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Hi folks, I'm struggling with the Polar Alignment process and am still learning the ropes. I have a Skywatcher AZEQ6-GT mount with the built in illuminated polar scope. I've been totally unable to get Polaris in view in the Polarscope at night time and am looking for some tips.

I live in Bortle 4 skies so it's not like I can't see Polaris or find it with the naked eye (I can easily) but for the life of me, I've been unable to see anything through the Polarscope. I have tried various levels of illumination of the reticle from max to none and tried adjusting the focus. 

Is it supposed to be easy enough to see Polaris through the Polarscope? If I look at a dot on a page pinned to the wall through the Polarscope at home I can see it OK.

I've tried rough polar alignment before with mixed results. I think anytime I got it right was more down to luck than skill. I am considering exploring Drift Alignment now at this stage... would I be better off doing Drift alignment?

Here's what I do.

  1. Set up tripod with the N let facing North (using a compass to help).
  2. Use spirit level to ensure the tripod is level across all axes.
  3. Pop on the Mount.
  4. Ensure the mout is in the home position (as per the manual).
  5. Set latitude adjustment to approximately 53 degrees North on Mount.
  6. Adjust the RA bar to ensure there's a view through the Polarscope.
  7. Roughly get the RA pointed towards Polaris.

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You have done everything correctly. It appears as a tiny dot on the Skywatcher polarscope and is difficult to see but if you have the illuminator at around 50% it is easier. I found it much easier to use an  Omegon angled eyepiece for 90° polar finder-scope or similar https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FZ2FTZ3/ref=pe_3187911_189395841_TE_3p_dp_1 

That way you are not at an odd angle and it makes viewing polaris so much easier as it has a magnifier - and it fits Skywatcher polar scopes which are 30mm diameter. However I have dispensed with that too and now use a QHY Polemaster. Polar alignment in a couple of minutes (assuming no clouds).

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You may wish to check this concurrent thread too. 

I also have your mount but have never used the polar scope.  It's not necessary. Just do a rough alignment then use the handset polar alignment routine as described in the manual.  It's quite straightforward even if you can't see Polaris.  Also, remember a compass gives you magnetic north not true north.

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Plus if you only do visual accurate polar alignment is not necessary, with my AZ-EQ5 mount (which didn't come with a polar alignment scope) after carrying out similar to what you described, an object will stay in the field of view at medium power for up to about 1 hour.

John 

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Dont bother levelling the tripod.   Get everything else set up as before.

Get a digital  inclinometer.  (an app on your phone might do)   Stick this on the saddle and adjust to your location (53.3 degrees for me.)  

https://www.amazon.co.uk/KKmoon-Inclinometer-Electronic-Protractor-Aluminum/dp/B07FFM6FHT/ref=sr_1_6?crid=DLV53M4YU2QP&keywords=digital+level&qid=1578930697&sprefix=digital+level%2Caps%2C179&sr=8-6

Then when you look thru your polar scope your elevation will be bang on.   you just need to move side to side to find polaris and then make the final adjustments.

 

 

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I have the same mount as you and my location is also Bortle 4 and the Polaris is clearly visible in the polar scope.

When you say you can't see anything through the polar scope do you mean that you can't see any stars at all or just the Polaris ?

While Polaris is quite bright, you don't have to be much out of focus for it to dim pretty rapidly (I know, I lost it a week ago and was puzzled until I noticed I was way out of focus).

You could try to focus the polar scope in broad daylight on some distant object, preferably a few miles away. That way you would be roughly in the ballpark with the focus and

you could tweak it further once you get an hint of Polaris in the scope at your next outing. Once your spot on it really pops out.

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4 hours ago, volcanotop said:

Dont bother levelling the tripod.   Get everything else set up as before.

Get a digital  inclinometer.  (an app on your phone might do)   Stick this on the saddle and adjust to your location (53.3 degrees for me.)  

https://www.amazon.co.uk/KKmoon-Inclinometer-Electronic-Protractor-Aluminum/dp/B07FFM6FHT/ref=sr_1_6?crid=DLV53M4YU2QP&keywords=digital+level&qid=1578930697&sprefix=digital+level%2Caps%2C179&sr=8-6

Then when you look thru your polar scope your elevation will be bang on.   you just need to move side to side to find polaris and then make the final adjustments.

