Well folks, I woke up without an alarm at 12:30 and after a futile wait to try to get back to sleep, I was set up out on the deck by 1:15am. Transparency was, at best, average. Seeing was a 7/10. Not being much of a marathoner, I did a few things. I first hunted N Hydrae, one of two doubles left on my list. However, skyglow south of Spica eliminated most everything, even with 11×56 binoculars. Corvus did make an appearance, but nothing below it. So scratch that (and M83.) At 1:31, I checked on M51/NGC5195 to verify my editor's note in the latest newsletter. Both cores were easily visible at 40X, but even at 100X there was just no detail to be seen. I hopped down to M104, which was very sharp and bright, but I could not see the fabled dark lane. From there, I jumped to Leo and found M65/66 easily. How could these have ever seemed difficult to me? Both were very obvious, and the pair just fit in the FOV of my 12mm Orthoscopic. No hint of the third galaxy in the trio, though, which I have never spotted from my house.
At that point, I decided I couldn't very well do deep sky observing all night and neglect my ALPO training, so I observed Saturn. Rings are very thin right now, about 3 degrees. Seeing was fantastic, about a 7/10. I bumped magnification up to 266X and it was mostly steady. The SEB was thin, and the NEB just a hint darker but much thicker. I thought I could maybe tease out a bit of detail on the SEB, but not sure enough that my imagination wasn't involved. A yellow #12 filter did not improve things much. 4 moons were easily visible.
Back to Virgo… I found NGC 4762/4754, which made a striking pair of galaxies at 100X. Stumbled on M60 and M59 – both were visible in my finder. Too bad I already finished the Binocular Messier list or I could have logged them. Moved on to NGC4660. Then, it was time to fail. Neither NGC 4689 nor 4654 would show up, in spite of detailed maps and careful hunting. To get a quick success hit, I jumped to M3, which is my personal favorite. Then I logged NGC 5557 and 5676, both of which were quite easy at the zenith. About this time (3:55) I noticed that transparency was not as good as it had been. Still, I managed to find NGC5689 as a nice patch of cotton. In spite of being in the right place, I couldn't see M101. Hit M13 at 4:27, but the core would not resolve at 200X, showing that transparency was really declining. I could just split Epsilon Lyrae at 200X, so seeing was going downhill, too. I found M57 and it was obviously a smoke ring at 40X. M4 just barely showed up in the eyepiece, nearly washed out in the skyglow. I finished up at 4:52 with M80, which was much easier to find than M4 and really punched through the glow well, but wouldn't resolve at 200X.
Chilled, I came inside to run the results…
11 Messiers, and 6 new Herschel 400s. A glorious morning for astronomy!