In an effort to compensate for not getting out to dark sites for observing lately, you’ll notice that my recent observations and sketches are taking place from my front yard. But even that has been getting tough to make time for. So I decided to ease up on my expectations a bit more for a couple nights. I pulled up the Messier and Deep Sky Binocular Observing Lists from the Astronomical League and decided to see how deep my 15 x 70 Oberwerks could take me with casual use from home. And by casual, I mean just roaming around the front and back yards without a tripod, looking for the best views. Look out Neighbors! He’s got some FAT binoculars pointed over your roofs!
So far the police have not been called.
This continues to emphasize for me that apart from the immediate glare of lights from 24-hours businesses nearby, I have really great north, east, and zenith sky quality. Decent dark adaptation is a futile quest due to all the reflected light, but clarity is awesome in those areas. And it really showed up as I went through the Messier list one by one. The showpiece objects, like the Auriga open clusters were of course stunning, but I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to make fairly straightforward hand-held observations of the theoretically tougher objects. The AL Messier Binocular observing list has objects divided into Easy, Tougher and Challenge categories with about 34 objects not listed at all.
As the fainter, unlisted items (such as M74, M76, M77 and M57) began to give themselves up, it occurred to me that I may want to try running my next Messier Marathon with these binoculars. I recalled that Brent Archinal ran it with 11 x 80 binoculars in 2001, so why not? I might still run it concurrently with my telescope, just in case M30 and M74 give me insurmountable trouble.
I’ve been going through the binocular Messier list with mainly written notes, and only rudimentary sketches to verify star fields around some of the more difficult objects. It’s an interesting contrast to my normal observing and sketching routine where I may only make 2 or 3 saturated observations over the course of an evening. With this little program, I was enjoying 25 or so objects in the same period of time. It’s satisfying in its own way–not satisfying enough to pull me away from digging deep whenever I can, but it’s a great diversion.