The saga comes to a close…
After talking to the Celestron Rep (Will) it sounds like I missed something when inserting the secondary. There is a small set screw on the inside of the secondary which needs to fit into the slot on the secondary housing (the tube passing through the corrector plate).
Will also made a couple of other points.
- the slot in the secondary housing, the mark on the secondary, and the set screw should all point at 1 o’clock. That is how his system is set up.
- The secondary housing is not glued, it is just tight. Apparently it is very easy to bind the threads, the tube can flex. He described a couple of ways to try and tighten it so the housing is stable.
I retried inserting the secondary, making sure the set screw is positioned correctly. It seems to fit better.
Voila! Now I can focus correctly. I then worked on collimating, and was able to make that work.
I then tried the collimation tool in CCDInspector; I’ve owned this tool for awhile but never tried this piece. It was a little confusing at first. There are various colors which I anticipated were trying to tell me stuff, like which direction to turn the screw – apparently not.
One very helpful aspect – I connected Maxim to the ACP Telescope hub and put in the correct image scale (0.39″/px). This enables the function in the right click menu on an image to re-position the scope to point to a particular spot. This makes it much easier to recenter the scope after each adjustment.
After I got the hang of it, I was able to get the collimation to less than 5″, perhaps under 3. At that point the seeing and clouds were preventing any improvement. The collimation is clearly better than what I used to get using my manual method. A focusing run shows very symmetric patterns on the stars.
Now that I am correctly inserting the secondary, I still need to get the secondary housing firmly attached to the corrector plate. Before starting with Will’s suggestions I called Dean at Starizona to get his thoughts. He had some other techniques I could try to tighten the housing.
In the end, I decided to bring the OTA to Starizona rather than risking messing up the housing. I’m glad I did. Dean was very helpful and knowledgeable. It was great just seeing him do some of the various tasks – there are a lot of things one hears about, and that I have done, but don’t really know how to do exactly.
Dean pulled the corrector and managed to get the two parts of the housing separated. He then replaced the paper (almost invisible) gaskets with a rubber type, then re-installed the housing in the plate.
He then cleaned the corrector, doing a much better job than I had. Very interesting watching his technique.
Now came a possibly controversial part. There are several threads out there about whether the corrector should be moved. In particular, a long series of posts on Cloudy Nights which concludes that the plate should not be moved from the factory setting, and should not be physically centered (the factory setting is the correct optical centered position). Dean disagrees – after putting the corrector back in, he adjusted the position to get the secondary/housing/corrector centered by looking down the OTA from 6-12 feet. He says he has convinced Celestron they are aligning their correctors incorrectly? They came out and visited to see how he does it…
Also, Dean positions the secondary and housing to point at 3 o’clock instead of 1 o’clock.
Anyway, he did his alignment which included very slightly shifting the corrector. He also collimated using an artificial star. He clearly has a very experienced eye.
The source of the trails on the corrector was identified by Dean. Apparently when it gets hot the grease on the primary baffle can bleed some of the more volatile components. Dean showed me the trail running down the primary baffle; clearly the same fluid on the corrector plate and under the edges of the plate.
I have (cleverly, I thought) defined the scope’s park position to have the OTA pointing down. The idea was to keep some of the Arizona desert dust from collecting on the corrector plate. This was a bad idea, since it allows the grease to drip onto the corrector.
If the OTA is pointed up, the grease will run down into the back of the OTA. Apparently this is not a problem.
After I got the OTA remounted, rewired, and balanced I was curious to see how Dean’s collimation was, as per the CCDInspector tool. It was pretty good, about 14″. Certainly better than what I would get (about 50-70″). I then played with it and managed to get it to 1.5″. At that point the direction line is flitting around quite a bit, but generally less than 1″. Wow!
Now I have centered the focus position near 3500 on the Optec, locked the mirror down, and started re-running VCurves. I’m eager to see how the overall performance of the system might be affected.