First of all, apologies for my writing; English is not my native language… I hope you still enjoy this report!
Last week it finally happened. From 7/11 March, I stayed in a cottage in Puntagorda with my girlfriend and the weather proved favorable. During the day we had some clouds and fog, but it dissolved nicely and a starry sky appeared on every evening when darkness was complete. The best night for a marahon was March 9 because of new moon, so on March 8, we went to explore some good spots.
Clear view of the west, south and east are a requirement to run the marathon, so first we went to the top of the Roque de los Muchachos, the No. 1 location of La Palma. Via a winding road with over a 100 curves we rose to an altitude of 2423 meters, but this was not without some bumps. Along the climb rain, fog and strong wind played tricks on us. Once above the clouds only the wind remained. On the parking lot however, it was so hard that it was difficult to keep standing. I saw my plan falling apart because observing an entire night under these conditions would be far from ideal …
However, it is truly a wonderful place to be! The view of the caldera with the clouds crawling over the mountain ridges is phenomenal. We took a stroll, took some pictures and got back to the car. Below is a picture of the view from the parking lot on the line of telescopes toward the northeast:
On March 9 we went towards the south. To Pico Birigoyo to be precise, because this should be a very suitable place as well. However, along the way we are again faced with fog and the conditions looked anything but positive above the volcano. So we took a U-turn and visited some towns on the southwest coast of the island instead. Back at the cottage I’m a bit cranky because it’s new moon, and I have no observing site yet! From the terrace of the house a marathon will not work because there is no more sky that can be observed farther than SSE and not all the way down to the horizon …
After some doubts I decided to go to Roque anyway, despite my girlfriend not being too happy about that. I promised to return if the conditions are not optimal and to do the marathon at the cottage instead. So the car is filled with: bino + P-mount, PSA, planisphere, red light, voice recorder, spare batteries, hot tea, drinks, food, ski clothing, detail maps (Virgo!), alarm clock, SQM-meter, chair, blanket, pillow, another blanket, filters, case and last but not least my personally composed observing list including a brief description what every object should look like in the bino, position, rise and / or set of each object, schedule time when I want to see the object, page number in PSA and a column in order to fill in my own times. The only scribbling that I’ll have to do is to fill in the observing time, so my fingers will be pleased with that 🙂 I am leaving on time, because the gate is closed from 19.00 to 7.00. If I could not leave before 19:00, it’s going to be an all-nighter on the mountain anyhow…
The ride up goes wonderfully well. The sun is shining abundantly and there is no fog, rain, strong wind or other troublemakers. This is hopeful! At about 18:00 I arrive at the top where some tourists are still present. There is wind, but it’s much less harsh than the day before and has a more gusty character. I enlighten my girlfriend and let her know that I will spend the night on the mountain. Exciting and very cool that it will happen in the end!
To kill the time I walk a bit down the path in a southern direction. I’m considering to do the bino-thon from a kind of platform nearby which is surrounded by a low wall. It is a wonderful place because here you can observe truly ON the southern horizon, contrary to the parking lot. See here this magical place:
But because of all the stuff I have with me and the intention to take a nap in the car, I decide to remain on the parking lot. Observing on the southern horizon is not really necessary because the Messier objects will be high enough.
Upon returning to the parking lot, there appears to be one other car left, one of TNG (Telescopio Nazionale Galileo). I see a man taking pictures of the Teide on Tenerife in the eastern direction in the beautiful red light of the approaching sunset. I have a chat with him and tell him my plans for the night. He warns me of the temperature and says that I can come over to the observatory for a coffee to warm up there. An offer which I would gratefully accept any other time, but tonight I’m on a mission, and can’t be distracted!
At about half past seven, I’m left alone on the mountain, I put my binoculars on the tripod and put my stuff ready in the case against the rear wheel. At 20.00 the sky turns a beautiful orange / pink / yellow and the temperature is a pleasant 9 degrees, the wind is still quite gusty. I’m searching for the first item of the evening: M77. At 20.10 it’s bingo. I see a small, diffuse dot in the binoculars that seems fused with a small star. Fortunately, I practised the first two objects a few months before, because they are immediately two tough ones!
Then on to M74, which is much weaker. I believe to have it in sight for some time but want to wait until I’m completely sure, it’s not yet that low in the sky.
