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Gasconman

How to get quick and easy polar alignment and add a Push-To finder screen to an EQ2 mounted scope, all for £20.

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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

DSC07140-text.jpg.dceef2bcdf09747bf0a083c0129070ea.jpg

DSC07147.jpg.3260ea5e5ac2063062588b3a86a62363.jpg

DSC07136.jpg.91c9f96dbf4a27c98577525d70b4ba9d.jpg

DSC07145.jpg.61e8a0e0e4d72ef7c877e73a1ac70d42.jpg

Edited by Gasconman
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3 hours ago, Gasconman said:

PolarAligner comes in two versions, free and paid for. The ‘Pro’, paid for version (which is cheap enough) has a ‘Daytime Alignment’

PolarScope Align Pro has the same feature. I use it for a rough alignment whilst setting up during the day. You may find it more accurate than your version as it’s not a beta and has been out for a while. You have to bear in mind though that, due to the metal/magnetism in your mount it will only be a rough alignment which maybe fine for visual obs. I find that it will get Polaris in the fov of the polar scope (most of the time) but adjustment is needed at night through the polar scope for accurate PA. Useful and time saving feature though

Edited by Jiggy 67

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Not sure i followed all that,😉

TBH, i'm a bit lazy with all this polar aligning.

If i had a permanent  setup, i'd make the effort,sure~ but unless your doing astrophotography (sorry, i'm showing my age~ "Astro imaging" 😄)...it's overkill??

All i do is set my latitude scale right, plonk the mount down roughly facing north & away i go..... & it does well enough for visual stuff.

Not actually used a polar alignment scope in years.

Though,I guess if you've got goto, you can't take the lazy option.

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Hi been using polar alginment app for a while its a great tool 

I didnt know about the other one so will look it up 

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22 hours ago, Gasconman said:

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.

And it allows you to add alignment stars to correct for any Polar alignment errors or the way in which your phone has been mounted on the scope. So your phone can be mounted with its back to the OTA as well.

Edited by AstroMuni
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got me to thinking if I can co-opt an older droid phone, sadly tho they are droid 4 or 5 variants and SkEye needs v6 or above. Might have a look at updating to LineageOS 16 or 17 to bring them up to v9/10 tho I think the older Note-1 still wouldn't be useful. The note-3 may be up to the job tho but it'd lose the S-pen apps going that route.

For polar, I tend to be lazy and either use a compass to aim the RA to north on the EQ2 and manual EQ5 or the app for the EQ5 goto. Seems to work fine for me but I'm visual not imaging so high accuracy tracking isn't a problem.

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On 16/09/2020 at 16:18, Gasconman said:

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

DSC07140-text.jpg.dceef2bcdf09747bf0a083c0129070ea.jpg

DSC07147.jpg.3260ea5e5ac2063062588b3a86a62363.jpg

DSC07136.jpg.91c9f96dbf4a27c98577525d70b4ba9d.jpg

DSC07145.jpg.61e8a0e0e4d72ef7c877e73a1ac70d42.jpg

That's a great idea with the dual camera bracket and phobe holder. I hope you don't mind if I construct something similar to yours. I have a phone holder of an old tripod and a flat piece of metal with holes in it to attach to my scope ring and phone holder as I'd like to try the phone apps to show what I'm seeing without guesswork. I'll post photos of when it's made and fitted. Clear skies 

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On 18/09/2020 at 22:08, LeeHore7 said:

That's a great idea with the dual camera bracket and phobe holder. I hope you don't mind if I construct something similar to yours. I have a phone holder of an old tripod and a flat piece of metal with holes in it to attach to my scope ring and phone holder as I'd like to try the phone apps to show what I'm seeing without guesswork. I'll post photos of when it's made and fitted. Clear skies 

I don't mind at all. Glad you found it useful. It'll be interesting to see your results 🙂

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7 minutes ago, Gasconman said:

I don't mind at all. Glad you found it useful. It'll be interesting to see your results 🙂

Hi

Thank you thought id ask first.  I was going to make a plate to attach the phone holder to but I can attach the holder straight to to camera screw on the scope rings to try that first then when i want to put my dslr on just unscrew the phone holder I thought, when the clouds disappear I'll let you know the results of this, I'm looking forward to using this to easily find the objects in the sky rather than guesswork and star hopping which I'm still learning. 

