Tag Archives: Focuser

A step by step guide to Collimation

If like me you own some sort of reflector telescope, whether this be a Newtonian, Dobsonian, Ritchey Chretien or as I have a Hyperboloid Astrograph then you’ll know that there is a very strong importance on collimation, the faster the optics the more critical collimation becomes, especially for imaging. After recently removing the rear mirror assembly for cleaning, as well as changing from the QHY183M to the QHY268C-PH amongst onther stuff in the imaging train, I wanted to share my experience and knowledge around collimation. Let’s start off with the details on what I use

Part 1 – Aligning the Secondary Mirror with the Focuser

Now on my SharpStar 15028HNT, they recommend you unscrew and remove the corrector from the focuser, however I have found no dofference in collimation with or without the corrector in place and because it is part of the optical train I’d rather include it in the collimation, so the first step for me since my primary mirror was currently removed was to check the secondary alignment with the focuser, as well as the rotation of the secondary in relation to the focuser, in order to do this, I use the Teleskop-Service Concenter eyepiece, the eyepiece itself has a set of rings engraved into the plastic apperture like so

Teleskop-Express Concenter Eyepiece markings on lower end of barrel

I ensure that my focuser is at the most inward position and since my SharpStar has an M48 thread on the focuser, I used a 2″ extension tube that has an M48 thread on it, and placed the concenter eyepiece in there:

M48 threaded 2″ Extension tube with Teleskop-Express Concenter Eyepiece

This serves well to get the rotation and alignment of the secondary with the focuser by ensuring that the mirror appears as a perfect circle between the rings, now you can adjust your focuser position in order to get the edge of the mirror to appear on the lines, this is what the view looks like through the concenter eyepiece:

Here you can see the secondary mirror appears circular and in line with the concenter eyepiece markings showing a successful alignment with the focuser

The blue at the top right of the image is a piece of card I stuck behind the secondary in order to show the edge of the mirror better.

As you can see my secondary mirror is pretty much perfectly aligned with the focuser and square with the focuser also, if your mirror shows up as more eliptical, this means the mirror needs to be rotated, if the mirror does not fit in within the circle itself, for example if it is over to the left or right, you will need to move the mirror forward or backwards by means of loosening or tightening the central screw that holds the secondary.

You can see from the following image, I have a central screw which is used for moving the mirror up or down the tube away from or closer to the primary, as well as rotation of the mirror, but then there is also the three collimation screws that are used to adjust the mirror direction itself which we will talk about in the next section

Here you can see the central adjustment screw for adjusting the mirror rotation and centering the mirror with the focuser, the three outer scres are used for adjusting the tilt of the mirror to align with the primary

Part 2 – Aligning the Secondary Mirror with Primary Mirror

Now that we have our secondary mirror lined up and square with the focuser, the next step is to align the secondary with the primary, now for this I will use my FarPoint Astro Laser collimator, which itself has recently been collimated by FarPoint Astro, now you can re-use use the 2″ extension tube and place the laser into the tube, but for the SharpStar I will use the M48 to 1.25″ lockable adapter like so:

FarPoint Astro laser collmator in the SharpStar M48 to 1.25″ Adapter

Now the point of this part is to ensure that the laser hits the centre spot of the primary mirror, if it does not, then this is where you would adjust one or more of the three screws on the secondary, as you undo one, you should tighten the other two, as you can see from this image, I need not make any adjustments as the laser hits the centre of the primary perfectly:

Here you can see that the laser hits the primary mirror centre spot

Part 3 – Aligning the Primary Mirror

Now since I do not have to make any further adjustments to the secondary mirror, it is time to focus on the primary mirror, the trick here is to get the laser beam to return to the point of origin, here’s an example of the primary not being correctly aligned:

You can see two dots here, one is the laser aperture, the other is the reflection of the laser from the primary mirror, this reflection needs to meet the aperture

You can clearly see the red dot to the top left of the laser apperture, this means that the primary needs some adjustment by means of the three collimation screws which are situated on the rear of the primary mirror assembly:

Here you can see the primary mirror collimation screws, the larger push/pull the mirror, the smaller are locking screws to secure the mirror in place after successfully collimating.

