I had the chance to "fly" the DAS 444, the Society's 17.5-inch Dobsonian, a few weeks ago, on its first dark-sky test--the telescope will soon be available to experienced DAS members.
The 444 is a real beauty, with power to spare and movements as creamy as butter. Stuart Hutchins and Digby Kirby worked hard on this, and it shows.
As the 'scope was just out for a short "test hop" the night I came to the dark sky site, we hit a few of the usual suspects--M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy), M57 (Ring Nebula), and so forth. The 444 easily showed M31's dark lanes with a 35mm eyepiece, at roughly 60x; the field was wide enough to include the satellite galaxy, M110, as well. The dark lanes were even easier with a 21mm eyepiece at about 95x.
M110 itself revealed much more detail than I am used to seeing in my 12-inch. With the 21mm in the 444, M110 clearly displayed structure, with a distinct inner core and extended halo. Usually, this small galaxy is an afterthought while viewing M31, but with the big 'scope, it was a beautiful object on its own.
Though the Ring Nebula is visible even in a 4-inch Mak, the 444 has enough oomph to project a notably large and bright image, easily viewed with direct vision--it was lovely.
If you haven't heard, the 444 won recognition at the recent Rocky Mountain Star Stare, and for good reason, I think. Still, the real proof of any telescope is in its images, and this one truly shines. My hat is off to these two fellows for the work they've put in, and for the quality of the result. We are very fortunate to have this instrument.
Experienced DAS observers interested in training (or those just wanting to check the 444 out), get in touch with Digby Kirby: email@example.com or 970-301-2287.