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I have acquired an old 1960s Newtonian telescope which I am reconditioning as part of my STEM Ambassador volunteer work with a school in Bury St Edmunds. It's currently I my garden but when it's in a fit enough state it will move to the school grounds and hopefully be the seed of a new Astronomy Club in the area. I've already started doing after-school solar system and rocket making/launching sessions, so hopefully the scope will grow the club into something accessible to many children in the area. The reason for the post is I'd like to discover more about the provenance of the scope, so I wondered if any SGL members would be able to help? The primary mirror is 300mm diameter, the secondary elliptical mirror is 63mm (minor dia) by 90mm (major dia). Estimated focal length 1560mm, so f/5.2-ish. The tube is 1.6metres from the back of the primary box to the front of the tube; the front tube is 390mm diameter. It stands on a massive concrete block, angled at 52 degrees, which takes 4 men to lift... So far I have stripped it down, cleaned the bearings and regreased them so it is useable. I successfully collimated it with a Cheshire - first light showed not much coma, so happy with that for now. The focuser is rather tired and it needs at least a RA drive to make it easy to use, and the primary needs recoating. I believe it originally came from Norwich Uni, but I have no details. If anyone recognises this magnificent instrument or knows anything about it, please let me know - it'd be great to share this with the school as excitement mounts! Current state, in need of a lick of paint Original state (old photo)
The Newtonian telescope design is both simple and remarkable. It is capable of producing a perfect image on axis, but off axis, the image quality degrades mainly due to an optical aberration called coma. Modern fast Newtonians and Donsonians of F/5 and below have a surprisingly small diffraction limited spot (just 2mm across in an F/4.5), where the image is not disturbed by coma. The Astro-Tech (also sold under the Altair Astro and GSO brand labels) coma corrector has been designed to cancel out this aberration to give a flat, wide field with high resolution from edge to edge. It is manufactured by Guan Sheng Optical (GSO) and was developed by Astro-Tech from a high quality, modern optical design by Roger Ceragioli My corrector came in a nice box and consists of two parts, the coma corrector itself and a 2" eyepiece adaptor which screw together with a 48mm (2" filter) thread. The eyepiece adaptor has two screws and a brass compression ring and is marked ALTAIR ASTRO 2", Coma Corrector, Made in Taiwan. At least I knew I had the right part, but no other documentation was supplied and I had to search the web for information on how to use it. Unfortunately the corrector is not ready for visual use as supplied, because of inadequate eyepiece spacing. The proper spacing is not critical and a compromise spacing to cover your eyepieces can made up with 2" extender tubes, such Hyperion fine tuning rings or empty 2" filters. You do not need a turntable like that of the Tele Vue Paracorr. With the spacers installed, the assembly which is now about 70mm long just slides into the focuser tube like a barlow. In this arrangement the focal point is moved in by a small distance of about 10mm (see photographs below). The corrector acts as a very slight barlow, enlarging the image by just about 10%. The lenses are nicely coated and reflect pale green. The aluminium housing is cleanly finished in satin black and the combined unit weighs about 350 grams. Once set up properly in a collimated telescope, the corrector works just as you would expect to give a clean, flat image. The view feels quite different, much more like a refractor, with pin point stars from edge to edge, but no chromatic aberration. Objects can be allowed to drift across the view of wide angle eyepieces with little or no visible loss of sharpness. The removal of coma can be clearly demonstrated by doing a star test on and off axis without the corrector installed and then with it. Any loss of contrast due to the extra corrector glass (two doublet lenses) in the light path is undetectable, I think. The coma corrector is now a permanent fixture in my focuser except on occasion when viewing planets with my 200mm Newtonian which now has a motor drive. It seems to me that a coma corrector should be a standard accessory for all fast Newtonian telescopes and particularly for larger Dobsonians with no tracking. This model is an effective, affordable example and I strongly recommend it. The first issue is actually finding one in stock. Supply has been patchy over the years and at the time of writing, it is listed by Astronomics (Astro-Tech brand at $135, including T-mount, but out of stock), Agena (GSO brand at $130, including T-mount, but out of stock), Ian King (Altair Astro brand at £88) and Telescope Service (GSO brand without visual adaptor at 61 Euro). There is then the issue of setting it up properly and most of the remainder of this review is devoted to showing how this can be done, but first there is a little information about Newtonian telescopes and coma. Newtonian telescopes are all designed with a single figured mirror in the shape of a parabola rotated on its axis, a paraboloid. All mirrors of a given focal length are the same shape. If you have a fast mirror, it is easy to to create a slow one of the same focal length, just by blanking off the outer part of the mirror. It is the outer part of the mirror that generates coma, which is zero on axis but which increases linearly the further from the axis you get. At the focal surface, the amount of coma is independent of the mirror focal length so a single corrector will work for any Newtonian. In practice, a perfect corrector is not attainable so the designer will aim to produce the best result he can for a specific