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Littleguy80

Quasar PG 1634+706 (8.6 Billion Light Years)

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I recently observed my first Quasar, 3C 273.0, which is in Virgo. It's listed as being 2 billion lights years from Earth. A phenomenal distance and a pretty impressive distance record. SkySafari lists it at mag 12.85 which is achievable in a great many scopes. After reporting on this success, Stephan @Nyctimene, made the excellent suggestion of trying for the Quasar PG 1634+706. This Quasar is in Draco and is a mind bending 8.6 billion light years away. Any light that reaches your eye from this target will have been travelling for more than half the known lifetime of the universe! 

Last night, I had my first attempt at viewing this target from home. My skies are around 19.5 SQM. I was using my 10" dob and after some experimenting, settled on my Lunt XWA 9mm paired with the Baader VIP barlow, giving 267x magnification, a 0.4 degree TFOV and just under 1mm exit pupil. There are two mag 8 stars near by and I used these are my jump off point. My process was to begin by identifying the stars that were visible in the eyepiece in SkySafari. Initially, I picked up a mag 11 and then a mag 12 star. I was then able to form a triangle with a mag 13 that is very close to the Quasar. I started picking up a mag 14 star intermittently with adverted vision. The Quasar is mag 14.6 and seemed to be within reach. However, despite a couple of possible sightings, I eventually had to admit defeat on this occasion. I intend to return to this target from my local dark site which has an SQM reading of over 21. This should bring the Quasar into range, I hope!

I intend to update this thread with my future attempts to view this object. I hope others will also share their attempts and successes. I've also included a SkySafari observing list of Quasars that I've created which includes both 3C273.0 and PG 1634+706. Happy hunting!

Quasars.skylist

The image below is from the Interstellarum Deep Sky Guide. I've marked the 4 stars mentioned above with their magnitudes as recorded in SkySafari. 

fullsizeoutput_14c80.thumb.jpeg.07f1a217370162fa0b988ce99645eafa.jpeg

More info here: http://quasar.square7.ch/fqm/1634+706.html

Edited by Littleguy80
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Great stuff Neil despite not (quite) getting it.

I reckon mag 14.7 is the faintest point source that I've seen with my 12" dob so you are doing well to get close to that with your 10". Sounds like you will get it next time out !

It's great fun to try and see these immensely distant objects I think :icon_biggrin:

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Thanks Neil for the more detailed map and I will be pleased to receive further updates from you. I am certainly going to give this quasar a go.

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I've got a picture of it somewhere taken a few years ago.

Dave

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That is an exciting target for sure, I have never attempted anything so distant. I will keep this in mind, sounds like one of those objects which takes some planning. I will follow this thread to see your progress, definitely something I would love to point my dob at sometime.

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Neil,

congrats to your almost successful attempt to observe PG 164+706 - I'm sure, that you will spot it from your dark sky location with SQM values of 21+ mag. German amateur Klaus Wenzel found it in1998 with his 12.5" with direct vision under (then) suburban/rural transition skies, and reports, that another amateur, Zellhuber, was able to make it out with an 8" under alpine conditions. The trapezium of four stars you've marked is similarly my star-hop approach with the 18"; the 13.04 and 14.03 mag stars form a "wimpy" right-angled triangle with the quasar. Perhaps you have to increase the magnification beyond 300x (given that the seeing is good). Give it another go, and let us know; good luck with the hunt!

Stephan

Edited by Nyctimene
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Nice post! Very interesting indeed - you've inspired me to try it ;)

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I’ve just arrived home from a trip to my local dark site. Session was cut short by the arrival of fog. The skies were generally below the normal quality but still a step up from my back garden. 

After some nice views of Comet Iwamoto, I began the quasar hunt. I started with the Lunt 9mm and Baader VIP but found the two 8mm stars quite distracting in the wide FOV. I then switched to the 9mm BGO for a narrower FOV. Everything seemed much easier to see then. I quickly got the mag 14 star and then, not long afterwards the quasar! I was able to see it with averted vision as part of a triangle with the mag 13 and mag 14 star. It seemed to me to be much easier to see when starting at the mag 14 star and working back to the mag 13 star than vice versa. I repeated the observation a good 5 or 6 times and was able to return to the Lunt and get it in that too. It’s nice to get the repeated sightings to have confidence that it was an actual sighting.  