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11 minutes ago, LeeHore7 said:

I can attach the holder straight to to camera screw on the scope rings to try that first

Yes, that was the first method I used. However, I found that the phone blocked the view into my RDF. The angled dual camera bracket was the only way I could think of to offset the phone slightly to the right.

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managed to flash a ported Note-7 ROM onto my old Note-3 last night, so it now runs droid v6.01 and SkEye installs and runs. Will need to sort a suitable phone holder for it and then I can give this a go. Am thinking to use one of the Manfrotto 200PL plates to fix it on the tube ring, that way I can use the quick-release to swap between a couple of the scopes easily. Pity you have to aim it at the sky as if taking a pic rather than having the phone parallel to the OTA which would be easier when aiming high, not to mention less chance the phone might drop face down... 

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2 hours ago, Gasconman said:

Yes, that was the first method I used. However, I found that the phone blocked the view into my RDF. The angled dual camera bracket was the only way I could think of to offset the phone slightly to the right.

Yes this is the way I'd of gone, I have a ra finderscope so no issues with the blocking, clear skies 

Edited by LeeHore7

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On 20/09/2020 at 14:18, DaveL59 said:

Pity you have to aim it at the sky as if taking a pic rather than having the phone parallel to the OTA which would be easier when aiming high, not to mention less chance the phone might drop face down... 

But the whole point of it is that the phone has to be aimed at the sky, perpendicular to the OTA in both planes, otherwise the 'Push-To guidance' isn't going to work.
If you use a decent phone holder, like that Manfrotto I'm using which has a pretty fierce spring and dimpled rubber grips, there's no way the phone is going to drop out.

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15 minutes ago, Gasconman said:

But the whole point of it is that the phone has to be aimed at the sky, perpendicular to the OTA in both planes, otherwise the 'Push-To guidance' isn't going to work.
If you use a decent phone holder, like that Manfrotto I'm using which has a pretty fierce spring and dimpled rubber grips, there's no way the phone is going to drop out.

yeah I have on order a holder to use. Reason in part I made that remark is if you look at the celestron starsense explorer, using a mobile parallel to the OTA, tho that has plate-solving using the camera. Downside of the phone having to be perpendicular is its a bit like using a straight thru finder vs a RACI one, much more of a pain in the neck...

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ok bits arrived (also posted to the postman thread). The Joby phone holder seems good tho the note with case isn't too secure with the extra thickness but I do like the clamp method rather than a sprung system. Had those break before with the larger phones I run.

image.png.6c6c216d28fad2de37ba89b09d48b07b.png

image.png.9cba4a2c4bb27f7863f542107e511139.png

Will be an easy swap between scopes, on the TAL100 there its screwed into the dovetail bar under the OTA since the tube rings aren't tapped with 1/4 tripod sockets where the bar itself is, handy. Just need to sort a means to mount this on the TAL-M and vintage 3-inch at some stage.

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hi all

had a play about with SkEye tho not while observing as its been pretty lousy weather here, it looks to me like we can set the phone up as suits, so as per the above rigs with the phone vertical to the OTA or parallel to the OTA. The latter would mean a lot less craning to see the phone when aiming at high targets and is perhaps easier to use. If you select a target then from the guide screen go into the menu and select "Indirect Mode" you can add alignments. So you'd aim the scope at the target you selected and hit accept, which aligns the chosen target according to how the phone is mounted. From there you should be good to go. Hopefully I'll test that out sometime soon and report back, but it looks promising from just handholding the phone and targeting Mars a short time ago 🙂 

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