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Three Great Nights: Observing Report

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#1 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 05:59 PM

Life and astronomy are full of ups and downs. After two unproductive DSO months in June and July due to smoke, I'm loving the return to normal smoke-free skies.

 

Wednesday night was quite transparent at my magnitude 6.5+ dark site in rural northeastern Lower Michigan. Thursday featured even better sky conditions, and Friday was decent until some thin clouds showed up at 1 AM.  The conditions were also fantastic during the day. I love the crisp 65-degree highs with plentiful sunshine hitting the (slowly) changing leaves. 

 

Each of my nights began around 9:20 PM and lasted until around 2:10 AM, except for Friday when it clouded over early. It was amazing to observe from a good site for three nights in a row. I haven't had this opportunity since last fall! 

 

I made some challenging observations during these three nights. One of my hardest-fought targets was SH2-221, a faint supernova remnant. I knew that I had a chance with an H-Beta thanks to CNer j.gardavsky's observations.

 

After a minute of careful study, I detected two irregular glows which were quite dim. I had to place these sections near the edge of the fov to confirm my sightings. Their faint glows were more apparent once I framed them with an edge.  I've done some of the fainter IC nebulae in Cassiopeia, and this observation was nearly as hard! I used a 6mm exit pupil at 63x to make it happen. An OII filter is high on my list since I would like to chase more supernova remnants. 

 

Since I have many highlight objects to list, I'll separate them by category. During this trip, I tried for some harder targets as usual, but I also wanted to observe some of the bright eye candy bright objects. I often neglect these showpieces from darker skies! 

 

Without further or do, here are my notes from three transparent nights under Bortle 3-2 skies!

 

Galaxies:

 

- NGC 6239: "Extended east and west, bright and irregular core shows three stellar-like patches. The inner halo fades irregularly and is surrounded by a diffuse glow that extends further to the E and W."

 

- NGC 185: " Extended glow from the northwest to the southeast. Surface brightness near the core is uneven. A faint halo surrounds the core and tappers rapidly."

 

- NGC 147: "Elongated, fainter, fairly even surface brightness, but it's slightly brighter in the middle."

 

- NGC 7479: "What an amazing galaxy! One arm is clearly visible, and it makes a 90-degree hook, Averted vision (AV) shows mottling throughout. Great revisit."

 

- NGC 6278: "A small stellar core is surrounded by a bright oval-shaped halo. This inner halo is surrounded by a fainter outer halo which grows with AV. Best with 10mm and 8mm."

 

Hickson 10:

- NGC 536: Oval-shaped with inner and outer halos that tappers rapidly.

- NGC 542: 15.7 magnitude small and dim halo, slightly brighter in the center. 

- NGC 529: Patch that's even in brightness, easy to see.

- NGC 531: Faint elongated glow, even in brightness, tappers gradually. 

 

-NGC 7465: "Small round, brightest in center, tappers rapidly."

 

-NGC 7463: "Elongated from SE to NW, halo shows subtle hints of detail/ mottling. There is an unevenly bright core, surrounded by a halo of even brightness. The halo tappers gradually." 

 

HII regions:

 

- M17: "Just fantastic. Mottling across the face, dust lane across the bottom, brighter circular patch at the start of neck."

 

- M16: "softer glow, best at 147x. The eagle body is seen as a fairly even surface brightness object without a UHC."

 

- NGC 1499 (California Nebula): " With an H-beta and 63x, a thin and irregular streak of light to the N and S. These patches are very irregular and tapper gradually. With the H-beta held up to my eye, I could see a faint glow in the correct spot. Very cool!"

 

- IC 1805 (Heart Nebula): "With a UHC and 63x, a faint glow surrounds the core. It is brightest in the center and tappers rapidly. I panned around for several minutes and traced much of the southern extent of this massive complex. This nebula has many faint sections and deserves many revisits to trace them all. I did not try for the Soul nebula due to incoming clouds. I'm just getting started with this complex."

 

Planetary Nebulae:
 

Abell 70: "Very faint circular glow, slightly brighter on one edge where the galaxy is. Detected using 73x and a UHC, but the galaxy was suspected using 250x and no filters. I enjoyed this planetary best at 147x or 250x. Averted vision was crucial to make out the full extent of this planetary."

