The first session I have had in a long time and I am guessing that due to the far lighter than normal vehicle traffic and the lessening of the smog that generally hangs over all metro areas, it was an exceptionally nice night. It followed a clear, bright, dry day with a nice blue sky. My SQM-L reading was much better than typical being a suburban 18.6, which is about as good as I ever get.
Also, this was the first opportunity for me to really use my new Mod 3 and the first time in a long time that I had galaxies well positioned.
My primary DSO scope is my 12" dob, and this was used for all observations. I know that most people seem to be chasing speed, but for galaxies, I find that while I can go far faster than f/4.9, the tradeoff in image scale is (to me personally) not worth it, as long as the intensifier being used is a good high performer. I had been having some pointing issues with the dob the last few times I used it so before I left for my travels, I did a complete tune on it paying particular attention to the saddle plate (which was indeed loose, and needs a permanent solution, which I think will be drilling a hold and pinning it in place because the screws keep loosening). Last night, the scope Go2 was as good as new with all targets falling well into the field. This important because it gives some confidence that on busy fields with bright galaxies, the target galaxy is well placed for identification, though last night it was trivially easy identifying galaxies just from the orientation vs Sky Safari Pro. Still, I like it when the scope Go2 is good, and last night it was pretty great.
All observations were made with a Lumicon Deep Sky filter (a 650nm long pass) at prime focus.
It was the best galaxy night I have ever had from my back yard. Now I was still not able to see Mag 15 galaxies, but down to about Mad 13 galaxies, depending on the type of galaxy, viewing was great. I must have done 30 spots in the sky (slew) with a lot of star hopping from those spots so total galaxy count had to be maybe 100? That is pretty awesome for a 2 hour session!
For example, the slew to NGC 3605 put it almost dead center, and the tiny NGC 3607 was immediately and easily identified and shown almost exactly as represented by the picture in Sky Safari Pro (I normally do not have the pictures on but did put them on for a particular observation and left them on, and will do so in the future because it helps me confirm details that I see at the eyepiece without having to search for pictures on the web, though I like to do that after the observations so I don't cheat by knowing the feature is there already).
Lots of fields showed numerous galaxies. I tend to use Go2 to get to a field and then just hop from there to explore other galaxies around that field.
One of the treats for me was detecting the dust lane in NGC 3628. This was an almost invisible galaxy even on best nights when using my C14, but with the image intensifier and the benefit of a very good night, I was able to see this lane for the first time. It was not all that prominent because the galaxy itself does not have a particularly dense core to help it stand out, but it was nice to see this feature.
M65 and M66 were very interesting in that catalog puts M66 as the larger of the two, but due to the nearly face on orientation, the arms were so faint as to be extremely difficult to see (and usually not this good from my back yard, but a good night), but the neighboring M65 was awesome! While I could not really say I was able to pick out the small dust lane, this was probably the prettiest galaxy of the night. The perspective of tilt seemed to be quite pronounced. Absolutely the best view ever from my back yard.
Markarian's Chain was an easy star hop and as with almost all of these other observations, the best ever from my back yard.
A nice catch for me (first observation) was the Globular Cluster NGC 4147. Visual magnitude is 10.31 and a total fail in the past using up to the C14. It is a tiny little thing so even in the 12" at prime focus, at 4.4 arc minutes, it simply does not have enough extension to make it a grand object, and the core, while very bright, was just merged because there was no separation there, and the halo was just a very light sprinkling of stars. I do not know the magnitude of these stars, but I am guessing in the Mag 14 and fainter range? I just don't know, but since it was the first time I have ever seen it, I was delighted to have logged it.
I was thrilled. I attribute this in equal measures to the uncommonly good sky conditions (for my location) and the nice performance of the newest tube. Even at f/4.9, there was practically no noise of scintillation and this made the journey particularly pleasant. There is not much here that was new for me, but almost everything here was more enjoyable than would be typical.
I am eager for us to see our way past the scourge of disease that has gripped our planet but mankind's severe impact on the environment is being lessened if at least temporarily, and during this time, I am hoping my sky conditions hold out just a few more days so I can get the Coma galaxies higher in the sky. I rarely do a past 11:00 PM session, but if I have similar or better conditions tonight (we started a lock down at midnight last night) I will make an exception and stay up tonight for a rare-for-me post midnight session!
Stay safe. I worry as much for the brave medical professionals and non-covid 19 patients as I do for myself. They medical professionals are the true heros in this story. I don't know if it is bravery or just an intense desire to help people, but whatever it is, they have my absolute admiration as being the greatest resource we have at this moment in time. If you are anyone you know is a medical professional dealing with this, make sure you express your gratitude and If you are one, you have mine. Thank you for being on the front lines in spite of a system that is failing you. That is courage or devotion. I don't know which, but thank you for reaching deep for it.
Edited by Eddgie, 25 March 2020 - 10:38 AM.