I use this technique too. I do in fact level my mount mainly for peace of mind. I use a digital inclinometer, sometimes called a "bevel box", and zero it using a high-quality spirit level. I then slap it on to the top of my mount (the bevel-box has a magnetic base) on a place that's parallel to the RA axis. I adjust the manual elevation adjusters (NOT the RA or Dec adjusters BTW!!) until the bevel-box reads whatever my latitude is, in my case 51.4 degrees. I am then fairly confident my elevation is close to spot on. I then use the manual azimuth adjusters (again to stress, not the RA or Dec adjustments) to move the aim from side to side. The polar scope has a field of view of about 6-7 degrees, easily enough to accommodate elevation error, and easy enough to bring it into view very quickly.

If you still can't find it, check whether anything is inadvertently blocking the polar scope - for instance does the counterweight bar recess into the mount and have a special orientation and hole to allow the polar scope to "see"?

Good luck, Magnus

Edited by Captain Magenta

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Your procedure sounds right, so perhaps it's just a little tweaking that's required ( the advice about checking focus above is very worth following).  

With my AZEQ6, I find sitting on a camping mat under the mount and sighting over the top of the mount (before scope and counter weights are added) allows me to get Polaris lined up reasonably well.  Then adjusting it in the reticule as per one of the many polar alignment apps usually gets me within 5 arc minutes which is enough for my guided imaging.  For visual it's not necessary to do more than a rough alignment.

When you're in the home position, can you see Polaris in the finder scope?  If not, how far out are you?  This may give a clue as to where it is and perhaps why it doesn't show in the polar scope

Edited by almcl

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For my HEQ5Pro, I've had to set the polar scope illumination to a minimum level - otherwise it drowns out Polaris.  After getting an angle finder, I've had to up the illumination if I use the magnification, as it turns the image much darker.

As suggested by others, I would make sure nothing is blocking the view - counterweight bar and axis - and of course lens cap.  You say you can see a dot on the wall at home through the polar scope. If it's in focus, it suggests that the scope is focused on close objects, and that something at infinity might not be ?

Regards,

Erling G-P

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Hi your procedure looks good to me.    Others have said don't bother leveling the tripod, however my experience is different.  Whilst it's not vital that the tripod is level, if you get into the habbit of doing so, you will find it much easier should you transition to using a polemaster or camera via PHD2 or SharpCap Pro.    This is because the correction they will need you to make will be in the form of Up/down/left/right, so having a level tripod will help here.  If it's not level, an up motion will have side motion as well, which will confuse the situation.

As for not being able to see polaris in your polar scope.  I think the problem here is that you don't have the focus set right.   Rather than using a piece of paper on a wall, try focusing on something as far away from you as you can get.    I typically use the buildings on the horizon (about 10 miles away) which then gets me close enough that I can then do final tweaks when I have polaris in view.  (The same trick works for my cameras as well)

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You can use the two-eye technique to ensure that Polaris is more or less within the field of view of the scope: Start well back from the eyepiece, with both eyes open, looking at Polaris. Move so that the polar scope occludes one eye, but (if possible) keep Polaris in view with the other. Get as close to the eyepiece as you can and still see Polaris with the other eye.

If you find yourself looking straight up the scope, it should be within the FOV and it's a focus problem. If the scope is at an angle to your line of sight, you need to adjust where it's pointing.

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Hi everyone - first of all I want to thank you all so much for the great help and advice. It's hard to really pinpoint which piece of advice helped me out as they all did, every single response... but definitely getting the focus right during the day was a big help. I managed to get Polaris nicely in view and I figured out a couple of things on the Polar Scope also. Looks like I got my alignment pretty spot on. I was able to get long unguided shots of Orion without much star trailing.

Now to work on my editing skills!!!!

Thanks again. Below was 23 sec exposures of M42 on a Celestron C11 XLT and Canon EOS450d (unmodded) and unguided on the AZEQ-6GT. Very happy! I also took a couple of 56sec exposures and they worked out great!

spacer.png spacer.png

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Good to hear that you got that sorted out. As many have pointed out SharpCap is an excellent tool to tweak your polar alignment with. I'm using it too, but I always start out with a polar alignment using the polar scope. That will get me within 5 arc minutes really fast and it's easy too. The fine tuning is with SharpCap and if I really want to go all out I do a drift alignment also.