 

M76: "Two bright but irregular lobes which are connected. There are several dark lanes throughout these sections. Very nice revisit! I did not see any of the outer dust halo this time, but I only used 147x or more."

 

NGC 6210: "Bluish-green at low powers, high power reveals a planet-like sphere which is even in brightness. Two faint lobes are suspected to the E and W." 

 

M57: "fantastic as always! No central star visible."

 

Other Nebulae: 

 

4 Cyg Nebula: "Brightening to the SW of 4 cyg is uneven in surface brightness. It starts off bright and fades gradually. It's very subtle and requires careful examination to reveal. Surrounding mag 4-5 stars do not share this irregular brightening, confirming my sighting. 73x was used."

 

Barnard 86: "Super dark irregularly shaped patch surrounded by the brilliant multicolored cluster NGC 6520. The cluster stars form a "coast line" to the southeast. Observed very low in the sky, it's probably even more impressive higher up."

 

Star clusters and cloud:

 

Palomar 8: "Round, even brightness, tappers rapidly, field stars look great and I suspect member starts to be resolved with 147x."

 

Palomar 13: "faint, irregular, grainy patch with two field stars visible inside of it. Best at higher powers."

 

Palomar 10: "Tiny circular glow near a 13th magnitude star. AV and 250x help to pull it out. Uneven glow tappers rapidly."

 

M56: "Resolved across the face, 250x for best results. 1st look under dark skies. Very nice!"

 

M24: "Super rich and 3D, just stunning."

 

Collinder 469: "Circular halo with even brightness, partially resolved at 73x. Seen while panning in M24."

 

Failed Observations:

 

The Ursa Minor Dwarf galaxy was suspected, but I could not confirm it. I also failed on planetary candidate FP J1912 -0331. I (probably) was in the correct spot, but I forgot to use an H-beta instead of the UHC! I also spent some time trying to hunt Andromeda's Parachute, but my Sky Safari map was not very detailed, making it hard to pin down. Next month, I will print a more detailed chart to finally nail this amazing object! 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Being at a dark site is very special. I heard packs of coyotes call to each other nearby, mice chewing soybeans next to me, bright meteors, and more. As always, I took several moments each night to simply look up in amazement. This time of year is my favorite for observing. The Milky Way core stands up on the horizon, and you feel like you can simply walk in!

 

These three nights were incredible. I'm at a unique phase of my life where my employment and much of my school work can be accomplished from anywhere. I'm using these opportunities to soak in as many photons as possible! My dark site is owned by close family members. I'm spending precious time with them as they age, and I won't forget any of these moments for my lifetime. 

 

I'll leave you with this story: On Wednesday around 10 PM, Some lights came down the lightly traveled two-lane road near the field. They were flashing, and I was very annoyed at this. Keeping my observing eye closed, I turned to see an ambulance driving north towards the hospital 25 miles away. It was terrible to know that someone in this rural county was having a bad night. We have to enjoy observing while we still can because tomorrow is never guaranteed. I'm hoping that person has a speedy recovery and can get back to their family/passions.

 

Clear skies,

 

Alex 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 17 September 2023 - 06:12 PM.

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#2 Knasal

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 06:21 PM

Great report, Alex. And even better for realizing what’s really important in this life!

 

Kevin

Hospice Nurse


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#3 Bean614

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 07:07 PM

Should we assume you were using the 15" Dob, and not your 8" Dob, or 114 Reflector? 



#4 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 07:22 PM

Should we assume you were using the 15" Dob, and not your 8" Dob, or 114 Reflector? 

I don't think I've ever remembered to list the scope! It was the 15" f/4.5 dob. 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 17 September 2023 - 07:30 PM.

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#5 Bean614

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 07:24 PM

That's what I thought. 



#6 bunyon

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 07:56 PM

There is nothing better than a great night from a dark sky (and the energy to fully engage it). It's wonderful you recognize how special it is. Those memories will stay with you. And, knock wood, you have a lot more coming.

 

Speaking of, I had a chance once to see NGC 6520 and B86 almost straight overhead. Yeah, it's better. Still a fantastic object even when low. A long time ago, I added it to the list of objects I try to see at least once per season even if I'm getting very little observing time. I have probably blown it this year, after seven straight.


