Hooray - It's here!

Well at last I got home from work, and to my delight this is what I found.....

Needless to say that evening I took great enjoyment un-packing and checking everything. I was in 7th heaven.

I had also planned to take plenty of photos as I did so, with the view of building this web site to demonstrate the build procedure.

So the build actually took longer than it would normally, because I carefully read all the instructions (excellently written), and at each stage I took various pictures.

By the time I had finished putting everything together it was just after 2am, and I was thinking that really it was time to roll into bed, and being somewhat tired thought I might be pushing it - I might do something wrong if I carried on.

Well nevertheless, sod it, I was too excited, so I ventured outside to see if the weather was being kind to me?

The Stars were OUT !! Fantastic.

I carefully hefted the scope out onto the patio in the backyard, and tentatively put in the 25mm eyepiece.

Of course I was trusting in the scope being reasonably well collimated from the factory, and I knew that I had yet to align the finder scope to the main tube, but these were minor considerations.

All I wanted was a "quick peek" before turning in for the night!

It was a Moon-less night, and so the best feature I decided upon was of course M42 The Orion Nebula. I didn't attempt to try the IntelliScope Computer Object Locator (COL) because I hadn't yet read its instruction manual or set it up properly.

Peering through the finder scope at Orion I moved the crosshairs to the Belt, and then worked my way down to the Sword. Carefully I centred up the nebula which was glowing brightly behind the crosshairs.

Next I peered thru the eyepiece, and - cool - the finder scope was fairly close too, despite not being aligned.

But, uh-oh, something was wrong!

How could the view be so dim? It just didn't seem right. I re-focused, and looked again. Maybe there was moisture on the eyepiece? I checked my view through the finder, which seemed really very bright and clear compared to the view through the main focuser.

I put in the 10mm eyepiece. The view was definitely larger, yet slightly dimmer (which I expected).

It was a kind of a "Wow!", I could make out the shape of the nebula, and the Trapezium in the middle which was something good I supposed, and I had already prepared myself for only being able to see the nebula in black and white, but I was now becoming a tad disappointed. I ran upstairs (being super fit) and got out my binoculars. Even the bino's showed a brighter image than what I was seeing through this 10inch giant.

I thought the XT10 was supposed to be a "light bucket"?

Damn it. I decided to pack up, and go to bed. There must be some explanation for this? The view seemed fairly clear and focused, but it just seemed so faint and washed out. Definitely not what I was expecting.

I couldn't help but think that I had done something wrong during the build.

All Becomes Clear

It wasn't until next evening that I discovered just why my FiRst lIGHT expErieNce had been so disappointing!

I had assumed that either the factory or my supplier would have checked the scope before delivery, and everything should be quite well aligned ready for use. Well - perhaps they had done so correctly?

But what I hadn't noticed was a major problem with the Secondary mirror. [See more pics/info on the Secondary Mirror - click here]

Secondary MirrorLet me explain.

The Secondary Mirror is supported in an adjustable holder by a 4-vane spider. Adjustments to the secondary are by means of three long 2mm Allen (hex) key set screws in the centre hub of the spider, and one central spring-loaded tensioning pivot bolt.

Unfortunately for me the central screw can't have been done up tight enough, and during delivery of my scope vibrations had loosened it so much that the Secondary mirror was literally "dangling" and "flopping" about!

Whoah! Much further and the whole unit would have fallen out and god only knows how much damage could have been done if it fell onto the Primary mirror.

So as a matter of urgency I had to learn how to collimate my scope before I had any hope of using it properly.

 

In hindsight I do now remember hearing a couple of clunking sounds as I carried the scope outside, and back in again. I think looking down into the scope with the tube vertical, the secondary mirror would have also been dangling straight down so I didn't notice the problem. But when the scope was moved to about 30 degrees from horizontal to view Orion, then the mirror "dangled at an angle"!!

In fact I am amazed I was able to see anything at all, and it actually speaks volumes for the light gathering power of the XT10. I think I was very lucky that any kind of alignment actually placed an image in the eyepiece!

So I learnt a few things from my "first light":-

  1. Never assume it will be alright on the night!
  2. When you think its time to go to bed then perhaps you should.
  3. My XT10 has excellent light gathering properties. You can even put your whole hand over the front of the tube, and still see what you are pointing at just from the light coming in round your hand.
  4. I was forced as a matter of necessity into learning how to collimate the secondary, and naturally progressed to learning primary collimation too.

To collimate my Secondary, I tried first that day, which obviously had a major impact in correcting the problem, then a few days later I wasn't entirely happy because I noticed the 3 set screws were at uneven projections, and although the Secondary and Primary seemed visually collimated, the Secondary mount still looked skewed, so I repeated the whole process, spending about half an hour to do it slowly and carefully.

Now I am stunned by the clarity and beauty of the Orion Nebula, amazed at the blinding brightness of the Moon, gob-smacked at the number of stars in the Beehive cluster, and overwhelmed at seeing not only Saturn, but its moons also!

Now that is WOW !

Moral of the Story:

Collimation is nothing to be afraid of. As long as you are careful it is unlikely you will damage anything. I have read many forum messages where people shy away from collimating their telescope. They seem to assume it doesn't matter, or the factory got it right, and they need not do any more.

Collimating all adjustable items is an essential part of getting the best out of your scope, so the sooner you get to grips with it, and practice, the better you will know your scope, and be confident of how to do it. It's just simple mechanics - so master it!