Coyote Lake Saturday

by Mike Ruddy

Took the XT6 for a little spin last night in some dark skies. What a treat!

So I was banking on having a couple of hours between astronomical twilight and the moon.... and it payed off. I met K. Teh at Coyote Lake around 7:30pm. The sky was clear but there was a bit of muck still left in the valley. It seemed to be kind of promising but there was a bit of a wind kicking up.... not horrible by any means but enough to grab your attention. We let our scopes cool down as the day boaters were pulling out of the launch area and spent the time collimating and checking alignment on our finder scopes. Teh has an XT8 so I was looking forward to comparing views between the two scopes. Got a horrifying wake up on collimation of my XT6 but more on that in another post.... I bought an EZ finder II and temporarily mounted it in Frankenstein fashion riding piggyback on my finder scope. It worked great and saved me lots of time. We both worked from the Deepmap 600 chart. Love that chart. Good place to start for me.

Jupiter was looking high and mighty so that was our first target. Beautiful stark shadow transition. Very striking in contrast at about 100X... I think I pushed it to 133X in the 6 inch pretty comfortably but the seeing wouldn't hold at 200X. My scope was performing beautifully and without the moon in the way I was beginning to get a glimpse at it's capability.

As darkness came I starting going after globs. So easy to find them when it's dark! We spent some time comparing views of M13 between the two scopes. The XT8 definitely drew out more resolution... it was noticeable but I wouldn't call it very dramatic. Also, Teh's scope was terrifically collimated so between the combination of aperture and collimation the XT8 won without too much scrutiny. To be honest, it did not dampen my spirits at all. The views were just fine in the 6.

I spent some time comparing the cores of M13 and M92, distinctly different globs yet roughly the same magnitude. This was great fun and I feel my averted vision is really sharpening up. I then bounced over to M4, the seeing was a little rough as it was still a little low in the sky. But M7 proved to be better if not fainter and I gleaned every photon I could out of her. The same with M5. I was really feeling aperture fever now. I wanted more.

Then I got brave and decided to switch gears and see if I could cull M81 and M82 from the fray. This was challenging. Coyote doesn't have the darkest skies around but they're pretty good. Still, I was able to find them, but they were faint. I was really only able to detect them using averted vision... pretty faint.... you could hardly call it a smudge.... wasn't really enough to even call a smudge but you could make out something there. I was pleased at being able to find them but I'm afraid there was just a little too much sky glow to pull them out in the 6 inch.

We went after the double double but the seeing was unsatisfactory for that. It was still pretty low too so that didn't help. We turned our scopes on Castor and at 100X there was a marked difference between views in the two scopes. I could split them, but the views were a little crisper on the XT8 no doubt about it. I'm sure there are several factors involved here but I'm still sorting that out.

Well, the moon came up late but we weren't complaining! It was 10:15 and still no sign of the moon. I think that was largely due to the geographical nature of Coyote Lake which has a ridge lying in the east that forms a natural barrier. We called it an early night and wagon trained down the hill. It was a great night out and I'm definitely looking forward to more!