110 Messier Objects with 15 x 70 Binoculars

I’ve had my 15 x 70 Oberwerk binoculars for nearly a year now and have really enjoyed observing with them. In September, I started putting them to use on the Messier catalog. My goal was to see if I could observe all 110 objects from home, with as little fuss as possible. That is: no tripod, very little dark adaptation, and only the most rudimentary sketches. I wanted it to be a fun little blitz, to see how far the binoculars could take me. My main advantage is a very clear sky. So, even though glaring light from nearby industry is reflecting off of every nearby structure, the sky clarity makes up for it if you can shield your eyes for just a few minutes.

When I started last September, the bright, feisty objects in the Summer Milky Way made for easy pickings. By the time spring rolled around though, my binoculars faced an imposing load of galaxies. But they gave way bit by bit. Finally, on April 2nd, I finished a tour of the Virgo Cluster and tracked down my last binocular Messier object: M100.

Several of the objects were very difficult, and would have benefitted from a tripod rather than a reclined lawn chair. I was fooled by unresolved groups of stars a couple times too and had to run back out to re-observe those areas. But with close comparison to the star field and comparison to Starry Night software, I was able to verify all the tough ones. The most difficult objects I noted on my list were: M74, M76, M91, M96, M102, M108, and M109.

Now that I’ve done it, I hope to attempt a Binocular Messier Marathon one day.

My observing notes are in the table at the end of this entry.

If you want to see the handwritten notes with those rudimentary sketches I mentioned, they can be found in this PDF: Binocular Messier Observation Notes

I have also prepared a blank observing record, in case you would like to use it:
Binocular Messier Observation Form (Letter Size)
Binocular Messier Observation Form (A4 Size)