Then my session is suddenly disturbed by bright car lights that approach the terrain and dazzle me a lot. It appears to be a security guard who has to make sure that everyone is out of the gate for the night … Huh? I had no idea it was not allowed to stay here for the night and assumed that this was no problem! At first, he is unrelenting and asks me in his best English to present my permission to be here. He seems heavily irritated. I explain to him that I have come especially from the Netherlands to be here tonight and more or less beg him to let me stay. “I make no trouble, sir, I promise!” I think he’s moved by my pleading and I see that he is getting milder. After a while he says it’s ok, provided that I go down at 7.00 make a quiet exit. He decides with a smile; “Tonight, this place is all for you,” gives me a pat on the back and a handshake and drives off … Pheww. Fortunately, it stays at this incident for the rest of the night.
Back to M74 then, still at 20.28 I can really confirm it. That’s nice, because the most difficult evening part is finished now! The advantage of a marathon this early in the season is that the evening objects are relatively easy, but I’ll have to wait and see how this benefit will work out in the morning.
The SQM now shows 21.34 and the zodiacal light is present in it’s full glory, it sticks like a cone from the west up all the way to the Pleiades, just between M74 and M77 I see later on. It shines more brightly than the Milky Way. I look back to spot the gegenschein, but I do not see it.
The next series includes M33, M31 / M32 / M110 which are a walk in the park. M33 is easily found and is huge! Spiral arms or a hint of it can not be seen however. M32 is obviously small, but well distinguishable from the surrounding stars. M31 sticks out like a needle, and I can see it is about 2 degrees in length. That’s more than four full moons! Unbelievable. M110 hangs like a blurred spot next to it.
A tricky one is next; M76, small and weak. But it stands out between the huge amount of stars in this region. I was already succesfull before with the bino in a much more light polluted environment, so here I’m quick to spot it as well. I clock it at 20.39 and an OIII / UHC filter is not necessary.
M52 is easily found by extending the legs of Cassiopeia. A small cluster, seen as a spot with a beautiful star on the south side.
M103 was practiced a lot because it consists of only four stars, of which the one southeast is the brightest. Together they form a sort of triangle. Strange that this is a Messier object, with so much better looking and larger NGC clusters nearby …
M34, a naked eye object. A cluster of 10 bright stars with the shape of a sort of arrow pointing to the left.
M79, I overlook it at first, but then I see that it looks a little more spongy than the nearby star. Globular clusters are not exactly interesting objects in the binoculars, but there are many more to come tonight …
M45 then, the brightest naked eye object, but comes to it’s right gorgeously in binoculars! I see nebulosity around the star left of the “pot”. And indeed, later on I can confirm that this is Merope. Nice!
Orion then. At 21.01 I can clock M42 / M43 which show a huge amount of detail. The tentacles of the nebula reach all the way out for the star Hatsya (?) below. M43 shows a clear glow, but I can’t detect the comma-shape. M78 is a lot bigger compared to home and seems to radiate its nebulosity to the left. On the right side it is bounded by a kind of dark band.
I tick off M1 quickly, because it gives me cramps in my neck. Small and I can see a hint of a parallelogram.
M35 is a naked eye object here, but in the bino it’s very nice indeed. Big and it shows a lot besides the 5 somewhat brighter components.
The Auriga clusters are even higher in the zenith and there are three of them, ouch! M37, M36 and M38, of which the latter is more spread out and some cross shape appears.
M41 in Canis Major is a naked eye object too, but also very beautiful in the bino. I can’t listen back the comment becuase of wind gusts at that time.
At 21.15 I take tea break. Just warming up a bit even though temperature is still nice. It is 8 degrees and the SQM indicates 21.58. That is quite dark you would say, but I can just walk around without using my light. The starry sky therefore gives quite some light itself! I walk a bit along the footpath to the south and see the lights of the coast town of Puerto (?). A little further emerges a light spot against the underlying clouds and seems like another coastal village. They hardly produce any light, which can not be said of the cone to the east, the one of Tenerife. However, it’s all relative and not annoying at all.
