Messier Marathon 2002 at Cherry Grove

Cherry Grove Observatory
Cannon Falls, MN

 Charles Messier, a French astronomer
The March 15th, 2002 star party at the Cherry Grove Observatory with the MN ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

(Click on any thumbnail to see a larger 1024x1536 jpg image)

Ghostly Messier Huners

Star/airplane trails @ CG

Orion with light streaks from driveby car

Photos (C) by Ben Huset March 2002
Shooting with Fuji 800 ASA film. Most exposures are 1-2 min with f2.8 28mm lens.

The Minnesota Astronomical Society's Messier Marathon 2002

March 15, 2002, The MAS Cherry Grove Observing Site:

The Messier SIG Invites You to the 4rd Annual MAS Messier Marathon!

Dust off the mirror or objective and come join us for a fun-filled night of observing! This year offers a great opportunity to observe 109 Messier objects on one spectacular night during the weekend of the new moon (March 15 or 16, 2002) at the MAS' Cherry Grove Observing site.

The Messier Marathon is open to all skill levels, with individuals setting their own goals. This year I am trying to arrange for prizes to be awarded to Messier Marathon participants as follows: for most M objects observed by an individual (star hopping), most M objects observed by 13 yrs. or younger class, and a random drawing of all participants. Dan Fish of Radio City has graciously donated the prizes the past 2 years for the MAS Messier Marathon from his fine stock of Amateur Astronomy Equipment.

The level of seriousness of this Marathon is strictly up to the observer/participant. This is a non-stressful "go at your own pace" event (you will not have to sign any legal disclaimers). However, it's a chance to view many of the heaven's most beautiful objects in just one night! For links to a wealth of additional info on preparing for the Marathon, check out the MAS Messier Marathon Web Page ( or the links to the SEDS Web Page at (

Star Hoppers and digital setting circles, as well as individual observers or observing teams are welcome (although they compete in different classes). No advanced registration is required, just sign in on the sheet in the Cherry Grove warming house early in the evening, and sign out with your total Messier Object count (observer's honor) in the morning. There will be copies of the "Messier Marathon Observer's Form" for logging in the warming house. Warm apple cider and cookies available.

Recommended: Telescope and/or Binoculars (etc.), good Charts, warm clothes, and de-dewing equipment (will have 12V hair dryer on-site to loan out if needed). A certain amount of passion for the night sky, otherwise diagnosed as "Messier-Madness" won't hurt either.

Date: March 15, or 16 (weather alternate) (Sunset: 6:20PM, Sunrise: 6:24AM)

Location: Cherry Grove

Check the MAS phone message @ 651-649-4861 for a go/no-go (updated by 5 PM; or call my home phone if it's not updated). Please contact me (Greg) if you have any questions: or my home phone 763-421-4736.

The MAS' Messier Marathon is getting more popular every year since its start. It's a blast! Last year's Marathon had an incredible turn out considering the wintery weather. But be careful to observe responsibly, the Surgeon General has shown "Messier-Madness" to be addicting!

The Messier SIG looks forward to seeing you there!

- - Greg Haubrich
Messier SIG Coordinator

News Flash: Approximately 20 People Reportedly Occupied the MAS' Cherry Grove Observing Site the Evening of March 15, 2002. Five reportedly occupied the premises until sunrise. Suspects believed to be associated with mysterious historical Messier person. Investigative Report follows (P.I. Gumshoe Report by Mickey Scope - a.k.a. Telly):

Circumstances leading up to the incident:

March 14, 2002, approximately 12" of snow is dumped on the Minneapolis Area. At Cherry Grove Observatory, 3/4" of freezing rain coats, trees, powerlines, power poles, etc. Travel is not recommended, numerous car accidents reported Metro-wide.

March 15, 2002:

1000 hours - An apparent bright glowing circular disk appears between the clouds in the sky, people are confused until they remember that it's the sun. It eventually leads to the sky completely clearing. The roads are plowed and travel is safe again.

1500 hours - This appears to be when the ringleader decided to make his move: accomplices were contacted via phone, email and a message service relaying "the plan". It was originally thought that all accomplices were from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Further examination has proven that the Eau Claire and Rochester Clubs were also involved.

1740 hours - Cherry Grove Observatory - The ringleader (positively identified in a line-up as Greg Haubrich, a.k.a. "The Messier Madman") arrived first in a mini-Van carrying several suspicious looking devices of mass destruction (these were later identified as a 10" and a 16" Dobsonian Telescopes). Chris VanKrevelen, another suspect, arrived seconds later with a similar instrument that was modified for higher yield (DSS and Anti-dew). The two suspects were seen busily setting up their nefarious devices as well as entering a windowed building on the premises.

1830 hours - Accomplices started pouring in like rain from a gutter. Several other nefarious devices were assembled and manned. They were preparing for an assault, there was no doubt from reading their body language. It was almost as if it were a sport for them, taking some sick satisfaction in what they were about to do. These Perps made me sick! I called in for back-up on the scrambled secure channel two-way to Mack, my superior. I said that what was going down could be big, REAL BIG. After all, who in their right mind would be out in 15 degree Minnesota winter weather apparently dressed to be out all night long? I was obviously dealing with some seriously obsessed people with some REAL Obsessions. They obviously could not be expected to act rationally. This was a powder-keg ready to go up at any time! Mack said that I should continue surveillance until the SWAT Team got there in a few hours.

