Friday, September 30, 2016

Filling out the Messier Catalog Album

As a kid, there was nothing more excited than complete a sticker album. In Colombia, there was an album launched in 1961 by the “Compañia Nacional de Chocolates” (Chocolate National Company) called “Historia Natural” (Natural History).  It had 508 full color album sheets plus 4 more called out of series that kept us collecting them while eating plenty of chocolate bars since every chocolate bar contained one album sheet.

In astronomy, the first album most of us would like to complete is the Messier Catalog: 110 deep sky objects that will keep our eyes entertained for a life time. One can see the whole list in one night but that does not mean than one won´t want to see them again in the future.

Same as my natural history album, it took me couple of years to complete the Messier list. Back in Bogota my home city, I started catching something like 40 Messier's in three years. Some factors like heavy light pollution, inexperience and small aperture took me to get stuck in the brightest objects as just like in the album I had a lot of repeated sheets of some DSO like Orion, Andromeda Galaxy, The Pleiades, The beehive among others.

In the end of 2014 we moved to China under nice suburban skies but I only had my binoculars. However, I learned to master those binos and got to catch about 60 Messier's more, sometimes making quick trips to rural skies only 10 minutes from the city. With some more experience accumulated I got to see little harder targets like the group of galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and some other dim galaxies in Leo and in the neighborhood of  Ursa Major.

Unlike the album sheets you can´t pay somebody else in exchange for those tough sheets but here you have to be prepared to catch them and probably you will only be successful after some attempts. M74 was that tough sheet for me but on a good transparency night I finally got to see a glimpse of it with averted vision.

I finally have both completed: my Natural History album and the 110 Mesier List so I guess it is time to move to a new and likely harder list. Below is the spreadsheet I´ve made for those who want more information about this quest.

Messier List

Clear skies,


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