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Thread: Polar Alignment without Polaris

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    Default Polar Alignment without Polaris



    Does anyone have advice on getting a good polar alignment if you can't see Polaris? My favorite viewing location is the deck on the south side of our mountain cabin which of course blocks the view to the north. I can align on Polaris if I set up in the far corner of the deck, but that puts me next to an oak tree which blocks most of the sky. I've tried rough aligning to north based on a compass and then going through my Atlas mount's three star alignment several times, but that isn't working adequately to use it's GoTo capability or to track during imaging. I'm thinking I might try to use setting circles to line the mount up on several known star locations before starting the computerized alignment process, but haven't tried that yet. Any advice is appreciated.
    Allan

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    I made a webpage on polar alignment without Polaris.
    It requires a level and a wedge with an angle equal to your latitude, an eq mount (not necessarily put exactly level) and two objects or one object and the zenith.

    How to setup and adjust an equatorial mount
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    One of easiest ways I know if you have a helping hand and a green laser is have someone stand at location where they can see polaris and point at it with laser....this gets you close, works well when trees blocking way and scope locations doesnt allow scope to see through branches etc.

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    This is probably easier said than done: If you were to align the telescope on Polaris near the tree, then move it to another spot with the tripod's legs in exactly the same orientation, your polar alignment should be maintained.

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    Default

    You can drift align without seeing polaris. After doing it once, you could mark the tripod leg positions on the deck.

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    You could also use polar alignment software like Alignmaster - but you need to get your Atlas mount working properly with a computer (ASCOM drivers). That is now my main method and it works well.
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    i do what john said and it works for me in my apartment building
    My wife said she will leave me if I buy anymore astronomy gear..... Boy will I miss her !!!

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    Adjust your mount to match your specific latitude. Actually you can take the scope out to where you CAN get a good view to do this. Level it, adjust the mount/wedge, and lock it down. You can bring the scope back to your deck. The only trick now is to orient the mount so that the scope is pointed to true north.

    I do this all the time with my solar scope (since I can't see polaris during the day.)

    I looked up the magnetic variation for true north for my specific viewing location here: NOAA's Geophysical Data Center - Geomagnetic Data

    Then I picked up a good magnetic compass with a sight and fine marks (so you can get pretty accurate. A compass which only provides marks, say every 10 degrees, means you'll be "guessing" at the direction of true north. I actually picked up a military surplus field compass.

    When I set up for solar observing, it actually is surprisingly accurate. The sun is generally within the field of view of a 20mm eyepiece on the first slew without even aligning the scope. Just occasionally it's just barely in the view, but you'd definitely see the star in your finder and would be able to find tune the position of your mount.

    Once you get it aligned well, you might consider marking the position of the tripod legs on your deck so that each time you bring the scope out onto the deck you can put it back *exactly* where you knew you had a good alignment. When I did the transit of venus, I wanted a particularly good alignment... so I aligned the scope at night a few days prior, locked everything down, then put golf tees in the grass at my observing site so that I'd be able to place the scope *exactly* where it was on the night when I gave it a precise alignment.

    Your alignment will be good enough for visual use. If you were planning to do imaging then you'd want a much better alignment and can use drift alignment to find it (You don't need to point a scope anywhere near Polaris to do a drift alignment as long as you live in the northern hemisphere.)

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    What TCampbell said. In fact, I find I can get nearly as good a polar alignment with just a compass and the magnetic variation figure, than I can by sighting Polaris through the RA shaft. I use a compass similar to this one: Silva Lensatic 360 - Compass: Amazon.com: Sports & Outdoors

    I stand about 10 feet away from the mount, to the south. I face north, and sight over the top of the compass, putting the slit/wire/sight/whatever over the RA shaft and ensuring I'm sighting across the lens, until it's aligned. I then look down at the compass face and see how close to true north I am (noting the magnetic variation). I adjust the mount in azimuth, then sight again. I can usually get it dead on in three iterations, which takes all of five minutes. I then lock down the mount, hang the counterweights and OTA, and I'm off to the races!

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment without Polaris

    Thank you everyone for the helpful input. I'll have plenty to try next time I'm out observing.
    Allan

 

 
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