The Messier Marathon


This year NOVAC will hold two Messier Marathons in conjunction with the Monthly Observing Session. The first will be held on March 25th at Crockett Park and the second on April 29th at Camp High Road. This is your chance to catch all 110 Messier objects in a marathon event that lasts from dusk to dawn. The winner that "bags" the most in one night using no electronic assistance will get to pick one item from the NOVAC store as a grand prize.

This year we will also have a electronic category in the competition. The member that finds the most messiers using a "go to" scope , computer or DSC will receive a special T-shirt from the NOVAC store.

 If you are an experienced Messier marathoner, come on down. If you have never done one, come on down, find out what the madness is all about.

This is a no frills, so bring your own stuff event. Remember, it still gets very cold in mid March, so dress accordingly. Read the Novac listserver for last minute details and to see if the event is cancelled.   

Mike Mills has a checklist keyed to Sky Atlas 2000.0 and a map of the Virgo cluster.

Additional Info can be found at (includes FREE downloads) and .

Messier In France during the 1700's, Charles Messier was hunting for comets. He kept finding fuzzy things which weren't comets, so he made a list of them to remember what he'd already seen. The list grew to about 110 objects, and includes many of the finest star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae visible from the northern hemisphere.
Marathon It turns out that the objects on Messier's list are distributed in the sky so that in early spring it is possible to observe all of them in a single night-long observing session: a Messier Marathon. People have actually been doing it since 1977.

Why would you want to do that? Different people have different reasons. Some like the sense of accomplishment. Finding all 110 objects in a single night isn't easy, and you have to know the objects and their locations very well to do it. In addition, the 110 objects represent a wide sample of the objects in the sky. One can compare objects of the various types to each other, and gain a better understanding of how the universe is put together. There's also a kind of camaraderie which builds up between observers who are lunatic enough to stay up all night collecting faint fuzzies, and Marathon nights can be social occasions.

Past NOVAC Marathon Champions

YearName TotalSite
2001 Brent Archinal110Arizona
2000  Jonathan Bein104Savage
1999  Craig Tupper 107 Skyline Drive/Crockett
1998  Craig Tupper 107 Crockett
1997  Bruce Miller/Craig Tupper 105 Crockett
1996 Bruce Miller 95 Crockett

* If anyone has information regarding the winner for this year please send an email to

Past Years' Results

2001 was the sixth annual NOVAC Messier Marathon. It was a good year for Marathoning; the moon was new on the weekend of March 24/25, which is approximately ideal in terms of achieving a balance between the hard-to-get early evening and late morning objects. Many excellent results rolled in, including the first complete 110 by a NOVAC member - Brent Archinal, in Arizona! Jonathon Bein and Craig Tupper set new personal bests, and a new club record from northern Virginia environs, with 109. Regardless of totals, a good time was had by all.

Total NameSite Date
110 Brent Archinal Arizona3/24
109 Jonathan Bein Savage3/25
109 Craig Tupper Savage3/25
107 Jonathan Bein Savage3/18
106 Jonathan Bein G. Washington Nat'l Forest 3/22
106 Craig Tupper G. Washington Nat'l Forest 3/22
87 Alan Figgatt Mickey Gordon3/23
78 Robert Stewart Mickey Gordon3/23
54 Donna Blosser Mickey Gordon3/23
29 Kim Bieler Mickey Gordon3/19
25 Bob Traube (while hardly tryin') Crockett3/23

2000 was the fifth annual NOVAC Messier Marathon.
Total NameSite
104 Jonathan Bein Savage
50 Allan Meyer Crockett

1999 was the fourth annual NOVAC Messier Marathon.
Total NameSite
107 Craig Tupper Skyline Drive/Crockett
104 Jerry Wolczanski Savage
103 Jon Stewart-Taylor Crockett
92 Jonathan Bein Reddish Knob, VA
78 Michael Mills Crockett
74 Joe Colaccino Skyline Drive/Crockett
25 David Bonnell Little Bennett Regional Park

1998 was the third annual NOVAC Messier Marathon, and the last year without explicit guidelines.
Total NameSite
107 Craig Tupper Crockett
104 Barry Wolfe Crockett
104 Jonathan Bein Crockett
102 Ron Cook Crockett
100 Jon Stewart-Taylor Parsells/Savage
35 John Avellone Crocket
35 Ron Mickle Savage

1997 was the second annual NOVAC Messier Marathon.
Total NameSite
105 Bruce Miller Crockett
105 Craig Tupper Crockett
104 Rich Kaiser Crockett
102 Mike Walker Crockett
20 Jon Stewart-Taylor Rocky Mount NC

1996 was the first "official" NOVAC Messier Marathon.
Total NameSite
95 Bruce Miller Crockett
89 Craig Tupper Parsells
88 Rich Kaiser Parsells
39 Jon Stewart-Taylor Parsells
0 Chewning Toulmin (Chutzpah!) Arlington