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#7 weis14

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 08:06 PM

Great report Alex!  I went to Au Gres observing on Wednesday night and had a pretty nice session from roughly 9pm until midnight.  It's interesting reading your target list and observations as I chose the opposite end of the object list and spent most of the time just trolling around the Milky Way with my 92mm refractor and a 22mm Nagler. 


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#8 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 08:48 PM

Great report Alex!  I went to Au Gres observing on Wednesday night and had a pretty nice session from roughly 9pm until midnight.  It's interesting reading your target list and observations as I chose the opposite end of the object list and spent most of the time just trolling around the Milky Way with my 92mm refractor and a 22mm Nagler. 

Thanks!

 

I'm glad you were able to make it to the dark site! Panning around the Milky Way with a wide field scope is a really special experience.

 

There are lots of different observing styles, but they are all better under good transparent skies! 


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#9 Keith Rivich

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Posted 17 September 2023 - 08:52 PM

Nice report Alex. 

 

Back in 2019 on the 82" we looked at a globular cluster in both NGC 147 and 185. Since then I have bagged them in the 25" under excellent seeing. 


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#10 Robin

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Posted 18 September 2023 - 01:07 PM

Nice observing report! And it is nice to see that you try all the challenging or "exotic" objects that are mentioned here on this forum.

 

Clear skies,
Robin


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#11 j.gardavsky

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Posted 18 September 2023 - 02:06 PM

Hello Alex,

 

this have been super productive observing sessions of yours, and very nice described!

 

Thank you so much for sharing,

JG


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#12 Epick Crom

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Posted 18 September 2023 - 05:54 PM

Nice observing report Alex, sounds like you had a great time under dark skies.

 

Good to hear you nabbed some tough targets as well!

 

Clear Skies

Joe


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#13 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 18 September 2023 - 08:35 PM

Nice report Alex. 

 

Back in 2019 on the 82" we looked at a globular cluster in both NGC 147 and 185. Since then I have bagged them in the 25" under excellent seeing. 

Thanks Keith! I can only imagine how wonderful that view must have been with the 82". I would like to try for some more extragalactic globulars. Amazingly, I've only done G1! 

 

Nice observing report! And it is nice to see that you try all the challenging or "exotic" objects that are mentioned here on this forum.

 

Clear skies,
Robin

Thanks Robin! I always enjoy learning about new objects on here and going for them. If I track them down, I can provide another observing data point for others to see in their research. 

 

Hello Alex,

 

this have been super productive observing sessions of yours, and very nice described!

 

Thank you so much for sharing,

JG

Thank you Jiri! I always enjoy reading your nebula reports, especially the Sharpless series. Have you seen more of SH-221 than me? I imagine it's one of those objects that really benefits from an OII... 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 18 September 2023 - 08:48 PM.


#14 j.gardavsky

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Posted 19 September 2023 - 03:54 AM

...

 

Thank you Jiri! I always enjoy reading your nebula reports, especially the Sharpless series. Have you seen more of SH-221 than me? I imagine it's one of those objects that really benefits from an OII... 

Hello Alex,

 

I have seen on the Sh2-221 SNR just a large diffuse glow, no condensations:

18.12.2019
6" F/5 Leica L 32mm, H-Beta Baader 8.5nm and Astrodon 5nm OIII: faint large oval glow
13.02.2023
15x85 binoculars, Astronomik OIII 10nm: faint large glow

 

 

There are also other SNR in Auriga, worth of observing, even if they don't reveal the filaments of the young SNR:

 

Sh2-224  G166.0+4.3 SNR
04.12.2019
6" F/5 Leica 25mm and 32mm, H-Beta 12nm Astronomik, and Baader 8.5nm: 2 condensations; OIII 10nm Baader a bent glow

 

G179.0 +2.6  SNR (S of M37)
27.03.2022
15x85 binoculars, OIII 10nm Baader: SW and E arc

 

G156.2 +5.7  SNR  (SW of NGC 1708 open cluster)
20.02.2023
15x85 binoculars, OIII 10nm Baader: large diffuse glow

 

Wishing you clear skies,

Jiri

 

 

 