Most telescopes have a push – pull method here, turning anti-clockwise will push the mirror further up the tube, whereas turning clockwise will pull the mirror towards the bottom of the tube, it is very important not to keep turning anti-clockwise because this could result in the screws becoming disconnected from the primary mirror. After an adjustment on a couple of the collimation screws, my primary is now aligned properly as the laser beam returns into the laser apperture:

Here you can see that there is no additional dot, the dot is centered right on the laser aperture indicating primary alignment is complete

Once the laser collimation has been completed, it is easy to verify this with the FarPoint Auto-Collimator, the eyepiece has a mirror inside which allows you to see where the centre spot of the mirror is and will form a slightly pale dot in the middle, if the dot appears in the middle then you have your collimation pretty much spot on after following the above, maybe a very slight adjustment on the primary collmation screws is all that is required, you can see here what the view looks like:

It is also normal on faster telescopes to see the mirror appearing offset as opposed to central to the OTA itself. Once completed, I would typically then perform a star field test and I prefer to use the Multi Star Collimation in CCD Inspector for this, you can of course use the de-focused star method.

I hope you found this useful, I just thought I would share my process in performing collmation to help others who may be on that journey also.

SharpStar 15028HNT

After months of trying to get my trusty Sky-Watcher Quattro F4 to work with the ASA 0.73x reducer I decided to go all in on an F2.8 astrograph. After doing some research I stumbled across the SharpStar 15028HNT F2.8 Hyperboloid Newtonian Reflector from my local supplier 365Astronomy.

After toying with the idea and speaking to my good friend Nick from Altair Astro and with the idea of going back to a refractor, I decided that I could not go back to slower than F4 and I wanted something that in essence would work with a bigger sensor than my QHY183M, and the Sharpstar looked like it could work for me, so I placed my order with Zoltan from 365Astronomy and collected it the following day.

Unboxing the scope, I was like a young child at christmas, the scope came with a very sturdy protective hard case and removing the scope out of the case you could immediately feel that a lot of time and effort had gone into producing the 15028HNT.

Aperture: 150mm
Focal Length: 420mm
Focal Ratio: F2.8
Weight: 6kg
Tube Material: Carbon Fiber

With the scope unboxed I started to fit my equipment onto the scope. In order to fit my Sesto Senso I had to rotate the focuser 90 degrees clockwise due to the telescope mounting rings, this is when I noticed an isue that one of the grub screws on the focuser would not tighten and I needed to stop the backlash, fortunately there’s another grub screw on the other side that tightened and stopped the backlash.

Before I attached my imaging equipment, I had to ensure that the telescope was collimated, so I stumbled across the collimation guide which after speaking with my good friend Terry Hancock over at Grand Mesa Observatory who was also evaluating the same scope, we both agreed that the colimation guide wasn’t very well written as it mentioned nothing about collimating the primary. One thing that it mentioned is to remove the corrector, Sharpstar include a tool for you to remove the mounting plate and corrector, but here is a word of advice……..remove this when the telescope is cold, take that advice from someone who tried to remove it whilst it was warm!

I performed a laser collimation with my Concenter Eyepiece to check the secondary, and then a laser to check the primary, now the collimation guide says to remove the corrector, I have done validation with both the corrector removed and the corrector in place, and it made no difference whatsoever, so my opinion is to leave the corrector in place.

With the scope closely collimated, I mounted my StarlightXpress Filterwheel and Camera which with the 15028HNT is an M48 thread for the gear to screw onto.

I will post some images as soon as I have completed some, the weather has been pretty poor (probably because I bought a new scope), but the frames I have got so far are very sharp, pinpoint and I can honestly say I have never seen images come directly off the camera so sharp.

