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Are you an observing perfectionist?

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#1 MikeBOKC

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:47 AM

I quite often see posts on CN from visual observers who declare such things as "I always check collimation at the beginning of a session and several times throughout" and "I use this specific eyepiece on this specific object because only it shows it to the best advantage."

This strikes me as observing perfectionism, a desire to extract the absolute maximum possible view from equipment . . . and it also seems a bit futile on occasion given the variabilities associated with seeing, light pollution, transparency, etc.

For example, owning a CPC I am aware that SCTs usually hold collimation pretty well. I check it every two or three outings with a star test but I am not driven to make meticulous fine-tuning adjustments every time I set up in oursuit of absolutely perfect results. With the truss Dob, yes . . . but I am quite happy with a good collimation via the laser tool and don't feel driven to constantly recheck it through the night.

Just a general thought and discussion starter . . . can we get bogged down in observing perfectionism to the point where all that fiddling with equipment gets in the way of an enjoyable night?

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:16 PM

What with the weather over the past year, my gear is perfectly collimated (I know, I've checked it a few times); just waiting to be taken to a dark site...and be collimated......

#3 Dennis_S253

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:06 PM

It really depends what I'm going to be looking at. When I set up I do a quick star test. If it looks ok, I continue to view. If I'm going to focus on a planet, I want to make sure I'm collimated well. When viewing a object, I do like to try different EP's just to see which gives me the best view. I wouldn't call that perfectionism. It only takes a couple seconds to do a quick star test anyway.

#4 David Knisely

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:46 PM

With my XX14i, I have to collimate everything each time I set it up because it never goes together quite the same way. The secondary usually stays-put, but the primary mirror gets bumped around a bit and the trusses are not all quite the same length, so it takes a little tweaking to get things back to where the on-axis images are halfway decent. At f/4.6, good collimation is mandatory if you want good high-power views of objects (especially the planets), so if you don't get the collimation spot-on, you aren't getting all out of the scope that you might. Usually, it stays pretty much collimated all night long, but at set-up, I need to adjust things for a bit. With my SCT, it holds pretty well, so other than an occasional slight tweak after a long trip to the observing site, I don't have to do too much to it. Clear skies to you.

#5 csrlice12

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:53 PM

Truthfully, I've only adjusted the secondary once, the rest the time, I've only had to tweek the primary, which is pretty easy with the glatter....but then, it's rare for the secondary to get messed up.......

#6 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:35 PM

I am definitely not a perfectionist but I do check the collimation each and every night. For years my main and largest scope was my 12.5 inch F/4.06, slight misalignment's are very noticeable with that scope so I just learned to do it as part of the setup for the night. It's no biggie, it takes a couple of minutes.

Eyepieces, I tend to use them like the gears on my bike.. Pick a good one to start off in and then change gears/eyepieces as seems appropriate. For any object, there is no one "best view," each view is different and in any event, the views change night to night.

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#7 Tony Flanders

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 04:24 PM

I will admit that I don't always check the collimation on my 7-inch Dob -- and I'm perhaps lazier than I ought to be about getting the collimation precisely right on my 12.5-inch.

This is partly because the seeing in my area tends to be mediocre, so my scopes rarely perform to their limits in any case. And the 7-inch holds collimation remarkably well.

#8 GeneT

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:13 PM

I am not an observing perfectionist because seeing is one of the most important factors affecting images. I do collimate every time, and I do buy the best equipment I can afford (note I said that I can afford--I always recommend enjoying this hobby within our means.) I did not have to collimate my C8 at every outing like I do my 12.5 inch Dob. In short, collimation, cool down, fans, good optics will plus up the views--when there is good seeing.

#9 RAKing

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:27 PM

What's this "collimation" thing you speak of? :roflmao: Just kidding! I checked the collimation of my STF-Mirage Mak when I got it a couple years ago. It got here all the way from Moscow in perfect shape and it's still perfect.

I am a little fussy about polar alignment with my GEM, but after that, I fire it up and enjoy the view. I will rack the focuser in and out once or twice during the night, but that is mainly done to judge the seeing.

Cheers,

Ron

#10 City Kid

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:58 PM

If I'm going to be doing "serious" ( :lol:) observing I collimate the scope. When I'm just going to spend a short period of time in my backyard then a lot of times I don't bother unless I'm going to be observing planets. When all I do is move the scope to the backyard the collimation is usually very close anyway.

#11 Dave74

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 06:08 PM

I check the collimation everytime. Why not? Let's say I don't do it and I start viewing and the views aren't so hot. What's the first thing I'm going to check? The collimation. I eliminate a bad collimation as a factor right out of the gate and can then just accept the views for what they are.

I'm hardly a perfectionist. I like the routine of checking the collimation prior to viewing. Puts me in the mood. :smirk:

#12 David Castillo

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:43 PM

I'm not a perfectionist, but I do like to have my scopes well collimated every time I use them. I know what a good image is at the ep, and I like getting good performance out of my equipment.
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#13 Old Rookie

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 08:00 PM

Not a perfectionist by any means. I check the collimation at the start of the night and away I go. Close is good enough!!

#14 David Pavlich

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:10 PM

One of the great advantages to having an obs is the fact that the scope doesn't get bumped around, so collimation rarely goes haywire. I use an SC and if done properly, making your final adjustment by tightening the screw, collimation usually remains a constant.

David

#15 Tony Flanders

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:02 AM

I check the collimation everytime. Why not? Let's say I don't do it and I start viewing and the views aren't so hot. What's the first thing I'm going to check?


I suppose that makes sense. For whatever reason, checking collimation is instinctive -- part of my drill -- for setting up my 12.5-inch, but not quite with my 7-inch.

If the views aren't so hot, I do a star test. That instantly reveals whether the dominant problem is thermal (inside the scope or in the atmosphere) or collimation.

