Red Light Marathon

By: Amir H. Abolfath


Region: Middle East

Site: Dasht-e Kavir - Iran

Date: April 2007

The evening twilight fades in to darkness and stars set in the western horizon. The brightest trail in this 3-hour exposure (made of hundreds of shorter exposures) is planet Venus. Below the celestial trails are red lights of amateur astronomers during the annual Messier Marathon observing competition in Iran. Completing the marathon requires viewing all 110 objects (galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters) in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalog in one glorious dusk-to-dawn observing run. There are often favorable weekend dates for completing the task that fall on nearly moonless nights near the March equinox. Amir Abolfath -

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