Is there an easy way to tackle the Virgo Cluster during a Messier Marathon?
by Mark Deprest
March 25, 2006.
The following email was extracted from a couple of emails that I sent to
Paul Walkowski and the ACNO group in answer to Paul’s question, “Is there an
easy way to tackle the Virgo Cluster during a Messier Marathon?”
There are two schools of thought on the Virgo Cluster for Messier Marathons
and I’ll try to explain both:
There are a couple of caveats on the method described below.
- Turn any drive you might have, off.
- Start the Virgo Cluster about mid-night or when Denebola, beta
Leonis is due south.
- Remember to recenter or off set each object before starting your
next time run.
- Use an eyepiece with at least 1 degree FOV, wider fields of view
will work but, it should be an eyepiece that you know very well, and one
that you are comfortable with so that moving the distances prescribe below
- The timing on each of the wait periods is based on the current
of the Earth’s rotation on its axis, if the earth decides to change its
current rotational speed remember to HOLD ON and then make the necessary
Drift Method - West to East (or The Lazy Man Method)
- Start with a low power / wide field eyepiece (1 degree FOV), and
center on Denebola, beta Leonis.
- Now, wait 24 minutes ( have a cup of coffee) after 24 minutes look
through the eyepiece and you should see M98
- Wait 6 minutes and look through the eyepiece again and you should
- Wait 4 minutes, and now you will push your scope due north about 1
FOV or 1 degree (not you are currently facing due south so with a DOB just
raise the tube up slightly. You are now looking at M100
- Now move your scope due north again, this time 2.5 degrees and you
should see M85
- Here comes the first real test of your back tracking skills, move
the scope back to M99 (that will be 3.5 degrees south and now 1.5 degrees
- With M99 centered, wait 12 minutes and M88 will be sliding into
- Wait 3 minutes and view M91
- Now you need to do just a little open field running and drop your
scope (not literally) 1.25 degrees south you should find M90
- Now move your scope 2.5 degrees west and M86 should be in
corner of your FOV. Center M86 and you’ll see M84 just to the west.
- Now move these two galaxies to the northern most corner of
and wait 4 minutes and observe M87.
- Wait 4 minutes more and M89 will drift into view.
- Move M89 into the northern most corner of your FOV and wait 1.5
- M58 should now be in your FOV.
- Wait 4 minutes and observe M59 and watch M60 drift in to view 30
- For M49 and M61 your back to star hopping and I wish you luck.
I will attempt to describe the second method in an email to come. This
method works and I have used it very successfully on many occasions, give it
a try and let me know how you do.
Additionally, I want to say that this first method I described can be used
at anytime of night but generally works easiest when this area of the sky is
near the meridian (north - south line). Because to move the scope east or
west is just a matter of rotation of the azimuth bearing to the right or
left and a movement of either north or south is a simple movement of the
altitude bearing up or down.
Also, when you look in the eyepiece after waiting the prescribed time
interval you may see a couple fainter galaxies in the same FOV with your
intended Messier object, there are many galaxies in this area, generally the
brightest one in the FOV is the Messier. For instance just 18 arc minutes
south of M100 (a face on spiral) is NGC 4312 an 11th magnitude edge on and
the area within 1 degree of M86 has at least 7 galaxies brighter than 13th
magnitude plus M84. My point is know ahead of time what it is that you are
looking for and at least a general idea of what it should look like, that
will improve your chance of finding it a thousand fold.
With all that said, I am working on the second method of doing the Virgo
Cluster but this is going to take a little time, so watch for it in the next
day or two.
Carpe Nocturne - Clear Skies & Dark Nights
Mark S Deprest
University Lowbrow Astronomers
Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers
American Association of Amateur Astronomers
A.L. Comet Observers Club Gold Award Recipient
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