Last Thursday night had great seeing so I decided to try and bag a Quasar in the far southern constellation Indus. My lowest magnitude so far seen with the 18 inch has been around mid 16 and that's stood for a while. The attraction in seeing this quasar is the immense distance scale involved, 11.3 billion years ( I've seen a few quasars since 2017, this would be the most distant if successful). The only catch is that it has a visual magnitude of 17.4, hence the title. I have seen claims of reaching 17th magnitude with smaller scopes but knowing the difficulty in reaching mid 16 with the 18 inch, I was sceptical. So armed with a finder chart I made, I took a stab at finding the quasar, If I didn't succeed at least I'll know the limits of my scope.
The quasar is located close to Epsilon Indi and a 10th magnitude galaxy (NGC 7205), so finding the field and orientating the chart to match the view was easy. I started with a 9mm eyepiece to familiarize myself with the field and to judge the seeing. I then moved to a 4.5mm eyepiece which gave me a magnification of 511x with a TV coma corrector It didn't take long to best my previous magnitude record with the sighting of two 16.75 mag stars held constantly with averted vision and occasionally with direct vision. Recognising that the quasar marked the apex of an equilateral triangle, I concentrated my gaze using averted vision on this spot and sure enough after a few minutes I had my first sighting of the quasar, a distinct but very faint light point source which I could hold for periods of a few seconds. I viewed for another half hour or so and spotted the quasar another half dozen or so times. Occasionally I would see a flickering haze of light, which would then turn into a point source. I visited the sight again a couple of hours later just to confirm what I had seen and spotted it again a few times over a twenty minute period. I usually view from two sights in my local area, both are a bortle 3/4 transition, the southern portion being darker. Going to a Bortle 1 or 2 site would probably make it easier to reach lower magnitudes, but not sure what magnitude limit is possible through an 18 inch scope. Some might think that to go to all this effort to see a speck of barely visible light is a waste of time, but I enjoy it. To know that the light that I spotted on that evening had been travelling for 11.3 billion years ( for more than half that time our solar system didn't even exist) is very humbling.