Continuing with M48 in Puppis then, again visible to the naked eye. A very large and open cluster where a sort of loop or tunnel seems to run across. M46 and M47 are very both visible in one field and have a totally different brightness. M46 is well rounded and contains one bright star and one little less bright among the many weaker ones. M47 has some 10 bright stars, of which four are really bright and can be seen with the naked eye. The binocular also clearly shows the upper NGC clusters and one Mel cluster as well. A lovely binocular field!
If I draw a line from Sirius and the snout of the dog, I get to M50, a smaller cluster with one bright star. It seems like it has two spiral arms of stars and top left is a very clear dark cloud in the shape of an H, some three degrees or three wide and high. No idea if it has a name, but it’s very beautiful.
M93 I had already seen in Holland, but there are many more stars to discover on this location. Also this small cluster has a dark nebula in the neighborhood. It seems like a kind of scratching at the southwest side of the star cluster.
Now it’s time for a true binocular object: M44. BIG and there are about 30 bright stars to see. At the bottom on the left of this cluster, again I see a dark band. M67 is also nearby, a star heap in the form of a pacman with a bright star at the back of his head (the dot that he forgot to eat?) I only saw this one time before, probably because its bigger brother draws too much attention.
Now the clusters are briefly on hold and it’s time for galaxies! The tour begins in Leo Major, a triplet (or quadruplet actuallyfor binoculars): M95, M96 and M105. They stand together in one image and NGC 3384, that is close to M105, can be clearly seen. Very nice to have them listed all four in one shot. M95 is the weakest of the three and I clock them at 21.55, nice and early. Then on to the guys from the real triplet: M65 and M66, the first of which is the weakest and the latter seems to contain two cores. The nearby NGC 3628 is seen as a weak needle.
Now to Ursa Major. M81 and M82 are together in the FOV and I have to orient to tell who is who. M81 is the largest of the two and also the most clear one with a distinct nucleus and a hazy glow around it. M82 appears to have a sort of trickles running through it, strange sight.
Another duo then: M97 and M108. Often viewed in the Netherlands, so it shouldn’t pose a problem. The Owl Nebula is a nice round little ball, but the eyes do not open in the bino. M108 is showing like a very weak line.
M109 I really have to try my best for. At first I’m much too far south and I’m afraid I’m going to miss my first object … But when I realize that it is much closer to Phad, I find it anyway. Positioned close to a mag 9 to 10 star I see a very small, elliptical glow. Yesss!
Then the only binary star in the Messier list: M40. I practised htis one a lot and know the star field by heart. A nice extra is that I can actually separate them here in La Palma with averted vision, in which I didn’t succeed on previous attempts.
I’m starting to get hungry, but would like to finish UMa first before I eat something. The wind is still gusty and can be heard blowing through the Caldera! It makes a ghostly sound and as the decibel increases, it takes a few seconds before the gusts can also be felt in the parking lot. I have to hold on to the tripod as not to lose the position. Fortunately, it takes only a few seconds before the peace returns … My toes and fingers are a bit cold but not icy cold as I am now used to at home.
The SQM has now risen to 21.66 and finally starts to look like something. At the cottage I had already measured 21.7 so it’s still a bit disappointing here. Probably it helps that the Pleiades are descending together with the zodiacal light. The temperature indicates 7 degrees, but that might be a little too optimistic because I’m keeping the thermometer in my pocket … it feels much more like a few degrees above zero. What also helps is that (unlike the day before) the humidity is low! The car still feels very dry to so it seems that the binoculars won’t need to be warmed up tonight. Lucky me.
M106 then and found in at once. Easy to see, a small galaxy elongated with a somewhat large core.
M94 is not so easy. Stellar, with a bit of a glow around it. Easily overlooked, so you have to know what to search for.
M63, the sunflower galaxy is next. No idea why it’s called like this, because he it does not look round or anything like a flower. More like an elliptical disk with a small star close to it.
M51 and its companion NGC 5195 can be seen very nicely. Quite big, but they still seem to be detached from each other and I can’see the bridge between the two.
M101. Round and big! A very nice bino sight anyway. The light from the core is very nicely getting more diffuse towards the edge.
M102, or NGC 5866. This one took a while to find because it is in a fairly empty area and is very weak, it gives hardly any light and so far it’s really the hardest one from the list. There is a very weak star against it.
