I may *finally* get out to a dark(er) site tonight on a moonless night for the first time this year. First light for my first telescope was May 25 of last year, so I missed galaxy season, and have decided to spend tonight in the Virgo cluster (weather willing). For background, my galaxy observations have been limited to M31/M34/M110 (the latter mostly averted vision at the site I am going to tonight) along with M81/M82 (solid direct vision at this site) and the whirlpool galaxy (direct vision, saw both nuclei but no connector at this site). Also did catch two of the three Leo cluster galaxies a few weeks ago in my backyard, mostly averted vision again (but that is a red or reddish/yellow zone). Point being I have very little galaxy experience, and the dark(er) site is just that -- better than my backyard but still a yellow zone. My goals tonight are modest: If I can see a few of the brighter (e.g. Messier) galaxies in Virgo with steady direct vision I will be thrilled, if by averted vision not so thrilled but satisfied. Anything beyond that would be gravy. My targets list is: M49, M87, M60, M84, M86 in the Virgo cluster, and may also try for the Leo triplett, M104 (Sombrero galaxy), and M64 (blackeye galaxy).
Here are my questions:
(1) I can take either the 8" Skywatcher dob or the 6SE. I know the 8" dob is better for galaxies, but I will be on a tight timeframe with work tomorrow, so I'm tempted to go with the 6SE on a manual mount. To avoid swerving off into a discussion on aperture let me just ask this: Has anyone used a 6SE for the Virgo cluster in a yellowish sky, and if so is it sufficient (not best) for direct viewing of my targets under yellow skies? (If you have compared with an 8" dob of course I'd love to hear that as well).
(2) I'm thinking of going with the Celestron 8-24 mm zoom as the eyepiece, starting at low power then zooming when I find a galaxy as I have read higher magnification helps with galaxies. Good approach or no?
(3) Any other suggestions? (I do plan to make a big effort to maintain dark adaptation, more than in the past, have a head cover now and plan to use it, and will go with the Virgo cluster page of the PSA with a dimmable red light for guidance.)
Thanks in advance for any info or advice,