Messier half-Marathon is on!

When Charles Messier went looking for comets, he scanned around with his telescope looking for anything that looked quite faint and misty, but made a definite splodge. He’d then view them again and again to see if they moved through the sky. Some faint fuzzies, like galaxies and planetary nebula, which his telescope could pick up but not well enough to show they weren’t comets, didn’t move. To prevent himself and others repeatedly wasting their time, he founded the Messier list of fuzzy objects ranging from the naked eye to very tricky targets.

Modern day amateur astronomers at this time of year like to head south and attempt to view as many of the Messier 110 objects as possible over a single night. This is known as a Messier Marathon.

The Society for Popular Astronomy (which tweets here) is presently (tonight and tomorrow night) running a sort of half marathon on twitter. Anyone can join in and tweet their observations using the #messier10 hashtag to allow others to identify it. They have a guide here including pointers to finding the first Messier objects.

(oh, and if you do find an unlisted splodge in the sky, definitely tweet that, you may have found a comet)

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