Collimating the big mak

With the constant bad weather, it was probably a good idea to collimate the 180mm F/15 Maksutov properly, as it might be off slightly.

This involved a quite afternoon, a long inside range in the house free of obstacles, and a Geoptik artificial star (fixed brightness). The star diameter is 50 µm.

(Image credit: Teleskop Optics)

The collimation took place in bright daylight, however in the house, with the curtains closed. I positioned the star on a photo tripod, at a distance of about 25m, not sure however if that was far enough in relation to the 2700mm focal length. Normally 20x the focal length is adviced (Suiter) that would be closer to 60 meters.

The Maksutov sat on a HEQ5, allowing good positioning, and also re-positioning of the scope after tweaking the mirror.

The first image that came out looked as follows:

Initial Airy disk image maksutov collimation

It may look like the collimation is already ver good. However, on closer inspection (using Sharpcap and a ASI2600MC camera) with a bullseye ring overlay, it was clear that the Poisson point (the little dot in the center) was not dead center in the middle of the diffraction rings.

A closer look at the defocused image, revealing the upwards leaning poisson point not entirely dntric to the airy disc.

Quality assesment of the diffraction pattern: smooth mirror surface, no pinched or deformed optics.

The de-centering is also visible in the in-focus diffraction pattern. It’s obvious that the rings on top of the star are closer together then the rings on the lower side. The upper side almost touches, where there is a clear gap on the lower side!

in-focus image (bahtinov mask focused) reveals a decentered diffraction pattern.

So the next step was to tackle this de-centering by using the push/pull bolts on the OTA backside. I used visually with a 4mm (675x) and 7mm (385x) eyepiece the in-focus pattern to slightly move the point towards the center. Ofcourse, everytime I touched the bolts, the star would move out of the field, so there it came in handy that I used the HEQ5 which allowed me to correct electronically using the mounts stepper motors.

In-center star diffraction pattern with pinched optics

As can be seen in the picture above, tightening the bolts too much results in pinched optics: a three-lobe star pattern becomes visible.

Loosening th escrews again, and centering the poisson point gave this image

Centralized, but deformed image due to air currents
Final video after collimation

More final stage pictures:

Focal point with a bright secondary diffraction ring, very dim outer rings (visually detectable)

Measuring the image by the number of pixels on the camera (for a ASI183MM, each pixel is 2,4 µm), the diameter of the central point is 6 pixels or about 14 µm.The theoretical radius of the Airy disc can be calculated using: R = 1.22 x F x lambda / D which for this telescope comes to 10 µm or a 20 µm diameter. It would be strange that the actual result is below the theorethical value?

Referring to Suiter’s “Star Testing Astronomical telescopes, second edition”, a commercial maksutov of the Gregory Type (aluminized spot, no seperate second mirror or Rumak) would have a theorethical central spot radius of 8,2 µm. So in this 180mm f/15 the measurement the radius would be about 7 µm.

The second diffraction ring is clearly visible, but the picture underneath also showes evidence of the 3, 4 and 5th diffraction ring. There is no sign of other light scattering or a diffuse halo. Maybe the sensor could not detect those low light levels.

Maksutov in-focus 14µm central diffraction spot, 1 pixel equals 2,4 µm

Central obstruction for the scope is 23%, the concave corrector is made of Schott BK7 borosilicate glass. It’s focal lenght is 2700mm