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#15 SNH

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Posted 20 September 2023 - 03:11 PM

So, you want a high-quality O-III filter, Alex? I didn't realize it until just recently that they are harder to come by here in the States since OMI stopped production of all Lumicon filters. Back in the spring, Donald Pensack wrote that:

 

"Right now, there are no Lumicon filters at all other than a few remaining in dealer stocks. OSI (the parent company) are moving to new quarters, and it is not a sure thing there will be more Lumicon filters, ever, unless the current owner sells the name to someone else, or decides to make them again. It's possible that Lumicon filters will be made again, but only the owner knows if or when, and he hasn't even told his employees. JMI, Farpoint, Lumicon, Astrodon are all in Limbo."

 

So, not saying that you can't find a high-quality one used (like I did in 2020), but I think the market has tightened up...and the prices have really gone up, too, sadly.

 

Jiri likes to make mention of the bandwidth of his filter and I've been meaning to check mine for a while now. Here is what I have:

NPB 24nm DGM Optics, O III 11nm Lumicon, H-Beta 9nm Thousand Oaks.

 

Scott


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#16 SNH

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Posted 20 September 2023 - 03:18 PM

As to your observations, that was a good catch you made seeing Palomar 13. I only saw it for the first time a year ago, myself. It surprised me that I could detect it in my 16-inch at 191x without even knowing exactly where to look.

 

Of your observations, the one that surprised me was your sighting of the probable SNR Sharpless 2-221. I was too scared to try for it last year (after also learning about Jiri's sighting) and instead focused on seeing the nearby SNR Sh 2-224. I'll certainly be trying for it now, though, in my 6-inch and 16-inch. You mentioned "two irregular glows" using an H-Beta filter at 63x. What might you be talking about? Here is an excellent image that flips between O-III, S-II, and H-alpha you could use to help me better understand.

 

Scott H.


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#17 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 20 September 2023 - 07:46 PM

As to your observations, that was a good catch you made seeing Palomar 13. I only saw it for the first time a year ago, myself. It surprised me that I could detect it in my 16-inch at 191x without even knowing exactly where to look.

 

Of your observations, the one that surprised me was your sighting of the probable SNR Sharpless 2-221. I was too scared to try for it last year (after also learning about Jiri's sighting) and instead focused on seeing the nearby SNR Sh 2-224. I'll certainly be trying for it now, though, in my 6-inch and 16-inch. You mentioned "two irregular glows" using an H-Beta filter at 63x. What might you be talking about? Here is an excellent image that flips between O-III, S-II, and H-alpha you could use to help me better understand.

 

Scott H.

Palomar 13 also surprised me. I observed it on Friday night before the clouds came in. Transparency was only decent, and I used 250x to confirm the globular. Averted vision and the nearby field star really helped! It was seen as an uneven halo "sticking out" from the brighter star. 

 

I'm pretty happy to have glimpsed something of Sh-221. It was definitely a hard one! Thanks for providing that excellent image. I was tempted to include a graphic, but most images of this complex are very long exposures.

 

SN 221.JPG

 

I started around HD 31038 and panned across the field. I had lots of skepticism initially, but there was definitely more of a brightening in these areas than anywhere else in nearby star fields. Those two patches seem to show best with the O-III. They were quite dim and more recognizable when I placed them with an edge of the fov. It reminded me of the IFN back in February. I spent around 20 minutes panning around the area trying to tease more out of it. The complex seems brighter in the south based on images and my experience. 

 

I also looked for my bandwidth. It appears that I peak around 8-9nm off either side of the 485nm bandpass. It's a Bandmate Type 2, made by Astronomik. I can't find a specific number, but that is based on the chart from Televue's website.

 

https://www.televue....id=24&Tab=_spec

 

It's a bummer that our O-III filters are limited now. I'm keeping my eye out for a used one, but it might be a while! Once I get an O-III filter, I think I will be more than set for many years until I want to get a super high-power eyepiece or one of those fancy 30mm eyepieces that you let me try! 

 

It will be interesting to see if you can get more out of this complex using your wider eyepieces and OIII. I suspect you can! 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 20 September 2023 - 08:21 PM.

