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Polar Alignment for Dummies

Posted by Edward Otto   05/27/2004 12:00AM

Polar Alignment for Dummies

Ever struggled with your polar alignment? I have, and have discovered a couple of tricks I'd like to share to make your lives a lot easier.

Step 1: KNOW YOUR LATITUDE!

Remember that the wedge on your telescope needs to be set to your latitude. This is something you can do in broad daylight! I carry what's known as an "inside protractor" - that I paid a whole $1.89 for - but you can make your own.

Get yourself either a thin piece of plywood or heavy cardboard. Measure out the angle for the latitudes you observe at. Then use the cardboard/plywood template to set your angle!

Step 2: POINT THE SCOPE NORTH

Alignment can be made easier if you set up your telescope so that one part of the base/tripod always faces the same direction - Due North. I have used an indelible magic marker to make a small mark on the wedge and the tripod so that when I assemble my scope the same parts point the same way every time. Also, assemble the scope so that one leg of the tripod is north.

Step 3: SMALL ADJUSTMENTS ARE BEST

Set your telescope's Declination angle to 89 degrees. While looking thru the eyepiece, tweak the angle of the wedge so that Polaris is centered in a 20 mm eyepiece. Then switch to a smaller one and check again. For normal observing, you probably won't need to make another adjustment - but for photography, you will want Polaris as close to center as possible in a 8 or 9 mm eyepiece.

That's all there is to it! Aligned like this, your 'scope will track any object in the sky correctly every time!

Dark Skies!

Ed Otto