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  1. #1
    spereira's Avatar
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    Default Polar Alignment w/o Polaris



    I'm thinking of how to align a wedge or tripod platform to Polaris without being able to actually see Polaris from my location. Unfortunately for me, Polaris is lost in the sky glow from nearby Manchester, NH.

    I've Googled around and I found that there is a spectacularly easy way to do this by using an Astronomy program on your cell phone. From what I understand, you run the program on your phone, place your phone on the plane that you want to face to the North, and select the southern Pole Star (Sigma Octantis). So, when you adjust the plane of your wedge or tripod such that your view in the Astronomy program is centered on the southern pole star, then you've got it.

    Am I right with this?

    I've found some "directions" online, but I don't know if I fully understand them. My only experience so far with an Astronomy program is with Stellarium on my Mac. This doesn't help me too much with pointing and centering on a target.

    Which Astronomy program do folks use? Stellarium? Sky Safari? Oh, yeah, I went to look for Sky Safari and there's something wrong where I cannot see any of the pages Google brings up. Is Sky Safari still available? Maybe it's my impeccable timing and their site is down right when I need them?

    Thanks very much in advance for any thoughts, comments, concerns or advice.

    smp
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Dunno, if something sound too good to be true then it probably isn't (true). The inclinometer probably works OK however the magnetometer is sensitive to metal. In my tests I had to keep it 2 feet away from my Dob before it was anywhere near where it should be. Still, for PA for AP you need to be about 1' to 2' accurate, which I doubt if the inclinometer will meet. For visual the inclinometer is probably fine.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Wow if you loose Polaris in the skyglow it must be pretty bad!

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  4. #4
    spereira's Avatar
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Quote Originally Posted by UlteriorModem View Post
    Wow if you loose Polaris in the skyglow it must be pretty bad!
    Well, yeah... Manchester is directly N-NE from my house, and we're just the next town over. We're perhaps 2.5 miles away from the border between Bedford and Manchester on Manchester's west side. That's pretty close, and, while the sky glow is not like being outside of Boston, it is pretty bad. I think we're Bortle 4-5 here.

    I have a bunch of woods to the east of me. Usually, I curse that because it takes quite a bit longer for things to rise up and clear them. OTOH, they also block a good bit of the glow, too. I take the silver linings where I can!

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    I have tried using the south pole for polar alignment for daytime, using an app to find it. Remember celestial north and magnetic north are two different things but this will get you close. For polar alignment get it close and then drift align to fine tune.

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Your location shows you in the northern hemisphere. So you won't be able to see sigma octanis.

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  9. #7
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Quote Originally Posted by KathyNS View Post
    Your location shows you in the northern hemisphere. So you won't be able to see sigma octanis.
    Hi Kathy,

    Thanks - yes, I know that. Here's where I found some directions on how to do this:

    Blind Smart-phone Equatorial Wedge or GEM Polar Alignment @ not so bad Astrophotography

    It appears that the Astronomy program(s) don't care where on the Earth you are, you just have to eliminate the view of the ground and then they'll look straight through the Earth and show you Sigma Octantis so you can adjust the plane of your tripod or wedge or whatever and get it centered.

    I haven't yet purchased the equipment I'm thinking about, so I'm trying my best to get this figured out beforehand. This method will obviously be handy for daytime solar viewing, and it appears that it would assist me greatly as I'm pretty much without a view of Polaris at night, too.

    smp
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  10. #8
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    I've done this with SkySafari in "compass" mode and using a transparent horizon.

    1. Ignore pole stars, it's the celestial pole you want.
    2. *Make sure mount is level (if possible, and the surface you use is stable, mark the position of the feet for next time)
    3. If you have properly calibrated the home position, leave the OTA cap on and place phone on the cap. If not, then use the plane you need to point to the NCP.
    4. Adjust until you get as close to a stable position on the SCP
    5. Drift align to fine tune (be warned, you will be pretty far off initially, but should be closer than pole star alignment)


    You can skip the last step if doing visual.

    *When placing on stable ground (concrete, blacktop, etc), marking were the feet of the tripod sit during first alignment cuts down future alignment time significantly. For visual, one can even go weeks or months with ever doing another alignment and still be closer than pointing at Polaris. In the case of "out in the yard", one can flush set three block or bricks and get similar results.

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  12. #9
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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    Quote Originally Posted by Lokifish View Post
    I've done this with SkySafari in "compass" mode and using a transparent horizon...
    Thanks very much for the confirmation, Lokifish.

    Celestial Pole, not pole stars - got it. Thanks.

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    Default Re: Polar Alignment w/o Polaris

    So this is the same problem I face when I use my Coronado to view the Sun.

    Assuming you have an equatorial mount... Just make sure your elevation (declination) is set to your location and simply point the polar axis (Right Assention) north as best you can. I do this all the time during the day and it keeps the Sun in the field of view of my Coronado for hours. If you want to align it for imaging you are in for a huge challenge. As it in it's probably not possible. Though someone may try to talk you through drift alignments :-)
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