F/ ratio, F/4.5 for this model I understand. However, the corrector will give good results for mirrors that are somewhat faster than this and for all slower mirrors. Coma correctors would actually be better called Newtonian correctors, because the designer is looking to produce the smallest attainable spot size for a point source, so will also be looking to reduce the other lesser Newtonian aberrations, field curvature and astigmatism. To do this, he will have in mind a particular focal length, around the longest that is commonly used (so about 2000mm or slightly less), because these aberrations are less in longer telescopes and it is wise not to over correct significantly. Newtonian telescopes are perfect on axis, but coma damages image quality at even a modest distance off axis. At the focal plane, about 1mm off axis, in an uncorrected F/4.5 Newtonian, the image is just at the diffraction limit and the strehl of even a perfect mirror has fallen to 0.8. In a 250mm scope, this gives a coma free, sharp field of about 6 arc minutes across, about 1/5 of the apparent diameter of the moon. For comparison, the field stop of a 9mm orthoscopic eyepiece is about 6mm so only the central 1/3 (1/9 of the area) of the view is free of coma in an F/4.5 scope. Coma increases sharply with the speed of the telescope, at the focal surface inversely with the cube of the F ratio. Collimation is the business of lining up the coma free sweet spot with the centre of the eyepiece axis. The tolerance for collimation is perhaps 1/4 (though some would say 1/6) the size of the sweet spot so that it covers the centre of the eyepiece. So far as I can tell, this tolerance also looks good for a telescope fitted with a coma corrector. To set up the GSO coma corrector properly, the total back focus (distance from the last lens to the focal plane) has to be about 75mm. The designer says that it is not critical and from 65mm to 85mm will produce a good spot size. This distance will be made up somthing like mine below, added to the height of the eyepiece focal point height above the eyepiece shoulder (or subtracting the height below the shoulder). 1.25" My 2" 2mm 2mm Spacing from last coma corrector lens to the shoulder 45mm 45mm 2" adaptor spacing 11mm .... 2" to 1.25" adaptor (if any) 19mm 19mm Spacers (Hyperion 14mm ring + empty 2" filter) 77mm 66mm Total (excluding eyepiece distance) My one 2" eyepiece has a focal point above the shoulder, and my 1.25" eyepieces are all within -12mm/+8mm of nominal, so are all fine. Tele Vue is unique in publishing the height below the shoulder of the focal point for all their eyepieces. For other users, you are going to have assume the focal point is close to the shoulder or measure the position. First, locate the prime focus by taping a piece of tracing paper to the top of the focuser and focusing on something. This does not have to be at night and can anything sufficiently distant so that it comes into focus, such as a church spire or distant tree. It does not depend on the telescope so using a refractor with a graduated focus scale is very convenient. You then measure how far in (plus) or out (minus) you have to move the focuser for each of your eyepieces in turn. For users only intending to use 2" eyepieces, a single 28mm Hyperion tuning ring might be fine. If you do not like the idea of finding empty filter rings, or more likely buying cheap ones on eBay and removing the glass, some suppliers (in particular Telescope Service) have spacing rings with the right 48mm thread, in a few sizes such as 10mm and 20mm, but these are generally expensive. Variable spacers are also available but these are not going to sink into your focuser tube. When I first set this up I had to remove a 2" to 2" adapter to allow the unit to go all the way into the focus tube. This left too little out focus so I made a plastic washer (from a yoghurt tub, see photo below) to prevent the corrector slipping all the way into the focuser and providing the necesssary out focus. One correspondent who uses only 2" eyepieces has done away with the eyepiece adaptor and has simply added enough extender rings to screw the corrector to each eyepiece as he uses it. I hope that this will is enough information to set up this corrector properly but I would welcome questions, and of course comments and correction.
I'm planing to delve deeper into AP - previously did only widefield with my DSLR - so after digging the internets for the past few days I decided to buy a fast newt along with all the additions that will be needed. This is what my current list looks like and some parts of it is what I need an advice about because there is more than one possible choice and I'm not sure what to pick. * NEQ6 (just to be a bit more future proof) * SW Quattro-8CF (I know that it will be more complicated to handle compared to something like 80ED because of collimation (probably needed each session?) but I'm more than willing to cope with that) * Coma corrector (?) - really not sure which one to buy, my current picks are either Baader MPCC Mark III or SW Aplanatic Coma Corrector. From what I've read, SW one seems to be better. I've also seen some good reviews of Paracorr but this one is over my budget * OAG (?) - I decided no to go for a guidescope because I really want to keep things compact as I'm going to transport whole setup from time to time, also possible flexure issues. Plus, I may consider getting SCT in the future, so I'd like to be able to reuse current setup with it. Here, I'm not sure which OAG to get. I will be imaging with my Canon 60D and, when budget allows, I'll upgrade to Atik 414EX. Would be cool to get something that would work with DSLR and won't have backfocus issues later, when used with filter wheel and CCD. * guider - Lodestar (I suppose it will be sensitive enough to be used with OAG?) What do you guys think about this kind of setup? Also, any advice on what coma corrector/oag should I get?