On to Berenice’s hair to shake off a globular cluster from it: M53. It’s what you expect from a small glob in a pair of binoculars; a cottonlike-star, but still reasonably clear. My eye catches another globular cluster in the same field. When watching M53 I see it automatically in the peripheral field of view. A check in the PSA tells me that it’s NGC 5053 with a magnitude of 9.8. I think this one is on the verge of what is possible with my binoculars.
M64 is next; the black eye galaxy. Some people claim that this one can be seen with the naked eye and would therefor be the most distant object that can still be observed without any instrument. I don’t succeed at that, but in the binoculars it’s a simple object. Not really a bright core and it seems to have a companion, but this is probably just an star.
M3 is another fairly bright globular cluster. Individual stars can not be seen, of course, but it does look like it’s carrying a glow around it.
It’s now 23.00, time to eat before I start the Virgo Group! A couple of pancakes and a muffin later I take another stroll around the parking lot. The SQM meter indicates 21.63, and it strikes me as a bit disappointing. The horizon seems a little hazy which of course does not help. The zodiacal light sinks deeper and deeper, so perhaps it will get a bit better later on. The sky in the west is at its best with Orion, Canis Major and above these the phenomenal winter galaxy. Barnard’s loop seems to be visible, but perhaps that’s just whisful thinking… A virgin sky so to speak, which brings met to the next area that I will explore.
After some searching I finally find my signpost star for M98. With averted vision a very vague spot, with direct look it’s virtually invisible. M99 in the same field is more like a cotton like star with a nice round shape and can be seen a bit more clearly, even when looking directly at it. M100 at the end of a star chain is most clearly seen from the three. Slightly brighter and slightly larger.
M85 then just a bit north. This one is small and there is an star aside it, or is this NGC 4394? I only see the Messier object for sure.
M84 and M86 are in one FOV with many other members of Markarian’s Chain. The Messiers are clearly the brightest components. Both compact and round, M86 gives a little more light than M84.
M87 betrays its position because it sits beautifully between two stars. Again, this is a small galaxy, with a bright spot in the centre. Still well visible when looking directly at it.
M89 is a difficult one, but it’s position is easy to confirm in the PSA. It almost looks like a star and is very small indeed. Only look with averted vision I can see that it’s a bit softer than the surrounding stars.
M90 north west of it is brighter and larger and also visible when looked at directly.
Searchin for M88 and M91 there is a sudden gust of wind and the binoculars are blown out of position, aargh. Back to the starting point so that takes some time!
M88 is the brightest and seems to have a companion, probably an star. M91 is again a very weak one and can be seen only with averted vision. One of the most difficult objects so far!
The next image shows M58, M59 and M60 in an almost straight line. M58 is beautiful with an small star next to it. It’s small and weak, but pretty well visible. M59 is slightly smaller so a bit harder to see. Observing with averted vision it becomes clear that it is not a star that I’m looking at. M60 is slightly bigger and also quite a lot brighter.
M49 then. Small, round and quite bright with a large glow around it so it seems.
M61 looks a bit like the previous object, although it is slightly smaller and less bright.
The sombrero galaxy M104 is less impressive than I had imagined in the bino. It seems small and not very bright. The environment is very beautiful though! M104 itself stands in a straight line with two stars, but above are some very nice double stars, which appear to be doubles themselves.
Hooray! The Virgo cluster of galaxies is successfully completed, that’s another milestone because I had not succeeded at that back in Holland yet.
Then again a small glob; M68. I had seen that one very often already, it’s easy to find because it is close to a star. Obviously no stars can be resolved and it can only be seen as a blurred spot.
I can finally take my vendetta on M83 which I was looking for so often in the Netherlands, but never found! Even for La Palma it’s set low in the sky and I have to first move the binoculars a bit further to be able to look above some rocks to the south. It is a large object and starts to show spiral arms, but maybe that’s just because I know they’re there 🙂 However, the central star is an easy catch.
Now it the turn for M5. This is set very low, almost in the east. It’s almost as bright as the nearby star. It has a very bright core and with averted vision even some individual stars start to appear, this is unusual for a globular in binoculars … It’s actually a very beautiful object that despite that I do not know well!
Two more object now before I will take my night rest; M13 and M91 in Hercules. M13 is nice and large and bright. M91 is the same, but quite a bit smaller and less round.
