Kutch Amateur Astronomer’s Club (KAAC) organized its 5th Messier Marathon on 13/14 March 2010. We choose Mirzapar Forest Nursery as our observing site. The site is very close to my city Bhuj. It is only around 5 km away from Bhuj that’s why I had a fear in my mind about the site’s situation and the sky’s darkness especially at east. This was my first experience at this site. We got there at 7:45pm. We were six guys, me, Mr. Narendra Gor, Nishant Gor, Ashwin Vaghela, Fenil Patadiya and a new member Rajesh Doshi. Fenil Patadiya had traveled from Surat to join us in this event. The ground at the venue was uneven and it took 15 minutes to choose the right place to set our equipments. There was a bright lamp in the place and it was disturbing to see the stars high in the eastern sky. After removing the lamp we settled our equipments. We carried my 8-inch reflector, my 25x100 and 10x50 binocs, and Mr. Narendra Gor’s 8x40 binocs. Fenil Patadiya brought his 7x35 Celestron binocs. So we started around 8:15pm.
As we started late we missed 5 objects in the first session. We missed M77, M74, M110, M76 and M52. Nishant located M33 through his 8x40 binocs and I located rest of objects. The first session was as usual less fertile. But then we located every object in the second session and also every object of the first half of the third session. During this session we had few visitors at the site and they liked the view of Saturn, M81-M82 and The Beehive Cluster. I intentionally left the Virgo-Coma galaxies unobserved because it was on transit and very high overhead. My scope has an alt-azimuth mount and I cannot see exactly overhead through this scope. I decided to wait until pre-dawn when this part of the sky gets towards west so I can get all galaxies later. During this time I set M104, M102, M83 and M68. I observed M102 for the first time in my life.
Around 3:30am we decided to have a walk around our observing site of forest nursery. After getting back I finished M13, M92, M57 and M56 and then I decided to hunt the Virgo-Coma galaxies. I took the finder chart and located Rho Virginis star and made a star hop toward M60, M59, M58, M89, M90, M91 and M88. Then M87 was easily located. But I missed M85, M98, M99, M100, M84 and M86. This is for the first time I missed 6 galaxies in this region. Too sad :( .
Now I was ready to find all objects located in Ophiuchus, Scorpius and Sagittarius region. I used my 10x50 for bright objects and 8-inch scope for faint globulars. Folks presented at this time were really very happy by watching M8-The Lagoon Nebula. They also liked the view of the great globular cluster Omega Centauri through my 25x100 binocs. In the meantime I set my scope to M13 in Hercules and slightly moved it to a very faint galaxy NGC 6207 (mag ~12) which I had seen through a 16-inch Dobsonian at Nainital in 2008.
At last the final M-objects rising through the light-polluted eastern skies were difficult to locate. We gave up hope to glimpse them as dawn began. However, I last saw M15 through 10x50 and then I showed it to folks through 25x100 binocs and at the end our last score was 93 objects out of 110. This number was very low than we expected. I am sure our score would be at least 100 if the site was darker. We saw most of objects through my 8-inch and 10x50 binoculars. My 25x100 IF giant bino was useless without a viewfinder. It was just a showpiece for visitors. At the time of windup, a crescent moon attracted everyone and Mr. Narendra Gor took a beautiful video. Nishant Gor, Fenil Patadiya and Ashwin Vaghela were helping hands.
-Rahul Zota (KAAC-Bhuj)