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How do I collimate my NexStar SE Schmidt-Cassegrain tel...

Created On: Oct 30 2008 09:32 AM Collimation of a SCT is critical to getting the sharpest images possible, especially when viewing planets at high magnification. There are three stages to a really good collimation using the stars or a star-like source (such as a solar reflection off a distant ball bearing or Christmas tree ornament). Before attempting fine collimation, especially in-focus collimation, always let the scope reach the temperature of the outside or ambient air. If there is a significant temperature difference between outside air and the scope’s storage area, you’ll need to wait at least an hour, maybe several hours for the scope to reach the ambient temperature. You may need to keep it in an unheated room over a period of a few days. Seeing (the steadiness of the atmosphere) also affects your collimating ability. Heat waves and high-altitude winds move air around and cause differing temperatures of air to mix. This makes the air act like a weak lens that interferes with the light from a planet or a star by defocusing it. Choose only nights with superior seeing for collimation. First, start with a rough out-of-focus collimation. This initial step will get you in the ballpark for more accurate collimation later on. Using a medium-powered eyepiece, center a medium-brightness star in the field of view. Next, defocus the star until you can see a center dark spot (this is the secondary mirror shadow). This dark spot will not be in the center of the defocused star if the scope is out of collimation. To center this spot you will need to adjust the collimation screws located on the secondary mirror housing. Remove the logo cap over the secondary housing by gently prying with your fingernail. Then turn the screws by only 1/6 to 1/8 turn adjustments, Each time you make an adjustment the star will move in the field of view and you’ll need to re-center the star to check if the scope is in collimation. Second, switch to a high-power eyepiece - about 2.5mm focal length is recommended. Again defocus the star just a little bit and make small adjustments with the collimation screws. When everything looks concentric and uniform it’s now time to do an in-focus collimation. You will want to do this on an extremely calm night and use a star at or near the zenith. Your telescope must be the same temperature as the ambient air. At high magnification a star will not look like a point, but like a small central disk surrounded by concentric rings (called the Airy Disk). You will use these rings to collimate your telescope just as you did in the previous steps. Here are a few links (Fall 2008) on SCT collimation and the Airy disk.
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