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All Arizona Messier Marathon

The 2019 All Arizona Messier Marathon will be held this year on March 30th, 2019, again at the Salome Emergency Airfield, near the Antennas Observing Site. In addition, the field will be available on Friday March 29th for an additional night of observing & socializing.

If you are on Facebook, be sure to join the All Arizona Messier Marathon Group for update and information as the event nears.

GPS coordinates:

N33° 34.833m

W113° 35.883m

Elevation: 1,378 ft.

Astronomical Data

Sunset 18:54
Moonrise 4:08
Evening Ast. twilight 20:18
Morning Ast. Twilight 4:59
Sunrise 6:24



Hovatter Airstrip: Travel time about 2 hours. From Phoenix, go west on I-10 to Hovatter Rd at exit 53 or about 40 miles west of Palo Verde Nuclear Power generating station. Turn left over the freeway, drive over the canal. When you cross the canal, turn hard left. Go 1.1 miles to a bend in the road. As the road veers to the SE, look for a road running due south at the same point— VINEGAROON ROAD. Take it for 1.8 miles. You will come to a small left-right zig-zag, then see a chain link fence enclosing an area about 20 ft by 20 ft. That’s the airfield entrance.

GPS Coordinates:

N 33° 34.833′ 50″ W 113° 35.883″ Elevation: 1,378 ft.

Map to the site:

Reminder: the Friday date is NOT the marathon. It has been set aside for more time to observe from your personal observing list. It will also provide more time for socializing on Saturday.

Object Data Mar 30-31 2019

Object Elev. at Sunset
Elev. at Ast Twi
M74 18° 6′ 1° 20′
M77 23° 0′ 5° 52′
M31 20° 6′ 7° 1′
Morning Elev. at Ast Twi Elev. at Sunrise
Moon (27 days old) 8° 42′ 22° 43′
M30 2° 23′ 16° 27′
M31 5° 16′ 18° 13′

Before continuing be sure you have read and signed the waiver for the event. The waiver is available at this link. Basically, SAC is not responsible for loss, theft, broken items, nor for any bodily injuries you may sustain. Sorry for the legalese but it is a sign of the times. Please turn in the signed waiver at the event, preferably at the sunset meeting.

Your observing activities will not go unnoticed; there will be awards in recognition of effort. People observing or imaging 50 or more objects will receive an 8 1/2 x 11 certificate. For first, second and third place there will be plaques suitable for mounting on a telescope. Duplicate awards will be made for ties; there will be no sudden death observe off (:

Registration in advance is not required. The event is free and open to all, but we will need either your or your clubs support to purchase the plaques, which in the past have cost around $10.00. There is no charge for the certificates.

**6th Annual Messier Marathon Dinner & Raffle**

As has become tradition, we will again have a pre-Marathon dinner & raffle. More details to come via the email groups and Facebook.

**Under 18**

In recent years there has been growing participation by younger astronomers. To help encourage this trend, this year, the All Arizona Messier Marathon will offer a separate award category for observers under the age of 18. All U18 observers will receive a certificate of participation. Those observing 25 or more objects will received a certificate of achievement. And the top 3 observers in the U18 category will receive plaques as well as the certificates.

So, if you are under 18 and have an interest in astronomy come on out and observe! If you know a young astronomer, let them know and encourage them to join us.

The only caveat is all U18 observers must be accompanied by a responsible adult and must be listed on that adult’s Liability waiver.


Previous Messier Marathon Observer’s Results


1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017


Feel intimidated? Don’t think you can reach high counts? DON’T WORRY! ENJOY!

  • Set your own goals and don’t bother with those high counts.
  • The marathon is for having fun!
  • Set your goals in order for you to have fun!

The guidelines are pretty simple, please read them over if you plan on participating.

  • It’s an honor system.
  • No one is going to be looking over your shoulder to verify your observations.
  • Get an observing list to keep track of observations.
  • Fill out the heading.
  • Find an object.
  • Observe/image it with your eye through the main eyepiece of your telescope.
  • Mark off the entry.
  • Go to the next object.

Start observing/imaging when you are ready, presumably some time after sun set. It is up to you to decide when you are finished observing. Some conditions could be when you have reached a set goal or sometime after morning twilight.

