Greetings from Geraldton, W.A.! I´m here on vacation for the 17th time. The first night out in the bush turned out to be cloudy in spite the forecast of "mostly clear" skies. I waited in the car for more than two hours hoping for the clouds to dissipate but they did not.
The second night (last night) turned out to be wonderfully transparent. I set up my 10-inch SkyWatcher Dobsonian and waited for the nightfall. First I split Alpha Centauri with 60x magnification. The zodiacal light shot straight up like a car´s headlights through Spica and up to Jupiter in the Milky Way.
I began to hunt down Herschel-2500 objects south of declination -15º. The galaxies in Crater were too low so I skipped them. From there I went up in R.A. from the western horizon to the east. The objects were NGC5085 (Hya), NGC5592, NGC6647 in Sgr was too high up so I skipped it. Over to E side of the horizon I observed NGC7165 (Aqr), 7183, 7230, 7246, 7251, 244 (Cet), 887, 922 (For), 1201, 1125 (Eri) and NGC1309.
The other night I saw my last planetary nebula in the NGC-catalog, NGC6620 in Sgr. Now I finished a 41 year quest by observing my last planetary in the IC-catalog as well, IC2501 in Carina. IC2501 was only at 11º altitude and appeared completely stellar, but bright, mag 10.4 with my estimate.
Back in Sweden, I read about a nova in the LMC, AT2019lvm. Despite LMC being at lower culmination, the nova was spotted immediately. It was close to the globular cluster NGC2019 (same number as this year :-) ). I estimated AT2019lvm as magnitude 12.9 according to ASAS-3 magnitudes. It became my first extragalactic nova.
The highlight of the night turned out to be the extreme darkness! I hardly believed my eyes when I pointed my SQM-L meter towards zenith in Grus (the Crane). I usually do three measurements. It was so dark that it took at least 10 seconds before the apparatus showed a value. The results were:
11:13 pm 22.04, 21.97, 22.00
11:15 pm 22.08, 22.07, 22.05
11:40 pm 22.09, 22.10, 22.12 (!!!)
0:08 am 22.07, 22.09, 22.08
1:11 am 22.08, 22.06, 22.04
1:44 am 22.00, 21.97, 21.94 (I call this phenomena for the Moon-dawn when the moon starts to illuminate the sky just before moonrise)
2:19 am 21.69, 21.67, 21.64 (38% illuminated Moon 5º up)
These were the darkest (clear) night sky measurements I have ever taken in my life! Initially, I thought that the high values might have been caused by bad batteries but back at home in Geraldton, from my backyard, I got the normal and expected values of 20.09, 20.09, 20.08 (two magnitudes brighter than in the bush). Nothing wrong with the SQM-L meter.
The entire zodiacal band was shining from horizon to horizon and it was especially bright overhead with a Gegenschein. "My" Magellanic Ghost was relatively easy to spot as a band of light stretching from the LMC towards Triangulum Australe. The Airglow was seen beneath the Ghost and was evident around the horizon.
I made a quick blindtest of how faint stars I could see. Above (W of) LMC was a large area seemingly devoid of stars. At 30º altitude, I noticed two stars of V-magnitude 6.98 and 7.39 without prior knowledge of these stars. Not too bad for 55 year old eyes.
Exhausted but euphorical I drove home at 120 km/h on the highway and I met not a single car for 45 km.