I know it’s possible that some of you might read the title of my thread and quickly think, “Hey, wait a minute, how can seeing 2 billion light-years in a 10-inch telescope be a record when I’ve seen the quasar 3C 273 at 2.45 billion light-years in a 4-inch reflector?” Well, I’m referring to seeing the light from a entire galaxy as opposed to just the nuclei of one – which is what a quasar is.
It’s been noticeably cloudy this month, so just yesterday morning I went out to observe since I was going to have three full hours of total darkness after the Moon set. As it turned out, the temperature was just below freezing with minimal frost, the naked-eye scintillation was really good, the telescopic scintillation was excellent, and my SQM-L reading at the zenith was 21.5 – which tied my record for best reading yet.
Of the various 'exotic' objects I had plans to try for, one was the galaxy LEDA 1561869 (2MASX J09562806+1831023) in western Leo. In a thread I started a year ago after seeing a spiral galaxy that's over a billion light-years distant, the ever helpful Donald Pensack (@Starman1) posted a list of distant galaxies he planned to try for with his 12.5-inch telescope. I eagerly looked it over, hoping to find one that broke the 2 billion light-year barrier and would be just bright enough for me to catch sight of in my modest-sized telescope.
He had LEDA 1561869 listed right at 2 billion light-years and magnitude +15.8. So first I checked the NED website and surely enough, it was listed at 2.083 Gyr. Then I looked at a 15’ wide DSS image of it and was glad to see that it had a strong appearance.
With 264x (my main high magnification) on my classic 10-inch Meade SCT, I was thrilled to find that after looking at its field for 20 minutes I came away with nearly a dozen glimpses of it. I was blown away by how I was getting ‘hits’ from it without straining myself. Until this observation, my previous record was set nearly two years ago by PGC 37477 in Leo at a distance of 1.8 billion light-years.
I’ve seen IC 1101 in Virgo at a distance of 1 billion light-years and have to say that I haven’t seen a galaxy that breaks the 1 billion light-year barrier and is brighter. So I’d say that LEDA 1561869 is probably the brightest that breaks the 2 billion light-year barrier. As for the 3 billion light-year barrier, I don’t have anything to say on that for now except that I’ll be taking a crack at it in the next couple years when I plan to acquire a 16-inch telescope!
P.S. I hope that you find this report encouraging. I do hesitate to post it in case it could be found otherwise since sadly not everyone's skies are as good as mine.