That’s my new distance record set at 8.6 billion light years. To put that into perspective, when the light left the quasar there was no planet Earth, Sun or solar system. The entire history of our Sun and planet has taken place in the time it took those photons to reach my eye tonight. That’s a pretty amazing thing to contemplate.

Once again, I’d like to that Stephan @Nyctimene for this recommendation :)  

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Amazing stuff Neil (and Stephan!)

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Brilliant Neil and thanks to Stephan as well. I printed out the star chart last night and set up the 12" Dob. Unfortunately the fog came over and I could only just see the main stars of Orion. Left out the Dob over night  for a session (hopefully) tonight. 

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I'm guessing this is doable with my 14" if I manage to get it under a decent dark sky, need to give it a go!

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4 minutes ago, Stu said:

I'm guessing this is doable with my 14" if I manage to get it under a decent dark sky, need to give it a go!

At home my SQM is around 19.5 and I was picking up the mag 14 star in the chart with averted vision with my 10". I think your 14", with similar or slightly better skies, should comfortably show you this. 

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17 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Brilliant Neil and thanks to Stephan as well. I printed out the star chart last night and set up the 12" Dob. Unfortunately the fog came over and I could only just see the main stars of Orion. Left out the Dob over night  for a session (hopefully) tonight. 

Thanks Mark. I was glad I hadn't left it any later to try for the Quasar last night. Good luck for tonight. I look forward to hearing how you get on :) 

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20 minutes ago, Littleguy80 said:

At home my SQM is around 19.5 and I was picking up the mag 14 star in the chart with averted vision with my 10". I think your 14", with similar or slightly better skies, should comfortably show you this. 

Thanks Neil. I should be able to get somewhere with mag 20.5 plus quite easily so must remember to give it a go!

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Well done, Neil , and congrats once more - I was absolutely sure that you would be successful! Very few people have seen, what you have observed last night, and I am sure, that you will return to the quasar more than once. For a while, I took PG 1634+706 and it's visibility with the 18" as an assessment of sky transparency; have to do this again.

Hoping to get out this evening for a hunt for galaxies beyond M 44; the brightest one with 14.6 mag; (Phil Harrington's "Cosmic Challenge" No. 157), but the sky is covering with high haze....

Stephan

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5 minutes ago, Nyctimene said:

Well done, Neil , and congrats once more - I was absolutely sure that you would be successful! Very few people have seen, what you have observed last night, and I am sure, that you will return to the quasar more than once. For a while, I took PG 1634+706 and it's visibility with the 18" as an assessment of sky transparency; have to do this again.

Hoping to get out this evening for a hunt for galaxies beyond M 44; the brightest one with 14.6 mag; (Phil Harrington's "Cosmic Challenge" No. 157), but the sky is covering with high haze....

Stephan

Thank you, Stephan. It was a great suggestion and something that really sparks the imagination. I'm sure I'll return to the Quasar too :) 

Clear skies for tonight. I hope that haze clears. All being well, I'm hoping for a return trip to my dark site tonight.

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I might have a go at this distant object tonight. My 12 inch dob is out and cooling. My faintest point source with that scope is mag 14.7 from my back graden so far so PG 1634+706 is just about attainable, I hope.

Thanks also for the Skysafari list of other quasars Neil :icon_biggrin:

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1 hour ago, John said:

I might have a go at this distant object tonight. My 12 inch dob is out and cooling. My faintest point source with that scope is mag 14.7 from my back graden so far so PG 1634+706 is just about attainable, I hope.

Thanks also for the Skysafari list of other quasars Neil :icon_biggrin:

No problem, John. I'm sure you'll get it :D 

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Fantastic report. Friends and I witnessed Quasar CTA 102 a couple of years ago and the feeling is one of wonder at the distance travelled by the photons. That is 6.5 BLY away so your object beats that. I used a 9.25 SCT under SQM 20.8 skies and just got it at mag 13. I don’t have the aperture to go after something dimmer though. Great stuff.

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Well I had a go last night with the 12" Dob. Transparency could have been slightly better as I had a problem seeing all the stars in Ursa Minor.