#16 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:30 AM

An observing perfectionist:

In my mind, David Knisely and Tony Flanders are two "observing perfectionists." It is not that they have perfect equipment, both have good equipment but the fanciest, it's not how much attention they pay to setting up their equipment.

Rather it is the detail and care they both use in preparing themselves for observing. This is the key to making the sorts of observations David and Tony make, they pay attention to the little things that make big differences. At the top of the list, dark adaptation.

The key to seeing more is not fancier equipment, it's becoming a better observer, developing one's skills at the eyepiece. That is where striving to be more perfect pays the biggest dividends.

Jon Isaacs

#17 Bob S.

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:04 AM

I am not sure that I would label collimating a scope as an attempt at perfectionism. However, whenever I am using a Newtonian, I like to collimate it to rule-out the scope's mirror alignment as a contributing variable to how the views are. During a long session lasting several hours with steadily dropping temperatures, I will do a touch-up of the collimation to insure that the scope is providing optimal performance for the given conditions. I am not sure why someone would not care about being able to see all that is available for a given observing session? If that is perfectionism, then I guess I am a perfectionist. Bob

#18 FirstSight

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:57 AM

I am not sure that I would label collimating a scope as an attempt at perfectionism. However, whenever I am using a Newtonian, I like to collimate it to rule-out the scope's mirror alignment as a contributing variable to how the views are.


Yes, exactly. Collimation is a nice bit of observing foreplay that helps set the right mood, both by paying ritual homage to the good condition of your equipment, and by giving soothing assurance that you've properly taken care of minimizing any impediments to the observing experience that are within your control, at least tonight. A piece of wisdom I got from my late father-in-law, who was a humble plain-spoken farmer up near Pilot Mountain, NC was that you can tell a lot about a man by how he takes care of his tools.

As to the observing part, I do enjoy the challenge of patiently searching for and recognizing objects (especially faint galaxies) which I find easier to do when I'm observing alone than at some kind of group session where the pleasure of socializing comes at the expense of some of the focus and discipline. However, I'm not so good at strictly sticking with a planned observing list, except maybe I'll have a very small handful of things I'm especially determined to go for if conditions prove suitable.

#19 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:32 AM

I am not sure that I would label collimatinga scopeasanattempt at perfectionism.



Exactly. Collimating a scope is standard operating procedure. Perfectionism is something else.

Jon

#20 kenrenard

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:28 PM

Jon,
I think you make a good point of preparation. When I first started a year ago I went out and just looked around to see what I could find. I now plan ahead of time what I want to look at. Sure, I take detours every night but not having any plan is pretty bad for a beginner. I am sure more seasoned folks can just look around the sky and plan where they would like to go and what looks good. For me I need to know what's is up in the area of sky that views best. I know south and east are much better almost twice as good as North and West from my house. I think dark adaptation helps as does spending time really looking at the object. I used to go too fast and move right to the next object now I find looking for longer periods bring out much greater detail.

I think this is where most beginners either get it or fail. They simply don't spend enough time looking at an object and just say " Well this is all I can see". It really does take time and patience to see some of the detail you experienced folks talk about.

I'm glad I have been able to read advice from seasoned observers on what they see. It certainly helps a beginner in looking for detail. Things like averted vision and wiggling the scope have shown more detail than a quick inexperienced look will.


Ken

#21 csrlice12

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 01:50 PM

If collimating your scope makes you a perfectionist, what does driving 1+ hours to a dark site do?????

#22 Feidb

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:40 PM

Since I break down my telescope because it is a truss tube design, I pretty much have to check it each time. If I'm able to set up with enough light, I use a $3 plastic cap I picked up at an Okie-Tex in the 90's. Tweak the mirror and that's it. Since I have to take my finder and GLP off each time, I of course, have to recheck them too, but tutherwise, that's it for the night. I don't bother with it again unless I see really wonky stars later in the evening then I know something is going on.

That's not perfectionism. That's just keeping a usable image. However, I've seen just the type people you may be alluding to. They seem to spend more time tweaking than viewing. If I were to watch them, I'd go crazy. Lucky I'm too busy actually accomplishing something!

#23 Carol L

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:28 PM

. . . can we get bogged down in observing perfectionism to the point where all that fiddling with equipment gets in the way of an enjoyable night?


Our time is our own, and what we do with it is simply a matter of personal choice. :)

#24 dennyhenke

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:53 PM

I do a star test. I'm only moving my scope 10 feet but have had to collimate a few times. Only takes a minute so no problem. I'd much rather check it and fix it and have the best view possible. I've invested over $1,000 in my scope and EPs and do my best to use it. If it's clear I'm out viewing and usually for several hours, no reason to not take a few minutes to set it up right.

As for choice of EPs, I do the same thing for every object. Start with the 26mm, then the 18mm and finally the 11mm. Sometimes the 5mm depending on the object and the seeing conditions. I enjoy seeing the difference between each of them and it only takes a second to switch them out.

#25 FirstSight

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 12:26 AM

I am not sure that I would label collimatinga scopeasanattempt at perfectionism.



Exactly. Collimating a scope is standard operating procedure. Perfectionism is something else.

Jon


Below is a good test of whether, for you, collimation is merely "standard operating procedure" or else whether it crosses over a bit into OCD-perfectionism. Assume you have the Catseye collimation tools, and the below picture shows the view of how your red triangle center spot appears when viewed in the Catseye Blackcat (i.e. cheshire tool). Here's the test question: Is the primary collimation shown comfortably good- enough for your tastes to consider it "done", and start observing? Or would that tiny sliver of black above the top vertex of the triangle make you itchy to continue tweaking collimation some more? "Remember, this is for posterity, so be honest" (line from "Princess Bride").

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