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After several weeks of not pulling out the scope I was pleased to finally have a chance to hit a clear, dark sky location. Red Rock State Park in California was the location du jour - a Bortle 2 location I hit when ever in this part of the country on business. Conditions were great with temperatures in the low 80s (F) and negligible winds. A light haze lingered on the horizon due to stronger winds earlier in the day.

After judging conditions were OK when M65, M66, and NGC 3628 were all visible a great night began. I had wanted to do some deep deep observing so I searched SkyTools3 for quasars within the ability of my scope - the listed came up with a couple that I hadn't heard of before so i got excited.

First up was HE 1106-2321 in Crater - listed as a mag 13.7 quasar. Despite not having star hopped in several weeks I found it easiest to hop down from Beta Crt to a mag 8.9 star that served as a base. From there a line of three stars led away to a strong L asterism. The quasar was between the first two in the line...but was FAINT. I had to move magnification up to 240x to pull out the faint photons in averted vision. I was able to get a clear view twice while the scope was slowly moving but upon only viewed faintly a few other times. A mag 13.2 star was more easily visible in the proximity.

Next up was moving up to Virgo for SN2012cg. Hopping through several galaxies I was able to find the supernova glowing brightly (may have been a touch brighter than the listed mag 12.0). It overpowered it's host galaxy NGC 4424...with the galaxy's glow only possible with averted vision away from the supernova. The nova is very close to the galactic core. Also in the area NGC 4417 and NGC 4445 were faintly observed - just faint fuzzies.

I swung the scope over to UMa and star hopped over to MKN 421 which was supposed to be rather difficult to find because not much is in the local area. But I found a double kite (or diamond) asterism that made locating the quasar pretty easy. The mag 6 stars nearby nearly overpowered the quasar but it was visible with averted vision - not that it was too faint...but the other stars just overpowered it.

Taking a break from the ultra deep observing I moved over to Antares and observed M 4 and NGC 6144. M 4 was stunning at 120x looking like the many legs of a spider streaming away from the center point. NGC 6144 is a faint GC that wasn't much more than a grainy cotton ball - I imagine upping the magnification may have given a better view...but I was off again.

Next up was the naked eye Lagoon Nebula which glowed very nicely at 120x and 240x. I went with and without UHC filter and was pleased with both views. The dark vein running through the nebula stood out best at 240x but was still visible at 120x. In the vicinity observations included the Omega Nebula (very nice with and without UHC filter), a few open clusters, and even the Ring Nebula which I like best without the filter as I get more color). I split the Double Double while around Vega. The final joy of the night was observing both the east and west parts of the Veil Nebula - just a whisper was visible with an unfiltered view but the UHC filter made it stand out very nicely. I had no idea that this nebula was soo big. Had to go with 46x to see it on any scale.

A pretty good night - 2 new quasars, 1 new supernova, and a handful of nebula and faint galaxies.

Today I'm off to Las Vegas and if i don't melt in the 100+ (F) heat I hope to put in some Bortle 1 viewing in the desert on Thursday and Friday. My scope has been begging for an even darker location. Could be fun!

Happy hunting!

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Jealous jealous healous.


Thanks for the report, made for an interesting to read (and nice to have a reminder of what observing was like, back in the mists of time when it was clear here!)


PS: Still jealous!

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Nice report. Great capturing the supernova and two quasars! I found MKN (or Mrk) 421 a few weeks ago, but I did not know the one in Crater, and it should just be within range of the my scope (got OJ287 at mag 13.9, after all). Do you have a finder chart handy?

Great stuff!

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