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How to get quick and easy polar alignment and add a Push-To finder screen to an EQ2 mounted scope, all for £20.By Gasconman
I’ve found two apps and a couple of pieces of photo kit that I think could be a big help to other raw beginners like me. But before I get into detail on those, I would just like to mention my experience with my red dot finder.
The Sky-Watcher RDF which came with my Sky-Watcher 130M failed on its second outing. As I was reluctant to accept a replacement, FLO kindly gave me a voucher to set against the cost of a Baader 30mm SkySurfer III. I don't have a reticle eyepiece so, to make sure I was setting up the RDF accurately, I first sighted a target about 2 kms away from me using a 25mm eyepiece, getting the target in the centre of the EP as best I could judge (in daylight this is). I then adjusted the RDF until it fell on the target. I then swapped the 25mm EP for an 18mm and found that the target was off-centre slightly, so I re-aligned the scope and made further adjustments to the RDF. Finally, I changed the 18mm EP for an 8mm and did the same again. At the end of this, my RDF was absolutely spot on.
OK, moving on to the apps, the first is called PolarAligner, the second is called SkEye.
PolarAligner comes in two versions, free and paid for. The ‘Pro’, paid for version (which is cheap enough) has a ‘Daytime Alignment’ setting which I don’t think is available in the free version. Using ‘Daytime Alignment’, you lay your phone down on its back, on your mount, and parallel with the axis of the mount. You then adjust the azimuth and altitude positions of the mount with the aim of centring a white cross against a red target. Et voila! When you’ve done that, your mount is pretty much polar aligned! And in daylight! I lay my phone along my EQ2 mount axis by resting each end of the phone on the bottom of the two tube rings, holding it there with an elasticated hair band, kindly donated by my partner. See the image below taken in my home at around midday today.
SkEye is a free app which is similar to other sky map apps, except that it allows you to enter a target object and then shows you in which direction to move your phone in order to find that target. After you’ve selected your target, the app creates a circle with an arrow projecting from it, the arrow pointing in the direction in which you have to move the phone. When you have located the target, the circle brightens and expands, the arrow disappears, and the target is shown inside the circle.
To put the two apps into use, I swapped the tube rings on my mount, placing the one carrying the ¼” tripod screw at the front. After daytime aligning my mount with PolarAligner Pro, I fully tightened the azimuth and altitude settings on my scope and then fixed the OTA in place. In my case a Sky-Watcher Explorer 130.
The two pieces of photo kit I happened to have in my collection of bits and pieces were a spring-loaded smartphone holder with a ¼” tripod bush, and a dual camera photo bracket. The latter is about 25 cms long, and has a ¼” tripod bush at the centre with two 1/4" tripod screws on either side, each adjustable along a length of about 7 cms. I fixed the dual camera adapter to the front tube ring and then attached the phone holder to the right side of the adapter, as per the pics below. Then it was simply a case of putting my phone in the holder and making sure that it was exactly perpendicular to the OTA in both planes.
When I fired up SkEye and searched for Polaris... bingo!... I saw Polaris located in the circle as you can see in the photo below... so 10/10 for PolarAligner.
Using SkEye in a phone properly fixed to the OTA like this, you have yourself a brilliant ‘PUSH-TO’ facility. You can then obviously refine your target fix with your properly aligned RDF.
PolarAligner cost me £2.49, SkEye was free, and, as I said, the two bits of kit I already had. But you can get a tripod-bushed phone holder from £7 upwards, and the dual camera bracket is available on Amazon for £9. So, say £20 in total. And for that you get a brilliant polar aligning aid together with a Push-To sky map screen which makes operating your scope so much easier, especially if it’s an EQ2 mount like mine.
I hope this is of help to all absolute newbies like me
Sad news... I found out today that the creator of my beautiful Nova Hitch mount, Charles Riddel (based in Austin, Texas), passed away after a short battle with cancer.
Some of you will know of his hand built, CNC machined creations - the Half Hitch and Quarter Hitch alt/az mounts (and their 'super' variants), plus the Nova Hitch and FTX range.
Recently he has been working on bringing to market the Hitch Hiker, see here:
I'm sure you'll join me in sending our astro community condolences to his son Jake (who hopes to continue his father's work) and to the rest of the family...
A bit ambivalent about this as scopes come and go and a scope may come in the future resulting in seller's remorse, but here we go!
For sale is a Discmounts DM-4 as follows:
DM-4 Head 4" Tilt-in Saddle-3 4" Dovetail Converter Universal Angled Handle (shortened a bit as it was too darned long!) 4K Encoder Kit 4" Tilt-in Saddle-3 GRAB & GO BAG FOR DM4 DM-4 8" Tripod Extension Priced new these are (prices shown on Discmounts website) $1,555 + $190 shipping and insurance cost (took this from the invoice that Charles sent me) = $1,745 At today's rate it is £1,245 + VAT (ours is 19% so I will use ours to show my actual cost, not yours which is 20%) £236 + Tariff code 90058000 on telescope accessories of 4.3% (not applied on shipping) £48 = £1,529 which was my cost and the cost you would suffer (well, just a bit more as your VAT is just a tad higher). I am willing to part with it for £1,050 and I will throw in a Nexus II so that you have use of the encoders (if you don't "know your way around" or you are in a light polluted environment) which costs $199 + shipping + above taxes or about £185. Price includes shipping with full insurance and tracking via EMS (takes about 4 working days to hit your local post office) and PayPal fees. I will only accept PayPal (best for the both of us). Dropbox link with some photos here: Dropbox Link I may be willing to sell the tripod if someone is interested. It is the Sirui 5214X and if you grab the package above, I will toss in the tripod at less than half the price of Amazon. Amazon charges £799, I'll sell for £350. Tripod not sold separately unless mount sells first and kindly note that the photos include other equipment which do not form part of this ad and are not for sale. Prices are not negotiable as they are already quite low and also because I know that I will live to regret it when I decide in the future that I want yet another scope for which the DM-4 would be perfect... Here's your chance to grab a premium mount that can lift (and has according to various photos you can find on the internet) up to a 5" refractor (I have seen photos of it with a AP 130 and I tested it with my FS-128 and I only had to be a bit careful changing eyepieces because of the scope's length!) at a competitive price. I have had this setup for a year but used it sparingly (a total of 5-7 times?) as two months after purchasing the mount and tripod, I purchased a FS-128 and a AYO DIGI II mount and well, I love the FS-128 Clear skies, Nicos
for those that are interested, Serge from AstroDevices.com has sent me some pics of the encoders he has just finished working on for the Stellarvue M2 mount. Looks like a very professional job to me and I am looking forward to installing them ASAP.
I intend using them with the NEXUX DSC from Astro Devices but you could use the NEXUS II as well. I anticipate the encoders will cost around £290 ish here in the UK after taxes etc. Astrograph.net is the UK distrubuter.
The last image is of my own M2 opened up. Installation should take 15mins I am assured.