Laser Collimator

Of all the telescopes I own at the moment, I do the majority of my visual observing through a 12″ Newtonian on a Dobsonian base. The plus side of the Newtonian is that it provides the biggest aperture for the least money. The down side? Well, with a newt you have to regularly perform collimation, this is a process wherein the primary and secondary mirrors are aligned both with each other and the focuser tube.

The idea of the laser collimator is to make it easier to achieve collimation in the dark of night (which is exactly the time you need to collimate). You snugly fit the LC into the eyepiece, turn it on via a switch on the end then adjust the primary and secondary so that the laser bounces off the mirrors, directly back up itself and into the little hole in the middle of the target on the side of the collimator. In effect you should see only one laser beam hitting the secondary then hitting the primary, the return beam should double back on itself without deviation in a perfectly collimated system.

Before using it I thought it sounded perfect, a way of getting perfect collimation in the dark, how could that possibly be anything other than absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately the LC is far from perfection.

In order to achieve accurate collimation with the collimator, you need to collimate the collimator! That’s right, you actually have to collimate the LC before you can collimate your telescope with it. This involves BUILDING your own rig out of wood to keep the collimator steady! You build the holder then place the collimator on it and turn it around in 90 degree turns, marking on a sheet of paper placed on the opposing wall where the beam is striking, you then use the adjuster nobs on the collimator to centralise the beam. That is if the !*%!* thing has got adjuster nobs, which the Antares does Not! In essence the Antares laser collimator can never be adjusted to make it work properly, therefore rendering it completely and utterly useless.

Also I hadn’t bargained on having to be a master carpenter or mechanic to operate a simple laser collimator, so I put it back in its box and that’s exactly where it’s stayed ever since. I now do my collimation with a simple Cheshire cap and a torch shined into the side mirror, it does ruin my dark adaption but as it’s done at the start of an observing session this isn’t a problem.

I can’t see any use for the Antares, even if it did have adjustment screws you’ve still got to mess about with wood and nails and sheets of paper before you can use it. I’d say stick to a cheshire and a torch or you can even get cheshires with a little red light built in so as not to spoil your dark adaption.

I should add, be very careful when using as the laser will damage your eyes, lasers and mirrors aren’t a good combination. I’ve come really close to blinding myself with this thing, so just make sure you know where the lasers gonna be before you turn it on.