Covid 19 had taken a lot of cars off vehicle traffic off of the road and I have a theory that tailpipe emissions are a major factor in light pollution but also, headlights, taillights play a role as well, and while car tail lights don't seem that bright, car tail lights are red, and of course NV sees red with great efficiency. Likely that many commercial buildings are dark as well.
Bottom line, from my location 4.5 miles from the center of the business district, last night I had SQM readings as low as 18.7, which is Bortle suburban sky and I think this is the darkest sky I have ever registered from my back yard! I would say that if you live in the suburbs, NV has to be fantastic all the time because last night was one of my best.
I was out about 2 hours with the 12" and 650nm filter but rather than focus on the Virgo area (which I have probably run through three times this season) I instead focused more on the north and north east... While I did do M51, I am going to spend time on galaxies that I have mostly never seen before with Night Vision, which is another way of saying that I have never seen at all!!!
First up, the spectacular NGC4111! What a fantastic little galaxy! Had I ever bothered to look for it before using NV I might have had a chance of seeing it, but with NV is was most excellent. Sky Safari lists it as Mag 10.79 but it seemed very bright to me. Again, an unusually dark sky and the subject was not that far form zenith, so very well positioned. The galaxy is listed as 1.8 x .6 arc minutes but it seemed larger than this to me, but maybe that was because it was so bright. The core was a very elongated oval with the disk continuing out about the same distance as the dimension of the oval core on either side. The disk was quite bright and easy to see. While tiny, this was one of my best views of the night. I have never seen it, and at Mag 10.79, I was not expecting it to be as bright and well defined as looked in the eyepiece.
Now very interstingly, I was able to see the tiny NGC 4118 in the same field of view and I was totally not expecting this. Sky Safari lists NGC 4118 as Mag 14.07, but it lists the size as similar to NGC 4111 but there is some discrepency.
On NGC 4111, Sky Safari shows the boundary line as being considerably smaller than the image that they provide for the galaxy and I would say that it was larger than this, but NGC 4118 is shown with a border larger than the galaxy and in this case the galaxy looked to be much smaller than the border and about the size of the picture in Sky Safari as compared to 4111, and I know I was only seeing the brighter core. It was not quite averted vision bright, but I did first see it with averted vision though it was faintly visible with direct vision. Now seeing Mag 14 galaxies is not so easy for me most nights, but last night was a good night and while this little galaxy was unimpressive, seeing it form my back yard was a treat.
NGC 4143 was a big disappointment. While listed as Mag 10.86, it was very diffuse with no structure at all. It is listed as a spiral but I saw not much more than a pale glow.
NGC 4244.. Sky Safari calls this the Silver Needle. Listed as 9.85, I was expecting more, but while very large, I could not say that it was particularly great. I think what I saw was mostly a long, cigar shaped core and surrounding disk with the outer disk being quite a bit dimmer and kind of lackluster. It was OK but not nearly as impactful as the Needle Galaxy, with its splendid dark dust lane.
NGC 4214. This is a weird barred dwarf irregular galaxy and in the eyepiece, it did not look like any other galaxy I have ever seen. I say a kind of misshapen core somewhat similar to the image in Sky Safari and the description fits the observation with the observation showing it to be this little misshapen core with a very quicky fading diffuse glow around it. The main interest here is that it is one of the most unusual galaxies I have ever seen, but I would say that the view was good.
NGC 4631 gave every indication that it would be amazing, but I found it less so. Catalog shows it to be 14.4 x 2.2 and I don't know if it seemed quite that large to me. Once again, this is a case where Sky Safari shows a border that appears to be larger than the picture so maybe there was some psychological biasing going on, but it did not look as large as the pictures suggest. Nor did it look as bright as catalog says. Catalog says a whopping 8.89, but this must be just for some bright knotting in the core. The picture shows some density to the north side of the core with a little bright knot to the east end of that and I could kind of see this. The offset brightness was easy, but it looked almost rectangular to me. There was some very faint mottling around this, and the extension was generous and maybe a tiny bit irregular, but it seemed very much dimmer than I would have expected from the listed brightness. It is a whale in size though. This is a big galaxy.. This one might actually be a good target for the 6" f/2.8. I think adding some brightness to it would indeed make it more of a showcase object, but in the slower 12", it was good, but just not as good as the figures suggested it would be.
On the other had, I could see the faint 12.4 companion, NGC 4627. Not much to it so mostly I saw the core with a small amount of extension, but it made up a bit for the less than imposing presence of its big neigbor.
M94. Ok, sure, seen this one before but this was one of the best nights I have ever had in my back yard so I decided to check it out. While I did not see the super faint arcs in the flattened disk, the most remarkable thing about this galaxy is that it looked almost exactly like the picture in Sky Safari Pro in terms of the proportion of the core to the disk. I was unable to see some of the subtle detail but the disk was so bright that it may have washed out the detail. I mean this thing is tremendously bright. Not a lot of structure, but a huge amount of presence. Is there a brighter galaxy than this one?
With averted vision, I was able to just barely see some spiral in M101, but this was threshold, so no big thrill other than being able to just barely see that there was some structure there.
Last, M106. My best view of this ever from my yard. The core was elongated, and the two large looping arms were visible as higher density swirls in faint disk though the disk and the arms were faint, but at the eyepiece, the arms showed a smooth widening cone shaped flare at the base of each arm. The arms did not at all jump out, but it did not take a lot of imagination to see them as they were either. The position angle matched the picture so there was no mental filling in the blanks here. Not as impressive as a picture and not starkly defined as in pictures, but hey, this is a 0 second exposure time, 0 staked view 4.5 miles from the center of the 11th largest city in the United States. There is nothing bad here. If I want to see that detail in a picture, I can go on line. If I want to see it in real time, I accept that it will not show the detail possible with even a $400 EAA camera.
I must have seen 40 galaxies in two hours, but these were note worthy for me because they were off my beaten path and first views for some.
Have a most excellent day. Stay safe and enjoy the night!
Edited by Eddgie, 17 May 2020 - 09:44 AM.