What is a "Messier Marathon"?
A star party that is devoted to observing as many of the Messier objects as possible in a single evening has come to be called a "Messier Marathon." These turn out to be some of the most memorable evenings of stargazing that you'll do - not only because of the quantity of objects that you can observe, but because the you're 'forced' to interact with the breadth of the night sky in a short period of time. I also enjoy the discussions with other amateurs as we each tackle the Virgo Cluster galaxies!
How is it possible to see what amounts to an entire year's worth of deep sky objects in just one night? With a lot of planning and patience (See Messier Marathon Tips). After a review of your planisphere, you can determine that it's possible to see all of the Messier Objects if you try during the period near the Spring Equinox of March 17-24. Anything can happen at this time of year though; clouds, rain, high winds. Many roadblocks to success are possible/probable.
There is a suggested order to observing the Messier objects in one evening. This logical progression across the night sky has little to do with the order of Charles Messier's list! This suggested order has been established after many years of Messier Marathoning - give it a try and see what you think. Two versions of the same file are on this disk for your convenience:
It is all worthwhile on that crystal clear, steady night when the local astronomy club visits their favorite dark sky site, everyone has set up early with their scopes roughly aligned and pointed west - a sense of excitement awaiting M74 and M77's emergence. The sun sets, the twilight deepens. And you're off! Two down and just 108 items on your list to go before dawn washes out your chance of finding M30! Good Luck!
Deep Sky Observing
One of the most fascinating parts of amateur astronomy (to me) is deep sky observation. Typically this requires a larger telescope - the bigger the better when it comes to really faint deep sky objects. The reason is that the greater collecting area (mirror or lens size) concentrates more photons on our rod cells in the retina so our eye can distinguish fainter objects. Galaxies and nebulae are typically dim, low contrast objects visually that only look like the color pictures in the magazines after long exposure astrophotography.
A large Dobsonian telescope is ideal for deep sky visual observations.
Have Fun and Happy Hunting!