The SQM has now risen to 21.7 maximum. I think it can become still a bit higher because in about an hour the zodiacal light will be gone and the entire milky way will appear as a ring is on the horizon and the zenith will be at its darkest. The weather only seems to get better. The wind has died down, it is still very dry and the temperature is not so bad.
At 0.40 I eat my last pancake, sit in the car with the seat in its rearmost position and I’m covered with a blanket and I try to get some 1.5 hours of sleep.
In the end maybe I slept an hour an at 2.45 I step out of the car. The small car was everything but comfortable and besides I was having cramps in my legs! Occasionally, when opening my eyes a bit between naps I saw Orion slowly sinking in the western horizon. The wind has virtually disappeared and the silence is complete. The SQM has now risen to 21.82, which I confirm twice. The highest number this trip! I am now really cold without my cover so I have to get used to the temperature once again. Looking south I’m warming up immediately after seeing the beautiful constellation of Centaurus. Very special to suddenly see a whole new constellation in the sky after so many years of observing! I take a quick peek at omega centauri through the binoculars. What a whopper! It seems three times as large as M13. If only I had my telescope with me now, sigh.
But there is work to do. Ophiuchus has just awakened in the east and is not only carrying a reptile, but also many of my upcoming objects, starting with M107. Immediately an tricky glob for the more northern latitudes, but here on La Palma it’s actually quite large and surprisingly feasible.
The two globular clusters M10 and M12 are just visible in the same FOV. Quite large with M10 just a bit more bright and M12 appearing to have a halo.
M14 is the next glob which is smaller than the previous ones and also slightly weaker and it takes a while before I can confirm it. Nevertheless, good to see it.
M9 is found by an easy starhop. It is small, light and stellar and anything but spectacular in the bino.
M4 is a truly beautiful globular cluster in the binoculars. It has a large surface and with averted vision I can even see some individual stars.
There’s hardly a greater contrast possible with than with M80! I must have swept ten times past it before I realize that it’s the one. Really tiny which hardly stands out among a group of stars of the same brightness. I’m happy that I found it.
M62 is another small glob, but now ther is a nice contrast with the surrounding stars. In the Netherlands a tricky one, but higher in the south it is quite easy to see.
Through a similar starhop M19 is found. Perhaps even slightly larger than M62. Easy to confirm in the PSA. There are also many dark nebulae in this region and also Saturn and Mars are near, they form an almost perfect 90 degree angle with Antares. Stunning.
A small detour to Lyra now for the ring nebula M57. I visited it many times, even with the binoculars to practice and also now I found it immediately. It’s obvious that this is a part of the milky way, because there are countless faint stars to see in this region. Handy to know the exact position of M57, otherwise it can be difficult to distinguish. Always a nice object to observe.
An astray globular now; M56. Nevertheless very small and very weak, but because the stars here are so exquisitely depicted is it still easy to see. Stands near a star.
Southeast of Sadr is once again a cluster; M29 in Cygnus. A small group of stars, I really only see some 6 and a few more with averted sight. Not really a striking cluster in this ocean of stars.
The binoculars are now fully moved back to the end of the parking lot to observe up on the horizon in the southeast. The summer Milky Way is up and it looks like a giant luminous, swirling cloud mass, very weird! If you don’t know better you might just think that these are clouds illuminated from below …
A small repair to the tripod is needed; a screw has loosened allowing movement on the altitude axis, after the fix it’s running nice and smooth again.
On my observing list is now the first of three consecutive objects I shall have to log within 45 minutes after it has risen: M39. A loose cluster with about 8 bright individual stars of which the middle one is a double star. Not very exciting.
M27 is nice! The dumbbell nebula is a large nebula and clearly not round. At the top is shown a notch and at the bottom with averted vision as well. Very nice object.
M71 then, an astray globular. Weak, but with averted vision seen as a somewhat loose cluster of stars, not very compact. Nice that these objects can to be seen well despite their low position.
M23 I try to find out from Sagittarius, but it’s so easy to get lost from there… From Ophiuchus and the tail of the snake it’s much more easy. A nice large cluster with many stars of the same brightness. A bit of a triangular shape with a clear bright star north of it. Again, on the left I see a dark nebula.