Here are some additional guidelines you should be aware of. These cover situations and conditions that have occurred in the past, but in no way do they cover the myriad of possibilities that may happen.

Locating Objects:

  • Participants may use a variety of means to locate objects. This includes memorizing positions; using binoculars, books or star charts for star hopping. The use of setting circles, either analog or digital is also permissible. GoTo telescopes can also be used.

Multiple Observers:

  • In a small number of cases there have been teams of two observers per telescope. This is allowed subject to the same conditions as has been followed in the past. The condition is that each observer should find one-half the objects and both must observe all objects.
    • There is an option in the case of an award. Either one award can be presented with both names or two awards can be presented – one with each name. Please let us know which you select by noting this on the observing list that is turned in at the conclusion of the event. In either case, if the award is for a plaque, you or your club will be expected to pay for one or both. It is recommended, that when paying by mail, to pay for the award by check or money order. Please avoid sending payment by cash.
    • Three or more observers per telescope can’t qualify for an award. It is possible to do the marathon this way, but none are eligible for awards.

Multiple Instruments:

  • Participants using two or more instruments are eligible for only one award. This is not to be construed as one award for each instrument, it is one award for the observer.


  • Individuals or clubs that haven’t paid for prior awards are not eligible for awards until paid up. However, it is still possible to do the marathon.


The only form of registration is a) an observing list used to record your observations and b) a signed waiver. Be sure to get an observation list, either from one of the local astronomy clubs, one of the coordinators or at the site. You can also print one from our web site, see the link above. If you plan on using this or your personal printed version at the marathon, please use both sides so only one sheet is used and turned in to the coordinators. This helps greatly with recording the event because multiple sheets from many observers can get mixed up, possibly causing errors in recording the event and determining awards.

Be sure to fill in the top portion so awards and certificates can given to all who earn them. The observing list will be returned with your award.

It is important to remember that your list must be turned in to one of the Coordinators before they leave the site. Either you or someone else you designate may turn in your list. One of us will stay, at least until sunrise, so be sure to get yours in before then. This procedure is followed in order to provide the awards in a timely fashion. Again, don’t forget to fill out the top.

The results will be posted, after some verification, on the Messier Marathon Observer’s Results web page referenced above as well as the SAC site.

More Marathon Information

  • A description of the object is not necessary, especially since it will take precious time needed to find the remaining objects.
  • Study the list sequences, or use your own. Be prepared for the extremely unlikely case it should become cloudy and the selected sequence cannot be followed.
  • Although it is possible to do the marathon with a 4-inch telescope, or smaller, or binoculars, it is not suggested unless you are an experienced observer.
  • Plan on arriving at the site at least 30 minutes before sunset to provide time to setup your telescope and for it to reach thermal equilibrium. This will also give you time to meet old friends and make new ones.
  • If you are NOT going to stay all night:
    • Park near the entrance so you don’t disturb others when you depart.
    • Please give a shout a few minutes before leaving and then again as you are about to depart.
    • This will give observers time to hide so the light doesn’t interfere with night vision.
    • A port-a-Jon will be on-site. Remember this is a primitive site and we strive to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
  • Signs will be posted at the entrance to remind drivers to keep the speed down because of the dust levels. We are on the Sonoran Desert!
  • Please ensure your red filtered flashlights are in good working order and PLEASE no white lights between sun set and sun rise. For more information on star party etiquette click here!

We will have a very short meeting just before sunset for final announcements and words of encouragement.

If you plan on participating, then doing some homework ahead of time will pay dividends. You may wish to study the observing list from the link above.

Still not interested in the marathon? COME ANYWAY; enjoy a night of observing, astrophotography, or just plain old socializing.

Please keep in mind this observing site is not our property, it belongs to the BLM, is rather primitive; which means if you need something, bring it with you and be sure to take it back with you. Let’s leave the site at least as clean as it was when we arrived.

2019 All Arizona Messier Marathon Coordinators

This year Rick Tejera will again be lead Coordinator.


Rick Rotramel:

Jack Jones:

Lori Prause:

Kevin Kozel:

Saguaro Astronomy Club