My goal - to view as many Messier objects as I can

Hello,

I am a gentleman in my 50's who loves astronomy. I have done stargazing with a 6" Newtonian reflector Celestron over the past 10 years. Recently my dear wife bought me a wonderful Christmas present, a 12" Dobsonian Meade Lightbridge Telescope. I also just joined the RASC, Edmonton Centre. I have set myself a goal of viewing all the Messier objects that can be seen from the Edmonton, Alberta region.

I have 2 questions:

1. Does anyone with more experience have any pointers to help me meet my goal of viewing all the Messier objects that I can see from my location near Edmonton. I'm in no hurry, so am not trying to view them as fast as I can. Any tips such as, which ones to tackle first, order of viewing, how to record observations, best time of year to view, etc are welcome.

2. What eyepiece(s) are best to view these objects?

Thanks for your help.

Sincerely,

Starguy (A.K.A. Dan MacIsaac)

 

Author: 
User895

Comments

Dan: welcome! That is a great goal and you will have fun with that telescope.

It is a 305 mm f/5 so a 5 mm eyepiece will give you a 1 mm exit pupil and about 300x. That is a bit high for deep-sky observing (except some planetary nebula). Start with a 15 mm (100x, 3mm exit pupil) or 10 mm (150x, 2 mm exit pupil) eyepiece, preferably wide field if the telescope has no drive. You may want to even try a lower power if you are going to star-hop to the right field.

If you are inexperienced at deep-sky observing, go for the brighter open clusters and globular clusters first, to get used to observing with the telescope. Then move on to the planetary nebulae and galaxies. It is easy to get lost among the galaxy clusters!

In your Observer's Handbook, on pp. 317–319, there is a seasonal list of Messiers. Right now is an excellent time to observe open clusters. In the spring, there are tons of galaxies! Check out pp. 86–87 for logbook tips.

Have fun!

Dave XVII

That is exactly the type of advice I am interested in. It will be fun to embark on this "quest"! Thanks for the help.
Dan

Hello Dan,

Congratulations on the new telescope -- your wife must be a wonderful woman!

I would like to add to Dave’s good advice by highly recommending Harvard Pennington’s book The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide. Although the book is formatted for a Messier marathon, it is a great guide to finding and identifying the Messier objects for any time of the year. Pennington includes diagrams, pencil sketches, and lots of useful information for all 110 objects. He even makes getting through the daunting Virgo cluster of galaxies easy!

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your new telescope.

Lynn

2012-04-01

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for your response to my blog about seeing as many Messier objects as I can. I will use your advice to help in my search. Sorry that I couldn't get back to you until now. I couldn't remember my password, and then was too busy to follow up on it.

Anyway, take care.

Dan MacIsaac

Hi Dan,

Since the winter constellations are still around, I'd start with the Orion Nebula (M42 and M43), then M78. I'd then go up and work through the open clusters in Gemini (M35) and Auriga. All of these are easy objects with a 12-inch, even from the city.

Once you get into spring, most of the spring objects are galaxies which are fainter and harder to find and see. The virgo cluster can be intimidating to a new observer. I suggest starting on the Leo side.

Regarding eyepieces, always start with the lowest power you have (highest number written on the ep). Most Messier Objects are large so you won't need high power to see them.

2012-04-01

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your response to my blog about seeing as many Messier objects as I can. I will use your advice to help in my search. Sorry that I couldn't get back to you until now. I couldn't remember my password, and then was too busy to follow up on it.

Anyway, take care.

Dan MacIsaac