1900 hours - I had to switch over to the Infra-red Night Vision system to continue surveillance as darkness fell. The friendly atmosphere between Perps calmed as they got down to business. They all seemed to be aiming their devices toward the west. Apparently most hadn't invested in State-of-the-Art targeting systems as they all seemed to be frantically searching the sky for their targets. I felt that I should move in before they found them, but I would be hopelessly swarmed by the multitude. I best wait for back-up. I lit up a cigarette and started taking notes.

2000 hours - I could sense an atmosphere of excitement -and believe it or not, enjoyment- with these Perps. Several cries of excitement were heard as targets were locked onto. But just like most perpetrators, they were not satisfied with just one target, they greedily wanted more. They were obviously jotting down the launch coordinates for each new target they found. The sky was mostly clear, but a thin high Cirrus haze eared to complicate their targeting for the first hour or two. They appeared to be able to find some of these targets, but with difficulty. They were not all business, most were seen talking with others after the initial frenzied targeting was through. But the targeting pace did not let up much. Boy, where was that SWAT Team! Once the targeting was complete, who knows what would happen.

2010 hours - Suddenly, an intense blast of green high energy photons ripped through the atmosphere blasting electrons up orbital levels in the atoms of the atmosphere itself, releasing a maelstrom of energy visible up to 9000 ft. in the air! My hand went for my trusty 45 magnum, should I bust up the party now? What could this mean? After further study, I realized that they seemed to be blasting a green beam toward a certain star! Others seemed to also be looking up at this star. Could they be signaling someone, or....something?! Just then the thought occurred to me that I should call my friend Maldure at the FBI. I bet he would know what's going on here. I tried his office number on my cellphone, but his office phone message said that he wasn't back from his alien abduction yet...Try back next week. Oh, well.

2100 hours - I decided to break out the parabolic amplified auditory snooper ear. I started picking up snippets of coded phases like M76, Cassiopeia, and the VIRGO Cluster. What could this mean? People went into the warming house and appeared to drink hot apple cider and eat cookies (I have good binos).

March 16, 2002:

0000 hours - The sky cleared cleared nicely with good transparency and seeing. Targeting was still continuing! How many would be enough? These guys were greedy! There was a subdued party-like atmosphere. Some mentioned of Logging over 40 Messier Objects at that time (whatever that means).

0015 hours - The darkness is suddenly broken by a pick-up truck as it suddenly roars up to within 60 ft. of stop sign at the Cherry Grove intersection and locks them up and almost skids off the road (the driver quickly threw it into reverse on the fly and threw gravel to barely stop short of a road sign). He then proceeds to join the star party for about 30 minutes or so! He appeared to be an inebriated local who had a curious interest in the what the Perps were up to. He asked a few questions which were answered politely, talked awhile and then moseyed on.

1245 hours - The crowd thins as some Perps leave the party early. They all seemed happy and satisfied, "the plan" must be progressing! But I must keep my post until back-up arrives (where are they?!). There's still about 8 Perps left! They just won't back off! Eveready Rabbit, stand aside!

0200 hours - I dosed off at my post.

0520 hours - I awoke to the sound of the Perps tearing their frost-covered equipment down. There were 7 left as dawn broke over the frozen landscape. They must have launched on their targets as I dozed! (just then Mack arrives with the back-up). We stormed the site and apprehended the Perps and under intensive interrogation learned the following:

Messier Marathon 2002 Highlights/Results (everything above minus the Mickey Scope perspective happened at the Marathon):

  1. Comet Ikeya-Zhang was seen by many in the evening twilight. It was fairly bright (brighter than nearby M74! It was found inadvertently by some searching for M74.
  2. 20+ amateur astronomers from three different Astronomy Clubs participated in the event (The Rochester, Eau Claire, and the MAS)! Many hardy Amateurs stayed late into the night. Seven made it to dawn! (Martina and Tim Parson, Cort Sylvester, Tom Lindquist, Thor Olson who was taking Messier pics, Dave Venne, and me). Apologies if I forgot someone (I went off the signout list).
  3. The full spectrum of experience was there:
    1. First timers that had only seen a few Messier objects logged from 4 to 50 objects and more! Great effort! (I only logged 4-10 per night when I started out, these guys are good!)
    2. A Father, Daughter and Son Team (Troy, Megan and Brian) logged 38! Way to go!
    3. Welcome to Mark Callahan from Rochester, and Jon Darnehy from Eau Claire. Please bring more friends with you next year!
    4. An Astronomy Professor from Augsburg College (sorry, I forgot your name) was out there racking up an impressive Messier count with us too!
  4. Ben Huset, the MAS President, showed up to cheer us on and to drop off some extra prizes that I will award at the next meeting. Thanks Ben!
  5. Doug Brown MAS Board Member at Large was working on his Binocular Messier Certificate with a set of Giant Binos. I believe he logged about 16. Thanks Doug!
  6. Tom Youngblood teamed with me as an observer that would view objects as I found them. Tom read off and remembered many details of each Messier Object such as object type, magnitude and distance as we viewed it. Thanks Tom!
  7. Here's the Messier Count as listed in the Sign-out Log:

A big "thank you" to all that participated, and to Dan Fish of Radio City who donated the three main prizes. We had a blast! I look forward to seeing you at next year's MAS 2003 Messier Marathon.

- - Greg Haubrich
Messier Marathon and Messier SIG Coordinator.

P.S. Messier SIG Members (and other MAS Members interested) please look for the upcoming Galaxy Hunting extravaganza this spring: "The Virgo Venture" where we will sponsor a Messier Object hunting session in the Virgo/Coma Cluster of Galaxies (date and location T.B.D.)

Mosaic of Messier Objects:

Last revision April 4th, 2002
by Ben
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