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The final four

This quartet of autumn binaries puts the finishing touches on the double star marathon.
wish I could say that the double star marathon, introduced in this column in March 2016, has taken the astronomical commu­nity by storm. But the truth is, only a handful of backyard astronomers have tackled and completed this alternative to the Messier marathon. On the positive side, their successes prove that the marathon is doable.

As I mentioned in a follow-up column this past March, Ben Rubel of Framingham, Massachusetts, was the first person to complete the entire double star marathon in a single night — quite an accomplishment for a 16-year-old! And Jerry Oltion of Eugene, Oregon, captured 96 of the 110 doubles over two consecutive nights. Inclement weather prevented Rubel and Oltion from repeating their performances in 2017.

But members of several astronomy clubs did take up the marathon challenge this past spring. Dee Friesen of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society emailed, “The double star idea turned out to be a real hit with our astronomy club. We had three days set aside for the marathon. On the night that I was the observatory opener, I did manage to get 69 doubles. On the other two nights several other observers got all of the stars. The concept was well received, and I am sure we will do it again next year."

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