This year's Marathon; scheduled for Saturday, March 28, 1998; generated more excitement than in the last few years. It was easily generated due to the fact that chances for observing the entire Messier Catalog were very high. Many veteran marathoners and veteran observers were excited, not to mention all others. One of the more excited veteran observers was Tony Ortega of EVAC. In our discussion it was abundantly clear he could just taste the first place telescope plate for all 110. I couldn't wait to make the award.
Unfortunately these visions didn't work out. A quick summation would seem to be rain, rain, and go away; AJ wants to telescope away!
My bad feelings about the weather actually began the Monday before. Lately a lot has been blamed on El Nino and it looked like we were going to be added to its list, we appeared to be headed towards unacceptable weather. By Wednesday Steve Coe and I were already discussing cancellation possibilities. Normally, I wait until Thursday to start deciding on what the weekend's weather may be like. On this Thursday it still didnít look good, it didn't look good at all. Chances for improvement looked very close to approaching zero.
So, the next day it was time to take advantage of modern technology and use an e-mail system just set up by SAC members Bob Erdmann and Paul Dickson. This e-mail system is primarily for Arizona Observers to discuss weather, what's up, what site to use and who's going where.
The first message was posted Thursday evening, more of a warning about the impending bad weather. The next evening I posted the fateful cancellation message. The message was graciously accepted; the weather wasn't.
Saturday, it rained; did it ever rain, not to mention the windy conditions.
Alas, Tony we'll have to wait until next year when the chances of seeing the entire catalogue are still possible.
In retrospect we should be happy for all the years of good weather we've had not just for the Marathon but for all of our observing session. It is a time like this we should realize how spoiled we are in having such conditions for observing.
Not all seems to have been lost by Arizona observers. Here's an email message from Bob Davidson who tried his observing skills out a day earlier. "I watched the satellite images most of Friday morning and afternoon and decided to chance it for Friday night/Saturday morning. It cleared off and was a wonderful evening! Wish I had had some company, as I was the ONLY one there except for the coyotes. I finished the marathon with just a slight issue with clouds for the last few objects early Saturday morning. There were a few low clouds on the eastern horizon that hindered me just a bit. Even so, I finished just a little after 5 am, packed up and headed home! I had a very nice talk with Ray Farnsworth whose land we use. He told me he now owns this farm. He had bladed several miles of the road leading up to the farm in anticipation of us coming and it was in great shape. Sure wish the weather had held up so those who could not make it Friday night would have had a chance. This was my first marathon and it was fun!"
Thanks for such a nice observing report Bob!!
SAC Deep Sky Chairman