I have the same setup as you (AZ-EQ6 + C11 XLT) and I can attest to that you will want to look into guiding sooner rather than later. Preferably an OAG as you have a big lump of glass flopping around in your tube. 😉 

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14 minutes ago, MarcusH said:

Good to hear that you got that sorted out. As many have pointed out SharpCap is an excellent tool to tweak your polar alignment with. I'm using it too, but I always start out with a polar alignment using the polar scope. That will get me within 5 arc minutes really fast and it's easy too. The fine tuning is with SharpCap and if I really want to go all out I do a drift alignment also.

I have the same setup as you (AZ-EQ6 + C11 XLT) and I can attest to that you will want to look into guiding sooner rather than later. Preferably an OAG as you have a big lump of glass flopping around in your tube. 😉 

That's cool Marcus. I will look into the SharpCap method. Does the SharpCap method need an imaging CCD or Autoguide Camera or OAG?

Nice to meet another person with the same setup. I've been told countless times to forget imaging with a C11 on this mount I never do what I am told :) - but the more I try I have to say the more amazed I am at what results I can get.

Have you been able to get good deep sky images with the C11 XLT? I would love to see some of your results if you have any you can share?

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11 minutes ago, WicklowSkies76 said:

That's cool Marcus. I will look into the SharpCap method. Does the SharpCap method need an imaging CCD or Autoguide Camera or OAG?

Nice to meet another person with the same setup. I've been told countless times to forget imaging with a C11 on this mount I never do what I am told :) - but the more I try I have to say the more amazed I am at what results I can get.

Have you been able to get good deep sky images with the C11 XLT? I would love to see some of your results if you have any you can share?

The SharpCap method needs a camera of some sort, it doesn't really care what you use as long as it can get an image with enough sky to platesolve.    I've been successful using various cameras using this method, DSLR, ASI290MM, ASI1600MM and Starlight Xpress Superstar.   I tend to use my guide scope to perform the polar alignment rather than the main scope.  That said, it doesn't really matter as long as the guide and main are fixed relatively.   I'm sure that you could use an OAG as well. It's more a case of try it and see.

 

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That was a good rundown about SharpCap by @cjdawson. I can't remember if I ever tried to polar align using the C11 (either with or without an OAG), but I suspect that the field of view will be a wee bit too narrow for SharpCap. The good thing about SharpCap is that you can test your camera-telescope combination with the free version to see if you need to acquire some more gear, it just won't guide you through the whole process.

You sure can do imaging with the AZ-EQ6 + C11, even deep sky objects. Try to get your guiding to < 1 arc sec RMS and adjust your expectations. An IOTD or APOD ? Likely not, but it still makes pretty pictures. And it's a versatile scope, go planet hunting from F/20-F/30 all the way to a wide field(ish) deep sky at F/2 with only a few accessories. Here's a few targets I've managed to image this season.

Note that they are very much more skill / talent / knowledge limited than what they are equipment limited. 😁

 

IC63_sg.jpg

Rosette_sg.jpg

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18 hours ago, MarcusH said:

That was a good rundown about SharpCap by @cjdawson. I can't remember if I ever tried to polar align using the C11 (either with or without an OAG), but I suspect that the field of view will be a wee bit too narrow for SharpCap. The good thing about SharpCap is that you can test your camera-telescope combination with the free version to see if you need to acquire some more gear, it just won't guide you through the whole process.

You sure can do imaging with the AZ-EQ6 + C11, even deep sky objects. Try to get your guiding to < 1 arc sec RMS and adjust your expectations. An IOTD or APOD ? Likely not, but it still makes pretty pictures. And it's a versatile scope, go planet hunting from F/20-F/30 all the way to a wide field(ish) deep sky at F/2 with only a few accessories. Here's a few targets I've managed to image this season.

Note that they are very much more skill / talent / knowledge limited than what they are equipment limited. 😁

 

IC63_sg.jpg

Rosette_sg.jpg

Incredible. Never thought that would be possible but the C11 does seem to be an amazing piece of kit really when you think about what you can do with it. Did you invest in hyperstar? I need to learn how to measure my tracking accuracy other than just looking at the images. Beautiful images.

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That was actually how I ended up buying a C11, I stumbled upon an affordable Hyperstar...😄

Whatever guiding software you end up using is going to tell you your tracking accuracy. Sometimes it will put a smile on your face, other times you'll be ready to dig a hole in the ground and bury all your astrogear….😉

 

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