night. Meanwhile, the marathon has become
popular in Europe as well.
The Messier marathon is a real challenge for every person attending
it: to find all 110 Messier objects in one night, you have to chase some of
them in the evening shortly before they disappear during dusk and others
shortly after they appear in the predawn sky.
You start chasing during dusk with the objects of the fall and winter
sky, then turn to the springsky and, during predawn, finish with the
In average, you have to search, find and indentify 10 objects every
hour,that means one object every 6 minutes! Therefore, it helps to
identify the Messier objects at least once before the marathon in a clear
night. So it is better to plan
ahead of time.
Which time of the year is best
for a Messier marathon?
At 50° latitude, in middle Europe, a Messier marathon can be run best
in the middle of march till the middle of april. You may then see 107
objects at ideal conditions (good sight, no moonlight).At 30° latitude
you may even see all 110 objects in one night if you are lucky!
Why is this the best time for the Messier marathon? The Messier
objects donīt spread evenly over the sky. One can find a major gapin
distribution close to the equinox. The sun can be found there at the end
of march, which means, at this time all Messier objects can be found in
the nightsky and can be seen at least during dawn.