In the May 1996 issue of our club newsletter, Event Horizon, Rob Roy wrote an excellent article about this phenomenon. Here is a link to everything you ever wanted to know about Blue Moons.
Due to the late confirmation that we would actually go out tonight, I was pleasantly surprised that we had a good turn out for our first night trying to complete the Messier Marathon. Kevin Salwich was anxiously waiting along with his sister and mother when I arrived at 8 to open the gates. We were joined shortly thereafter by Dave T., Gord Newell and Matthew Mannering.
Despite earlier cloudy skies, we ended up with quite good seeing and only some patchy clouds. And the winds that were forecast never manifested themselves which helped to make the cold night slightly more tolerable (though Lolly wouldn’t agree). With the coyotes and geese in the background, we got underway.
I was the only one who seriously attempted to complete all 110 objects. Everyone else had their own plans and were just happy to get out observing after a long hiatus. But the variety of goals made the night more enjoyable. Kevin was just out for a few hours of practise, getting ready for his major attempt on Sat night. Matthew was picking off a few objects with his excellent 12″ DOB and trying out some new eyepieces. Dave was doing some experimenting with PEC on his CGEM and 8″ SCT, and then eventually got into imaging M81 for most of the night.
The numbers gradually whittled down over the course of the night, but Dave and I stuck it out until 4:30am when the chill and fatigue got the better of us (and we ran out of coffee). But I had managed to see 92 objects (plus a few non-Messiers like Saturn and some galaxies in the Virgo cluster). Even though I cheated and used the Goto, it was the first time I made a real effort to catch all the items in one night and was pleased with results. The only items I missed were those lost in the trees due to a late start, or not waiting for the rest of Sagittarius to rise.
After many months without any serious observing, it was great to see others just as enthusiastic about the upcoming season. Here’s hoping to a great year. And good luck to those who try on Sat night. Clear Skies!