For M16 I only have to push the binoculars a bit left and align it with the star on the top left (Sinistra) and the cluster appears immediately in the view. This is a very nice cluster for the bino! It has lots of nebulosity in it with a few bright stars in the center. Difficult to see whether it’s nebulosity or just a lot of small stars closely together.
M21 is a very small cluster which completely pales into insignificance with all the beautiful things to see in this area. I’m glad I found it. The central star is a double, but otherwise it contains no bright stars at all. So I move on quickly.
M6, the Butterfly cluster is of course found very quickly. This shows a sort of house shape with a clearly defined roof (2 parallelograms).
M20 Trifid Nebula is near M21 that I have just checked, but for some reason I chose to visit M6 first. Fortunately I’m quickly back to the previous area. M20 shows a kind of round nebulosity around two stars giving it a kind of eight-figure. Above it is still a fairly bright star. Reasonably compact.
For M24 I had some fear because in advance I didn’t know if I could detach it easily from its surroundings, but the fear appears unjustified in practice … With the naked eye, this “star cloud” is easy to see, but in the binoculars a phe-no-me-nal object. The shape reminds me of Australia and it contains clusters and at the top you can see two dark dust bands. Also on the southwest side there is a dark nebulae visible. This is the most beautiful binocular object of the night!
M18 is left of the star cloud, but it’s independent of it. A small cluster with 1 star centrally and about 10 stars with averted vision can be found in this very compact cluster, making it more of a smear. It’s not spectacular compared to the rest of the area.
Slightly further away from the star cloud is the Omega Nebula or M17. Also a very beautiful object. Clearly visible is the elongated nebulae with top two stars that of which I’m not sure if they belong to the nebula or not. At the bottom there is some more nebulosity, making the complete shape reminding me of a sea horse.
A little further is M8 Lagoon Nebula. What a beautiful object for binoculars! It has the shape of a shrimp, curling around around a small star cluster with two beautiful bright stars at the end of the shrimp. Also this area is surrounded by a banana shaped dark nebulae on the left.
Scutum is next with the wild duck cluster M11. A nice object, but the 15x magnification is just not enough. A compact cluster with a central bright star and at the bottom 2 more stars. It is so compact that it seems almost a globular cluster.
The starhop from Sagittarius to M25 doesn’t work, so I do it from the star cloud M24, a good reference point in this area as it turns out. A beautiful cluster, enclosed in an arch of stars. The cluster is very loose and consists of some 5 or 6 bright stars and below are a few more that are less clear. Tentacles appear to come from it and therefore reminds me of the shape of a starfish.
M26 is a very small cluster and I wonder why this has ever been categorized as a Messier object. Perhaps a comet passed here some day? There is one star a bit brighter view star middle with a peripheral piece or four around it, making the whole forms a light spot. It is nothing.
I do another SQM measurement. On the northeast side of heaven it is now very dark and the first assessment indicates at 21.84, after which it drops back to 21.77.
M7 is next, just south of M6. A huge and open cluster with many bright stars, with inside a very nice double star. I can not really perceive different colors, except for one clearly yellow star. The middle section consists of about 15 bright stars, hovering around it there are about 10 more.
Now the globular clusters are again on the menu, Sagittarius is full of them!
The first is M28, a little north of Kaus Borealis. This star has an almost blinding effect if you are looking for small stuff around … The cluster is small and compact and evenly bright. Left of itagain is a dark band from north to south.
It is now nearly 5.00 and I come to the last page of my observation list. 11 more objects to go! I expected at this point to really arrive at a marathon in which I might not have had enough time to find everything, but so far it all goes easy and fast. I even have to wait on the last 7 objects as they now lie on or just below the horizon …
M22 is the next one. A hefty globular cluster surrounded by a beautiful group of stars. This is similar to M13 and easy to see with the naked eye. One of the few globular clusters which nicely suits in the 15 x 70 and with averted vision a kind of granulation can even be seen.
On to the globulars at bottom of Sagitarius that I never saw before, starting with M69. Overlooked very easily because it is a very small stellar thing. It is in a line of stars which forms part of a kind of V-sign of stars. Under the top star of the straight line I see a tiny heap hanging.
I’m ahead 15 minutes on schedule, so I’m going to eat something, walk around and wait for a while until the rest of the objects are slightly higher. I enjoy the starry sky to the south, this is really beautiful! On the footpath I see the lights of the two coastal towns again and heading south you can see the volcano ridge flanked by low clouds, despite the pitch-black sky, a beautiful sight.
