Saturday, September 16, 2006

XT6 Classic Dobsonian: Field Test

Last night, the Sky Clock showed poor conditions, so I didn’t expect to go anywhere. At 7PM the skies were clear, with some clouds out to the northeast. I decided to take a chance and pack the Dob in the car and head out to the local popular observing site. My LX200 was still in transit from CA after its RA drive repair, and I just had the urge to get out there. A few other regulars were there, and through the night there were about six of us all up. Good, fun crowd! Conditions were ordinary throughout the night. Various clouds made their way overhead throughout the evening, and it was rather hazy all night. I guess averaged out, seeing conditions were 2.5-3/5.

So, the XT6. I used the box/packaging it came with to transport it, and it held up well. Set up took under five minutes all up, and that includes the scope, chair and table. The fun thing about Dobs is that it takes just no time at all to start looking. I did not need to mess with the collimation at all.

Jupiter was low on the horizon, and the image was still quite pleasing. I could see a few cloud bands fairly well. I then ran the scope over some deep sky objects, primarily to test the scope’s optics and also to test my knowledge of the sky. Remember, this wasn’t a go-to scope. I just had my memory and a basic star map. Here’s what I found and the results…

M57: Ring Nebula. Ring clearly seen, decent contrast.
M13: At 57X magnification, the cluster was nice and bright. Using the 13mm Orion Stratus eyepiece (92 X magnification), I was able to resolve stars around the outer perimeter of the globular cluster.
M15: Again, magnification at 92 revealed individual stars at the outer rim of the globular cluster.
Double Cluster (NGC869 & NGC884): While still fairly low on the horizon for most of the night, it looked great in the scope. Both clusters could be seen using the 13mm Stratus eyepiece.
Albireo: Double star. As with a few nights ago, stars were pinpoint and color difference was easy to observe.
M7 & M6 in Scorpio: Clusters well resolved, nice sharp images.

I wasn’t out there for that long, and the rest of the night I spent chatting to the other observers in the group. Still I am exceptionally pleased with the performance of the XT6. I did not expect to resolve M13 and M15 to the extent that I did. I did not find it too difficult to track objects manually (although using wide field eyepieces definitely helps). I was also pleased with myself for finding these without having to resort to a star chart!

They say the XT6 is a beginner’s scope. I would agree with that. But it also makes a fine grab and go scope for those of use who don’t want to bother with heavy, computerized, complicated machines. Besides, overall it’s just a FUN scope!

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