I was at Area 51 (our Dark Site) tonight with my Meade 8″ LX200GPS. I observed for about 5-hours (from 7:00PM to Midnight). Tonight was a gorgeous night as it was very clear, cool, and dry. It was in the mid 50s with a light breeze. Absolutely beautiful weather, low humidity, and not a cloud in the sky. The transparency was excellent and seeing was very good, around an 8. Mike was there with his N11, Paul S. with his 6″ reflector, Steve with his 80mm Neo Vixen Refractor, Robert and his Meade 6″ AR6 refractor. There was also one 8″ LX90, a short tube 6″ Newtonian, and an Orion 90mm Refractor.This was a very good turnout for a night when many normal attendees were at the star party in Venus, Florida. I started off by viewing the thin crescent moon and then Mercury popped out. It looked to be around half of full. As it was getting dark, I took a good look at Saturn and it looked super due to the very good seeing. It looked very nice at 298x (6.7mm Ultra Wide Angle) and still looked decent at 400x (5mm Nagler). It looked best at around 225x with both the Televue 9mm Type 6 Nagler and the Meade 8.8mm Ultra Wide providing very sharp views. Finally it was dark and the Milky Way was easily visible along with the Double Cluster. I took a quick look at M31, M32, and M110. I also viewed the Double Cluster and it looked terrific. The FOV was just filled with stars that it was kind of hard to tell where one cluster ended and the other began. In Auriga, I viewed M36, M37, and M38 with M37 being my favorite. I looked at M34 and then M35. I could see M35 and the open cluster NGC 2158 near the edge of M35. I was able to partially resolve NGC2158 which was really a nice sight. I spent some time on M42 and easily saw all 6- stars in the Trapezium, this time at a magnification as low as 83x (24mm Panoptic). I also viewed M1, M3, M41, M43, M45, and M97 (Owl). The triple galaxy cluster in Leo was a nice sight as I viewed M65, M66 and NGC 3628 in the same FOV of my 41mm Panoptic (49x). M46 and M47 in Puppis looked great as did NGC 2438, a planetary nebula near the edge of M46. M81 and M82 looked spectacular and I also saw the galaxy NGC 3077 near M81 and M82. M51 looked good but I still could not see the spiral arms, although I did see the main galaxy, M51, and its companion galaxy. Then, I viewed the following additional Messier objects in Virgo: M49, M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M86, M87, M89, M90, and M104 (Sombrero). I could make out the dust lane in the ombrero with averted vision. C53 (NGC3115) – the Spindle galaxy looked nice as did C52 a galaxy in Virgo. Next, Hercules was starting to rise so I took my first peeks of the year of M13 and M92. Lastly, I ended the night with a look at C80 (Omega Centauri) and it looked very nice even though it was still low in the sky. It will look much better next month. Tonight was a terrific night with great weather, good company, and clear skies. Jeff

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