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Astronomical League Observing Clubs

The Astronomical League Observing Clubs offer encouragement and certificates of accomplishment for demonstrating observing skills with a variety of instruments and objects. These include the Messier Club and the  Binocular Messier Club


Almost every amateur astronomer begins to be aware of the Messier Catalog as soon as he or she opens their first book. The novice is sure to find some spectacular object pictured and designated by its "Messier Number" with the universal abbreviation "M". Of the myriads of star clusters and nebulae scattered over the sky only about 100 (perhaps 110 at most) can claim membership to this celebrated list. However, this happens to include most, but not quite all, of the finest of these objects observable from mid-northern latitudes.

There is nothing in the catalog that the owner of so humble an instrument as a three-inch reflector cannot reach under good observing conditions. Many of the objects can be seen with binoculars and some with the naked eye. Thus, the Messier Catalog is a happy hunting ground for any amateur with a taste for deep sky objects.

Even an extremely brief review of the history of Messier's Catalog will explain why it contains so many bright and easy clusters and nebulae. 

The Messier Club

The Astronomical League offers special recognition in the form of a Messier Club Certificate for those that have observed most or all of the Messier objects. To qualify you must either be a Member-at-Large or be a member of an astronomical society which is affiliated with the League. To obtain an award you must observe the following rules:

Rule 1:

Observe 70 Messier objects (for the certificate) and keep a record of your observations. (Record in .pdf format) Your notes must show:

bulleta. Date of observation;
bulletb. Time of observation;
bulletc. Seeing conditions;
bulletd. Aperture size of telescope;
bullete. Power used;
bulletf. A short note describing your observation of the object.
bulletg. Each of your observations must be confirmed by a second observer as to the identity of the object and that you found it by yourself with only star maps to assist, but without any type of computerized setting circles or a "Goto" telescope.
bulleth. Before a second observer using the same telescope can "find" the messier object, the telescope must be moved in both Declination and Right Ascension.


Rule 2:

Have your notebook or record examined by an officer of your Society or a suitably qualified second party if you are not a member of a society and have this party forward a letter to the effect that you have made the necessary number of observations to the Astronomical League Messier Club Chairman. 


Only non-society members need to actually mail their observing log to the Messier Club Chairman. A Certificate of Membership in the Messier Club will be forwarded to your Society for presentation at a meeting. The letter should specify the address to which the Certificate should be mailed. The certificate will be suitable for framing.


Rule 3:

When you have observed the balance of the Messier Objects, have your notebook or records examined again and a letter forwarded to the Messier Club Chairman again, indicating that you have completed the observations of the Messier Catalog. You will receive an Honorary Membership Certificate signed by the current President of the League and your Messier Pin. Be sure to indicate the return address.



Since the purpose of the Messier Club is to familiarize the observer with the nature and location of the objects in the sky, the use of an automated telescope which finds the objects without effort on the part of the observer is not acceptable. Also "Messier marathon" sessions where all the objects are found in one occasion is to be discouraged if the beginning observer depends on other experienced observers to find the object to be observed.