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The other regulars and I at the DC ATM group at the CCCC have been trying to test a 12 inch Cassegrain mirror and telescope manufactured nearly 50 years ago by a company called Ealing and currently owned by the Hopewell Observatory, of which I am a member. It hasn’t been easy. I discussed this earlier on Cloudy Nights.

Reports from several people, including Gary Hand and the late Bob Bolster, indicated that the optics on this mirror weren’t good at all. Apparently the folks at the University of Maryland’s observatory were sufficiently unhappy with it that they either sold it or gave it to National Capital Astronomers, a local astronomy club, who in turn gave it or sold it to Hopewell Observatory.

With a plain-vanilla Ronchi test, we could see that the mirror was very smooth and continuous, with no turned edge, astigmatism, or bad zones. With the Foucault/Couder zonal test (aka “Foucault” test) , I got results indicating that it was seriously overcorrected: some sort of hyperboloid, rather than the standard paraboloid characteristic of classical Cassegrain telescopes, which have a parabolic primary mirror and a hyperbolic secondary mirror.

However, I have begun losing my faith in my zonal readings, because they often seem to give results that are way out of whack compared to other testing methods.

So we decided to do some additional tests: the Double-Pass Auto-Collimation (DPACT) test used by Dick Parker, as well as the Matching Ronchi test (MRT).

The DPACT is very fiddly and exacting in its setup. We used (and modified) the setup lent to us by Jim Crowley and illustrated by him at his Astro Bananas website. Our results seem to show that the mirror is in fact NOT parabolic, rather, overcorrected, which confirms my Foucault measurements. If it were a perfect paraboloid, then the ronchi lines would be perfectly straight, but they definitely are NOT: they curve one way when inside the focal point, and curve the other when the tester is outside the focal point.

We also tested the entire setup on a radio tower that was about half a mile (~1km) distant. We found that the images were somewhat blurry no matter what we did.

We also attempted the MRT on the same mirror. However, requires very accurate photography and cutting-and-pasting skills in some sort of graphics programs. What you are inspecting is the curvature of the Ronchi lines. Here is the result that Alan T and I got last night:

matching ronchi for 12 inch cass

In black is the ideal ronchigram for this mirror, according to Mel Bartels’ website. The colored picture is the one we made with either my cell phone or the device I finished making earlier this week, shown in my previous post. Here are the two images, separated rather than superimposed:


ideal ronchigram 12 inch cass ealing

The mirror’s focal length is 47.5″ and the grating has 100 lines per inch, shown somewhat outside of the radius of curvature. The little ‘eyelash’ on the lower left is simply a stray wire that was in the way, and doesn’t affect the image at all. The big hole in the middle is there because the mirror is a cassegrain.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really see any differences between the real mirror and the theoretical mirror. Do you?


So, what does this all mean?

  • One possibility is that the mirror is in fact perfectly parabolic (as apparently shown by the MRT, but contrary to what I found with Foucault and DPACT) but there is something wrong with the convex, hyperbolic secondary.
  • Another possibility is that the mirror is in fact NOT parabolic, but hyperbolic, as shown by both my Foucault measurements and the DPACT (and contrary to the MRT), which would mean that this telescope was in fact closer to a Ritchey-Chretien; however, since it was marketed as a classical Cassegrain, then the (supposedly) hyperbolic secondary was in fact not tuned correctly to the primary.
  • The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • A star test would be the best answer, but that would require being able to see a star. That hasn’t happened in these parts for quite some time. In addition, it would require an eyepiece holder and a mount of some sort. Or else setting up an indoor star…