Then at 5.10 it’s time for M70, another tiny glob. This sits beautifully on the line Kaus Australis – Ascelia, so if you follow that line with the bino, you arrive there automatically. Like the previous glob, it seems almost like a star and looks beautiful above two weak lines of four stars. A kind of micro asterism.
M54 then, the last of the three southern heaps. This has a very condensed nucleus and thus seems more like a star. Yet with such objects I see there is a bit of a glow around it every time and it is a bit similar to a planetary nebula as seen in a telescope. This is perhaps the smallest globular I’ve seen so far.
For M55 I’m forced to observe very low on the horizon. The search is difficult because it is an empty area that I’m not familiar with at all. Eventually I find it at 5.25 by using an asterism in the neighborhood that looks like a kite and can be seen with the naked eye. It is a large globular cluster that is vague because of the round, cotton-like core. I’m happy to see it and it’s actually a very beautiful object.
By the same kite- asterism, but on the other side, I also find M75. It is very vague and somewhat small, but clearly not a star because a hazy halo around it. The Messier list appears to be full of these tiny little globulars. But if you look closely, they are not that hard to identify.
I now have about 10 minutes and decide to take a look at the veil nebula, I had never seen it before. Without a filter NGC 6995 is visible as a banana shape, but the other two do not show. Unfortunately I forgot my OIII filter, so I have to manage with just one UHC filter. This allows the other two parts to become visible however, especially when I close one eye. In the right part there is a bright star and the middle part at the top is the weakest, only barely visible.
Now is the time for M15, because sunrise is eminent! Pretty low to detect using a starhop from Cygnus. The small glob is carried by some bright stars and has quite a bright nucleus with a big halo around it.
For M72 am I a bit too early, it is still too low and I can only see the star nearby. After staring for 10 minutes and checking the PSA I can finally confirm it as a super weak spot to see only by averted vision and very close to the aforementioned star. Perhaps it is also more difficult because unknowingly it’s getting a bit lighter …
M73 is a very annoying one. Again, I have to squint for long because it is such a small group of only 4 stars that will keep showing like a single star in the bino, no matter how long I look … And it’s getting lighter and lighter so the situation is not getting better as times passes. Checking the PSA, I know I’m looking at it, but no more than one starbecomes visible at a magnification of 15x. I log it at 6.04 with a question mark.
On to the last theoretically achievable object: M2. It is now clearly lighter and the clouds below me set off well against the horizon. But fairly quickly 6.09 I am to find the small globular cluster. It has a bright core and despite the glob being still quite low, it’s nicely visible.
Now waiting for M30, which at 6.35 should lay on the horizon, but I can see from the imminent light that it is not meant to be. No problem, because I had not counted on it anyway. Meanwhile, looking at the horizon I suddenly see Venus rise as if a switch is being turned. Yet another special moment during this already magical night. It has a red color and then disappears again behind a wisp of cloud. It strikes me that it rises quite fast afterwards.
Another attempt for M30. From Deneb Algedi in Capricornus I descend to my two reference stars Zeta and 36. Underneath should appear the star 41 with a small glob attached to it, but I do not see it and then the stars disappear in the glare … Too bad.
I relax a bit and enjoy the arch of planets, from west to east: Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus. Moments later, just before sunrise, I spot Mercury with the binoculars appearing left of Teide, which is an awesome view.
Below a picture of the situation around 6.45; The bino with Venus:
I’m tired, but while I’m still here, I might as well stay to see the sunrise. More people have appeared who want to capture this moment. After all, the site is now open again for public 🙂 At 7:35 it’s finally happening, there is a red rim above the clouds, quickly to thicken in the middle, and after a minute or so it’s no longer possible to directly look at it. What a wonderful moment, certainly one I will always remember for the rest of my life!
With 109 of the 110 Messier in the pocket I grab my stuff together and with a lump in my throat I ride down the mountain, back to the cottage where a warm bed is waiting for me. Fortunately, I missed one Messier, because then at least I have an excuse to try it one more time. Next year the time to do the marathon is a lot better and it should certainly be possible to check them all of. Who knows? With the telescope?
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