ID Type AL Rating Date Time Description
M1 SNR Challenge 16-Sep-07 02:55 AM Small, soft patch, to NW of Zeta TAU. Actually midway between Mars and Zeta TAU on this night. Great sight!
M2 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 10:05 PM Bright, moderately condensed. Lies just north of an arcing group of stars.
M3 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 08:20 PM Large, strongly condensed. Forms one corner of a downward pointing long isosceles triangle with 2 other stars.
M4 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 08:10 PM First quarter moon was 2 degrees from M4, fun challenge. M4 was a large, soft glow, barely discernible over the background sky/moonglow
M5 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 08:50 PM Large, strong condensation. Bright star and a tweaked ‘X’ shaped asterism were just southwest of it.
M6 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:25 PM Bright, fully resolved. Parallelogram formed by bright stars, looks much like a small Lyra, including handle. Orange star at east corner.
M7 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:25 PM Large, fully resolved, fairly condensed. About 20 bright members over about 3 dozen fainter members. Orange star marks sw side of core.
M8 DN+OC Challenge 16-Sep-07 09:35 PM Majestic, bright nebula surrounding fully resolved star cluster. Nebula has 2 bright southern patches and a fainter north patch.
M9 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 09:10 PM Small, faint, strongly condensed.
M10 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:55 PM Soft, moderately condensed.
M11 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:30 PM Looks just like a globular cluster. Strongly condensed and round. Bright.
M12 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:15 PM Soft, not well condensed.
M13 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:35 PM Bright, large, broadly condensed core. Forms apex of isosceles triangle with 2 other bright stars.
M14 GC Tougher 16-Sep-07 10:05 PM Small, soft, moderately condensed. Forms right angle with a line of three stars to its north.
M15 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 03:40 AM Strongly condensed, circular. Sits along side of triangular asterism.
M16 OC+EN Easy 16-Sep-07 10:30 PM Grainy star cluster with several brighter members resting over soft, nebulous backdrop. Elongated east to west. 2 bright stars to the south make it look larger.
M17 OC+EN Easy 16-Sep-07 10:20 PM Elongated checkmark shaped nebula with east to west alignment and swoosh pointing south on the west end.
M18 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 10:25 PM Small circular, partially resolved with some distinct stars lying over soft haze behind.
M19 GC Tougher 17-Sep-07 09:00 PM Soft, moderately condensed. Sits beneath a trio of wide doubles that seem to point toward it. Neat context.
M20 N+OC 16-Sep-07 09:40 PM Two-lobed nebulosity. Southern lobe is brightest. Both are centered on bright stars.
M21 OC 16-Sep-07 09:45 PM Grainy cluster, enmeshed in Milky Way field. Strongly condensed core.
M22 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:00 PM Bright, soft, circular with broad bright core. Sits just east of a triangular asterism with an orange apex star.
M23 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:50 PM Beautiful, large, finely grained cluster. Bright star rests outside the northwest edge. Not concentrated.
M24 SC+OC Easy 16-Sep-07 10:00 PM Huge, sparkling cloud of stars. Oblong with many bright stars over a fine grained backdrop.
M25 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 10:15 PM Bright, irregular, nicely resolved with grainy background. Fairly condensed core.
M26 OC Challenge 16-Sep-07 10:35 PM Small , circular, not resolved except for 1 star on southwest portion of core. Appears moderately condensed. Forms east apex of right-triangle with 2 bright stars.
M27 PN Easy 17-Sep-07 09:20 PM Bright, circular. Two-lobed structure just barely visible.
M28 GC Tougher 16-Sep-07 09:05 PM Small, soft with strongly condensed core.
M29 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:40 AM Small, grainy and condensed. Same field as Sadr.
M30 GC Tougher 17-Sep-07 10:00 PM Small, moderately condensed. Paired with a star of similar magnitude just to its west side. Much brighter star lies a bit further to its east.
M31 Gal Easy 16-Sep-07 01:40 AM Beautiful, elongated. Northwest edge sharper. Super condensed core.
M32 Gal Challenge 16-Sep-07 01:40 AM Soft, small disc outside south edge of visible portion of M31.
M33 Gal Tougher 16-Sep-07 02:05 AM Soft, oval, with broad central condensation. Sits within diamond asterism.
M34 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:50 AM Sparse, fairly resolved. Lies at the heart of a rhombus asterism like a heart in a chest.
M35 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:50 AM Large, soft and grainy with about 10 brighter stars involved. Nice curving string of stars peels away to the south.
M36 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 01:55 AM Grainy, concentrated, shaped like an “A”.
M37 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 01:55 AM Soft, lumpy, concentrated.
M38 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 01:55 AM Grainy, irregular, loose. Sits just north of Cheshire Cat Asterism.
M39 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:45 AM Large, fully resolved, loose, about 2 dozen stars apparent. Crooked peace symbol shape.
M40 Dbl Tougher 17-Sep-07 08:40 PM Needed to memorize the star field carefully. It showed up northeast of 70 Umaj. Couldn’t resolve into 2 stars though.
M41 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 09:40 PM Large (3 to 4 degrees) with bright well-resolved stars over a foam of fainter stars. X-shaped. Right central star appears yellow-orange.
M42 OC+EN Easy 16-Sep-07 03:05 AM Beautiful, bow/fan shape with loads of bright stars all around in linear sweep.
M43 EN 16-Sep-07 03:05 AM Tough to distinguish from M42. Centered on bright star north of the trapezium.
M44 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 10:20 PM Huge with bright stars. About a dozen bright members with a couple dozen more faint members. Has an almost rectangular appearance.
M45 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 01:50 AM Brilliant, loose collection of bright blue stars. Wonderful streamer of stars hanging off.
M46 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 09:55 PM Very soft, round haze with a grain of about 8 stars emerging above the background. Beautiful pair with M47. About .5 degree in size.
M47 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 09:55 PM Appears fully resolved with a couple dozen stars. Elongated northeast to southwest and about .75 degree wide in that direction.
M48 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 10:10 PM Large, grainy with more than a couple dozen stars resolving. Elongated northwest to southeast. Great binocular OC.
M49 Gal Tougher 30-Mar-08 11:00 PM Soft, non-descript patch, nearly midway between 2 bright stars in the “back” of a lawn chair shaped asterism.
M50 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 10:00 PM Full range of resolution, soft, round haze with overlying grain and about 8 or so more distinct stars. Two brighter stars north and south give an oval appearance.
