There were a variety of folks on the football field, both old and new members for the 2009 Messier Marathon. Only a few marathoners; most were enjoying longer views and/or tinkering with scopes. I was flanked by Tim with a large dob using digital setting circles and Zoltan & Lilly with a 12" Meade SCT.
My sky quality meter read a respectable 21.14 mag/arc-sec sq at zenith just as the clouds rolled in. Interestingly clouds were bright white on the horizon, but dark overhead indicating dark skies locally. Seeing started fair, but improved for my C8. Unfortunately, the clouds started coming in at about 11 pm and shut me down by midnight. At least I got a decent night's sleep.
I totally wiffed on M 74, never even saw stars in the field. Not surprising as this was a relatevely late marathon date. Likewise, M 110 was not a definite although M 32 and M 77 were easy. I wasn't that disappointed as I've vowed to start star hopping If I ever get all 110 using GOTO. Tore through the rest of the list nicely, with Tim helping me find bonus clusters NGC 2185 in M 35 and NGC 1937 in M 38. NGC 2168 in M 46 was as bright as I can recall seeing it. I was unable to identify planetary nebula Minkowski 1-18 north of NGC 2168, might have to give that a bit more time next year.
Comet Lulin was also visible, although I could not make out any tail. I think this is the first year that I actually observed a comet during the marathon. It occurs to me that at least one comet should be a requirement for a real MM.
One consolation was that the seeing seemed to improve as the clouds rolled in. The structure in M 51 was as good as I've ever seen it with my 8" SCT. Unfortunately, I took a peek through Zoltan and Lily's 12" SCT next to me and then spoke to Nick who extolled the virtues of Craig's list. So now I'm trying to get over a bout of aperture fever while eyeing a 16" light bridge (NO, I do not need another scope...).
Surprisingly, I was able to get through all the Virgo galaxies without a hitch even with light clouds. A rising M 13 was barely resolved through the clouds. I hit the wall with low lying M 68 and 83 in Hydra. Then wound things down with decent views of saturn with my Denk binoviewer at 200x and chatted with a few scope junkies. Finished with 66 out of 110 objects.
Also enjoyed Non-Messier's NGC 2903 and 3628. The eskimo was not as well resolved as I would have liked. I wiffed yet again on the California nebula, attempting with scope, finder, and binoculars. Next year...