Thanks to Neil I had an idea of the main stars and their magnitude. However, I also used this photo by the Maury Lewin Memorial Observatory to get a wide field. It took me a while to start seeing some of the fainter stars and like Neil I moved between the mag 13 and mag 14 stars to try and pick up the Quasar. I got my best view using a narrower FOV and the Televue 8-24 zoom really helped.

Did I see the Quasar? Not totally sure - although I think I was getting a glimpse of something although this might be wishful thinking.

Certainly from home it is possible and will try again.

quasar.JPG

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Very interesting to read about your experiences chasing PG 1634+706. Having similarly spotted 3C 273 with my own 10” f/4.7 dob recently I became inspired by you and Stephan.

3C 273 blew me away with the mind boggling characteristics and also the confirmation of my ability to detect faint objects. I have only observed with a telescope since September 2018 and I’m obviously still learning a lot about the capacity of it. I thought mag 13 was about the limit for stellar detection under my circumstances but reading your account got me thinking that it might be possible to go a lot deeper.

My dark site has a SQM of 21.03 according to an online light pollution map and this particular evening seemed to have pretty good transparency and decent seeing. The Draco quasar seemed doable.

Took my time setting up, collimating and viewing the area in binos to get the patterns right for star hopping. Both to get everything as prepared as possible but also to achieve proper dark adaption before setting off. This was my only target for the evening so no rush.

Put in the 30 mm ES 82 and started in Ursa Minor with Pherkad as the jump off point. Proceeded to 15 Draconis and its close bright neighbour and from there to the 8 mag pair right next to the quasar. Switched to the 10 mm Delos and began to pick up the patterns next to the bright pair.

At this point I started noticing that the view looked a lot dimmer than I hoped for. Started to despair and thought it was an impossible target after all. I looked up from the EP and saw that clouds had rolled in, obstructing the view. Took a break and kicked back for a while, saw that the horizon looked clear and after a while the clouds had gone revealing clear skies again.

The stars now looked a lot brighter but still pretty dim to be honest and I believed magnification was needed here. Popped in the 6 mm Delos and figured that conditions were so that high mag wouldn’t deteriorate the views too badly. Added a 2x barlow to the 6 mm eyepiece for a whopping 400x and high contrast. Rarely used combination to put it mildly.

Still workable considering tracking and the rate of drift and it was relatively easy to make out the 13.8 mag star (according to AAVSO) that I used for locating the quasar. Encouraging as it was almost a full magnitude deeper than 3C 273 that I had previously thought pushed the limit. Maybe PG 1634+706 was within reach after all.

Double and triple checked the exact spot using the two 8 mag stars and the square of stars that just about filled the EP with the 12.8 and 13.8 mag stars on the top row. Moved my eye around, keeping my attention on the spot with indirect vision. Still nothing. Had to move the scope quite often because of the high mag and suddenly a diffuse point of light appeared in exactly the right place, visible for a heartbeat. Wow. Managed to repeat it three times over the course of 15 minutes or so which was enough for me to be reasonably certain it was not a trick of the mind.

Incredible. Catching fleeting glimpses of an object from halfway across the known universe if only with a few photons. Wonderful to contemplate. Also, a very satisfying confirmation that it is possible to view objects of mag 14.4 +/- 0.2 with my setup and sky quality. I’m not exactly sure where in its light curve it is at the moment, but guessing on the brighter side.

All in all I spent around two hours with this object. Thanks for the inspiration, well worth the effort!

74332A2B-EB6A-4849-ACB7-C2F416678E37.jpeg

Edited by davhei
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Excellent report, davhei! Really enjoyed reading it. I'm so pleased you were inspired to seek out this target out and successfully find it. Now you know you can go deeper, I'm sure you'll have many more challenging and exciting targets to seek out :D 

Edited by Littleguy80
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Using high or very high power definitely helps to tease out faint point sources.

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Thanks to this thread and the reports / charts posted I've been able to spot PG 1634+706 with my 12 dob tonight. Thanks very much folks :thumbright:

It's very, very faint indeed. I've found around 400x magnification and a combination of slightly averted vision and the "1000 yard stare" has helped this dim point of light show against the background sky. 8.6 billion light years - wow !!! :shocked:

Those photons have been travelling for nearly 2/3rds of the age of the universe .....

 

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