My field of view with the QHY183M is around 1.21 Arcsec/Pixel which gives me a FOV or around 1.81°x1.2° and I love the difraction spikes being at 45 degrees compared to the 90 degrees on the skywatcher and I already have a pretty full target list for this scope ready to go this season.

Apart from the couple of product issues I have experienced (Grub screw on focuser and tube clamp thumbscrew being threaded) I am extremely happy with the scope, it is performing really well and here are a couple of work in progress images that I have started

Dark Shark Nebula Moscaic Panel 1 – 51x300S in Red, 25x300S in Green and Blue
Elephant’s Trunk – 51x300S in 6nm Ha
M45 – Mosaic Panel 1 – 12x150S in R, G and B

After a few weeks, the telescope has held collimation very well, I have not had to perform any re-collimation, I will re-evaluate this in the much colder months of winter.

I am so happy with the scope that I am actually considering a second one for an OSC Camera with a bigger sensor.

PrimaluceLabs Sesto Senso Robo Focuser

Getting the best FWHM in your images is something that I have struggled with when imaging a whole night. As the temperature fluctuates, so does the FWHM in your images, this was a problem I had with my images at the beginning of the season. I looked around and the only focuser I could find was not a stepper motor focuser, so it didn’t offer predictable results. Since I am using the stock focuser for my Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF (and it’s a solid focuser at that), I did not really want to change focuser mid-season, so I did some research and landed upon the PrimaluceLabs Sesto Senso ROBO Focuser.

Now my expectations here were pretty low since I tried an electronic focuser and tried to use some sort of Auto Focus routine without any length of success, but when the Sesto Senso arrived I was excited as I looked at it and thought to myself that this would do the job.

Out of the box the Sesto Senso is very solid, good quality feel to it, and came with a bunch of different adapters for different focusers, one specifically for my Sky-Watcher Focuser too. I read the installation instructions a couple of times and set to work on upgrading my scope.

Installation was fairly easy and straight forward, I removed the slow focusing knob off the focuser and attached the adapter for the Sky-Watcher that came with the Sesto Senso, so within 30 minutes it was successfully fitted. And I can still manually focus with the fast focusing knob on the other side of the focuser:

After all the physical installation was done, I then needed to install the software on the observatory PC, since I image using Sequence Generator Pro, I proceeded to install Sesto Software and the ASCOM driver so that SGPro could talk to the focuser, again this was relatively simple to do. Once this was completed it was important to load up the Sesto software and perform a calibration so that the Sesto Senso knows where the most innner and outer focus positions are.

Setting the Focus Control module in SGPro was a breeze, for this I used a Focusing Mask to get a rough focus and set that point for all of my filters, now the following setting are what works for me really well, but basically:

  • I use 20 data points to achieve focus.
  • Step size between focus points is 20
  • Focus frame is 10 seconds for all filters, this is to get a better normalised focus frame, I was finding 5 seconds was too short and gave un-predictable results.
  • I set it to re-focus after a temperature change of 3.0 Degrees C since the last focus.
  • I re-focus on any centering action which is useful if you use a mirrored telescope like me.
Sequence Generate Pro Auto Focus settings
You can see here that my start off point is 50146, so it will go 10 points either direction of this point at 20 steps per point

I have now been using the Sesto Senso for a few months now and it has not failed me, I maintain a good FWHM value throughout the night and it an awesome piece of kit, well done Primaluce Labs. Is there anything that I would change about it?

Only one thing…….It requires separate power, which in all honesty I can understand why but if I could run the power through USB that would be a bonus.

One problem I have with the Auto Focus routine in SGPro is that in the image sequence, since my filters for LRGB are all parfocal, but my Narrowband filters are not, I only wish to focus on a filter change if it’s going from LRGB to Narrowband to LRGB or Narrowband to Narrowband, unfortunately SGPro doesn’t have that intelligence in the sequence, I am trying to persuade Jared to have that in there to make life that bit more simple.

Anyway I hope this review inspires you to consider this awesome piece of kit, it’s certainly helped me!