M51 Gal Challenge 17-Sep-07 08:25 PM Soft, moderately condensed, appears to be elongated…indicating detection of NGC 5195 in the combined light.
M52 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:40 AM Soft, round, mostly unresolved. One bright star superimposed.
M53 GC Tougher 30-Mar-08 10:50 PM Bright, round, with a broad, robust core. Situated between diadem and a rough streamer of stars.
M54 GC Challenge 16-Sep-07 09:10 PM Small, but strongly condensed core.
M55 GC Easy 17-Sep-07 09:35 PM Huge, bright, only slightly condensed. Circular.
M56 GC Challenge 16-Sep-07 10:40 PM Soft, moderately condensed. Possibly overlapping star makes it look like a double-core aligned northwest to southeast.
M57 PN 16-Sep-07 10:35 PM Actually nicely visible. Almost stellar. Forms apex of a flat isosceles triangle of stars that is also connected to another triangle.
M58 Gal 02-Apr-08 09:35 PM A bit difficult, just below a bright star. Somewhat condensed.
M59 Gal 02-Apr-08 09:20 PM Difficult. Near M60. Just a soft patch of haze.
M60 Gal 02-Apr-08 09:20 PM Rather easy. Soft patch. Good concentration at center.
M61 Gal 30-Mar-08 11:10 PM Soft patch in a bright, starry field.
M62 GC Tougher 17-Sep-07 08:55 PM Tough sighting with moon in this part of the sky. Strongly condensed.
M63 Gal Tougher 17-Sep-07 08:35 PM Tough sighting in this part of the sky. Very subtle. Elongated 2:1.
M64 Gal Tougher 30-Mar-08 10:50 PM Slightly oval, soft with gradual brightness profile. Sits below the base of a wide isosceles triangle of stars.
M65 Gal Challenge 30-Mar-08 10:35 PM Relatively easy to spot. Round. Forms a right triangle with M66 and a bright star.
M66 Gal Challenge 30-Mar-08 10:35 PM Large and easy to see. Highly elongated with a bright core, situated between two bright stars and elongated in their direction.
M67 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 10:20 PM Soft ellipse aligned southwest to northeast. A hint of granularity, with 1 bright star on the northeast edge.
M68 GC Challenge 02-Apr-08 09:05 PM Soft, unresolved spot. Only slight condensation with averted vision. Easy to confuse with nearby group of stars.
M69 GC 16-Sep-07 09:15 PM Small, faint, soft patch with a notable star just north of it. Mildly condensed.
M70 GC 16-Sep-07 09:20 PM Soft, faint patch, mildly condensed. Rests north of two angled star groups.
M71 GC Challenge 16-Sep-07 10:45 PM Faint, soft, barely condensed. Wants to hide in the lumpy Milky Way.
M72 GC 17-Sep-07 09:50 PM Very faint and small. Located next to a star in the lower left corner of a rhomboid asterism.
M73 Ast 17-Sep-07 09:55 PM Faint, and nearly stellar. Part of a line of 3 other stars.
M74 Gal 16-Sep-07 03:25 AM Extremely difficult. Midway from Eta PSC to star pair with a mag 10.5 star .25 degree to the east. Appears as a small, faint glow.
M75 GC Challenge 17-Sep-07 09:45 PM Small, faint, moderately condensed.
M76 PN 16-Sep-07 02:15 AM Very difficult. Small, faint, soft patch .25 degree north of 6.6 mag star in Perseus.
M77 Gal 16-Sep-07 03:15 AM Nearly 1 degree east-southeast of Delta CET. Small, soft, faint spot at end of star chain.
M78 RN Tougher 16-Sep-07 03:00 AM Small, soft patch at right angle with Orion belt stars.
M79 GC Tougher 21-Sep-07 03:00 AM Small, faint, fairly condensed. Notable companion star just to its south.
M80 GC Tougher 17-Sep-07 08:15 PM Small, moderately condensed. Sports a close neighbor star on its northeast side. First quarter moon 4 degrees away. Still showed up nicely.
M81 Gal Tougher 16-Sep-07 03:30 AM Soft, oval with condensed core, just south of M82 for great pair. Sits at north apex of triangle formed with 2 stars.
M82 Gal Tougher 16-Sep-07 03:30 AM Soft, highly elongated. Bright axis running along its core, but fainter than M81 to the south.
M83 Gal Tougher 02-Apr-08 11:15 PM Large! Softly circular, with mildly condensed core.
M84 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:45 PM Fairly easy, right next to M86. Round and condensed. (NGC 4435 and 4438 combo also visible on other side of M86.)
M85 Gal 02-Apr-08 11:10 PM Situated right next to a star of similar magnitude. The well-condensed core forms a “double” with that star. Circular.
M86 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:45 PM An easy catch, fairly condensed and slightly elongated. Right next to M84 and NGC 4435/4438 on either side.
M87 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:40 PM Fairly easy, large, well-condensed.
M88 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:30 PM Not too difficult. Soft, relatively large.
M89 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:20 PM Difficult. Almost stellar, but still soft with a well-condensed core.
M90 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:20 PM Difficult, larger than M89, couldn’t detect condensation.
M91 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:35 PM Very difficult. I think only the core was showing. Looks like a faint star on the left corner of a triangle of other stars.
M92 GC Easy 16-Sep-07 09:35 PM Bright, soft, strongly condensed core.
M93 OC Easy 26-Jan-08 09:45 PM Soft elongated (east-west) glow with 4 or 5 stars starting to resolve out of the mist.
M94 Gal Tougher 02-Feb-08 11:25 PM Bright. Round and sharply condensed.
M95 Gal 30-Mar-08 10:25 PM Very difficult. Forms shorter edge of right triangle with M96 and a brighter star. It also sits just east of another faint star.
M96 Gal 02-Feb-08 11:35 PM Soft, formless patch.
M97 PN Challenge 02-Feb-08 10:55 PM Not easy, but much easier than nearby M108. A faint soft star-like object.
M98 Gal 02-Apr-08 11:00 PM Pretty difficult. Elongated and no condensation that I could see.
M99 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:55 PM Fairly easy, round, moderately condensed.
M100 Gal 02-Apr-08 10:55 PM Fairly easy, round, larger than M99 and moderately condensed.
M101 Gal Challenge 17-Sep-07 08:45 PM Large! Very softly defined. Slightest hint of condensation and elongated northeast-southwest slightly.
M102 Gal 17-Sep-07 09:30 PM Required lots of effort. Very small. Moderately condensed. Needed to compare closely to star field.
M103 OC Easy 16-Sep-07 02:35 AM Linear shape, grainy, three prominent linear stars. North star brightest.
M104 Gal Challenge 02-Apr-08 09:10 PM Fairly straightforward to see near a couple nice binocular doubles. Is easy to see elongation pointing toward brighter double.
M105 Gal 30-Mar-08 10:10 PM Almost stellar, with slight diffuseness. Forms right triangle with 2 nearby stars. Ended up spotting NGC 3384 right next to it!
M106 Gal Challenge 02-Feb-08 11:20 PM Relatively easy. Elongated and brighter towards the middle. Rests along one edge of right triangle of stars.
M107 GC 17-Sep-07 09:10 PM Extremely difficult with light pollution and low altitude. Appeared as slightest sky brightening with no detail to see at all.
M108 Gal 02-Feb-08 11:00 PM Very difficult and intermittent. But at right position at end of an arc of stars. Very soft, but elongated.
M109 Gal 02-Feb-08 11:15 PM Very difficult. Right next to a 9th magnitude star. Appears as a soft glow hanging off this star.
M110 Gal 16-Sep-07 01:40 AM Very faint patch brightening sky northwest of M31 and perpendicular to M31’s axis.