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#18 SNH

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Posted 20 September 2023 - 08:52 PM

At the top of the Eyepiece Forum, Donald Pensack has his 2022 Nebula Filter Buyers Guide available for download as a spreadsheet. In it, I see that the Tele Vue Optics Bandmate II H-Beta filter has a maximum bandwidth of 12nm. On that same spreadsheet, the maximum bandwidth of my H-Beta filter is 9nm. Maybe mine gives a bit more of a boost? I really can't say since that's outside my area of expertise.

 

Scott H.



#19 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 20 September 2023 - 09:16 PM

At the top of the Eyepiece Forum, Donald Pensack has his 2022 Nebula Filter Buyers Guide available for download as a spreadsheet. In it, I see that the Tele Vue Optics Bandmate II H-Beta filter has a maximum bandwidth of 12nm. On that same spreadsheet, the maximum bandwidth of my H-Beta filter is 9nm. Maybe mine gives a bit more of a boost? I really can't say since that's outside my area of expertise.

 

Scott H.

Filter specifications are pretty low on my optical knowledge! I just had my Dad interpret the chart since he does some optical work. 

 

I think Jiri's filter has a 486mm bandpass based on this model, so it should give pretty similar results to my filter. It looks like your filter also peaks at 486nm. The difference between these three is the range on either side of the peak. 8.5nm vs 9nm vs 12nm. I don't think that's too big of a difference, but who knows!

 

P.S. It's crazy how expensive filters have gotten. I bought my Bandmate 2 on the classifieds last winter, and they have gotten more expensive since then. 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 20 September 2023 - 09:17 PM.

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#20 j.gardavsky

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Posted 21 September 2023 - 03:53 AM

Hello Alex,

 

I still have a pair of the old Baader's 486nm H-beta filters with the passband 8.5nm, but using mostly the pair of the Baader 5.5nm CMOS optimized H-beta filters.

 

The filters with the passband of around 5nm and narrower, will make the emission nebulae better visible, but they will black out the reference stars in the filed.

 

With our hobby astronomy, it is like with the extreme sports.

To my 70th birthday, I have replaced my older Fischer cross country skis with the extra narrow pair of the Fischer Orbiter Crown, to move faster on the snow.

 

Clear skies,

Jiri


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#21 SNH

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Posted 22 October 2023 - 11:19 AM

Thanks to Alex and Jiri for bringing the supernova remnant G160.9+2.6 (Sh 2-221, HB 9) in Auriga along its border with Perseus to my attention as a viewable object. I put it on the "list" and got to it on Friday night (technically early Saturday). I had my 16-inch set up, but instead tried for it in my 6" f/5 reflector with the 21E and three different filters. I certainly saw it, with my strongest view in conjunction with the O-III filter. I'll continue to view this one since my SQM-L was only reading 21.25 at the time. 

 

 

Sh 2-221 OIII.jpg

 

 

Scott


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#22 SNH

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Posted 22 October 2023 - 11:28 AM

It was certainly a bit of a challenge to detect a glow with the H-Beta since there aren't any hard edges to sweep across (I love hard edges).

 

Sh 2-221 H-Beta.jpg

 

EDIT: Because of what Jiri mentioned, I have reposted my image with a few more annotations. I didn't want there to be any confusion as the the identify or original discoverers of the two small H-Beta nebulae he mentioned since his use of the word "in" does not mean "part of".


Edited by SNH, 22 October 2023 - 07:30 PM.


#23 j.gardavsky

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Posted 22 October 2023 - 01:47 PM

Hello Alex and Scott,

 

and thank you very much for sharing and updating your observations of this SNR.

 

I will definitely return to this SNR to pull out the condensations.

 

Historically, two condensations in this SNR have been first time found on the photographic plates of the H-alpha photographic skies survey at the Simeis observatory by Gaze and Shajn, in 1954/1955:

[GS55] 49, 04h 56m +47° 24'

[GS55] 50 04h 59m +47° 57'

 

Regarding the supernova remnants, and their blowouts, bubbles and superbubbles around the radio waves sources of expected SNR,

my count of those observed is between 40 and 50, about 10 must be revisited, to get those 50 done, but even 49 would be good enough.

 

The SNR are the strange attractor for my eyes, and watching them is healthy for my eyes and soul,

Jiri




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