NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - Mabee Observatory in Krehbiel Science Center at Bethel College will be having a party on April 4 as sky watchers, in the observatory as well as on the Web, gather for a Messier Madness Marathon. Beginning around 7 p.m., the marathon is expected to last most of the night as viewers search for all 110 Messier objects. Messier objects, according to observatory director Tracy Tuttle, are faint, remote objects, which were cataloged initially by the French astronomer Charles Messier, who lived from 1730 to 1817.
"We are going to use the main 16-inch telescope to bring in video feeds so we can image all 110 Messier objects. These are interesting celestial objects that range from galaxies to nebulae to clusters of stars," Tuttle explains. "This list of 110 objects is a very famous --some say ‘infamous’-- list of observing targets for avid sky watchers."
Descriptive names showcase the list. These include the Crab Nebula, the Wild Duck Cluster, the Great Spiral of Andromeda, and the Sombrero Galaxy. Smaller telescopes will be set up on the observation deck for the public to use at this celestial hunting party. The Bethel College Astronomy Club and observatory staff will be available to help with the telescopes and answer questions. Admission is free and open to the public.
"I’d like to invite the public to participate either at the observatory or on-line. We expect this event to last until nearly dawn," Tuttle says. "As each object is found and imaged, we will be posting it on our Web site. We will also be running a live ‘chat’ session. Those who don’t attend will be able to interact with us through a live Webcam video feed from the observatory. See http://galileo.bethelks.edu/mo.htm.
The event is sponsored in part by the Bethel College Astronomy Club and Mabee Observatory at Bethel College, The Computer Doctor in North Newton, and the North Central Kansas Astronomical Society.
The telescope in Mabee Observatory, which opened last fall, will be utilizing a new CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) imaging system made by the Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG). The CCD is a sensitive, low light, digital camera specifically designed for astronomical use.
Mabee Observatory is located on the fourth floor of Krehbiel Science Center and is accessible by elevator. If the night is cool, sky watchers are encouraged to wear warm, layered clothing. If clouds restrict the viewing, the alternate date is Saturday, April 5.