4 Replies to “110 Messier Objects with 15 x 70 Binoculars”

  1. As a galaxy hunter I would love you to extend this to NGC galaxies you have seen in 70/80mm bins…
    I have done 1023/2403/2655/2682/2841/2903/3077/3115/3384/3521/3628/4490/4494/4631/5005/5195/7331..
    I am sure I could spot more..interested in the fact you saw the eyes in Virgo..
    I have mag 5.5 skies so this does limit me somewhat..
    Mark Stuart
    Bristol

  2. That sounds like a great project, Mark! I’ve estimated a limiting magnitude of 6.2 from my home, and the SQM sometimes gets to 20.4 mag/arcsec^2. So there’s definitely a lot that should be accessible with binoculars. Thanks for the suggestions.

  3. I was just looking through this for some guidance for a group observation. There’s a lot of objects here and I wondered if this is for southern hemisphere or northern?

  4. Hi Nicolle, that’s a great point. The Messier objects are more ideally placed for northern hemisphere observers. Depending on how far south in the southern hemisphere you are, some of them won’t be visible.
    I just did a quick search and this is a link to a PDF document of a Modified Messier Marathon for Southern observers by Leo Cavagnaro (hosted by the Rose City Astronomrs):
    http://www.rosecityastronomers.org/sister_clubs/pdf/2012_04_leo_S_Messier.pdf
    Although that list is geared for a single-night marathon, it could also be useful as a year-round observing project. I’m not sure about binocular visibility of the different objects swapped into the list, but I’m sure they’re worth a try. I hope that can help!

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