Analysis of Messier Marathons, as of 2011

by A.J. Crayon

Messier Marathons have been continually offered in Arizona since 1993 along with some pretty good record keeping. Thanks to my good friend Hartmut Frommert in Germany. Around 1999 I began to suspect that, in Arizona at least, there was a jump in telescope aperture. Reviewing our records didn't seem to support this hypothesis - at least not a lot. As time went by not only was aperture concern still there but also the number of observers. Then in early 2011 I discovered the Messier Marathon Results Table, see for details. This ASCII file is the results of work by Don Machholz and Hartmut Frommert and has an excellent format that was adhered to consistently. Here I thought was a chance to use my programming skills to mine some data to answer my questions. Turns out more questions came up that were easily answered by programming.

The first result has to do with how many marathons observers have done. See Observer_results-2011.txt. The format is as follows -

It was expected that Don Machholz had the most but I should have know that Tom Hoffelder was next. Turns out there have been a total of 658 folks that have attended marathons since this record keeping began in 1977.

The next attempt was to determine something about aperture size. The columns are the year, number of telescopes and average size in inches and millimeters. Again the theory of aperture increase was not evident. What was evident is the number of telescopes increased dramatically beginning in 1993 and was in full swing by 1999. This is a nice testament to the popularity of Messier Marathoning. See Observer_scope_average-2011.txt for additional details.

One feature not considered before hand was binocular marathoning. While some had been done in the Arizona events they didn't seem to garner that much attention. This wasn't the case world wide. So a look at this data seemed a good path to follow. A questions that immediately arises is what's the smallest size to do a marathon. Which then brings the question what constitutes doing a marathon. Here the consideration is how many objects does one need to see to satisfy this requirement. This answer is left to the readers to decide for themselves.

It turns out that 110 have been found with binoculars. That's no surprise. First to do so was George Gilbart-Smith in 2009 with 12X80's. Two years later this feat was repeated by my friend Brent Archinal in 11X80's. Other's have observed significant number of objects is smaller binoculars. If you are a glutton for punishment there's more data at Observer_binos-2011.txt. The columns are -

After the binoculars came a new thought, one that was never considered prior to writing the program. That is a record book. This book would have to be similar to a sports record book that kept information about prior records with the most current listed first. The Messier Marathon Record Book would contain a list of the smallest aperture to do a marathon. Here, again, the question arises as to what constitutes doing, or completing, a marathon. Arbitrarily, a lower limit of 100 objects was decided upon. The data is ordered by year, the aperture size.

A quick review of the data, found at Observer_record_book-2011.txt, shows that a 60mm ETX is the smallest - so far. Paul Clark first to do so with 110 on March 24/25 2006. One day later Rick Tejera, another good friend and observing buddy, found 107 and again in 2010 Rick found 109. Again, if you are still wanting more information about this topic see file Observer_record_book-2011.txt.

Again, if you are interested in the original data it is part of the Messier Marathon Results Table at

If you find any errors with this report let me know at acrayon at and I'll try to jerry-rig a fix.

Thanks so much for everyone's support.
AJ Crayon - All Arizona Messier Marathon Coordinator.

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Last Modification: March 1, 2012