What is polar alignment and why is it so important?
With a German Equatorial mount you need to make sure you are perfectly aligned to Polaris when you are in the northern hemisphere. This ensures your mount has the best chance of accurately tracking your chosen objects. Without correct alignment you will find that your mount struggles to track objects accurately.
So what is involved and what is my process?
The way I do it is by starting during the day most of the time. I use a level and a compass to get my tripod pointing as close to north as possible and perfectly level.
I then add the mount and tighten it down before adding the counterweights and telescope and balancing them. There will be another post on the setting up of everything as it’s quite an involved process.
Once it gets dark I start the proper alignment. My mount comes with a polarscope built into it which makes things very easy! I just take the caps off and then use the diagrams drawn on the polarscope to position Polaris correctly for the time of year.
I use the free app called PolarAllign to find out the correct position. The image at the top of this post is from that app. I just position Polaris at the correct position and I’m good to move onto the next step of aligning the mount to the rest of the sky.
I’m not too sure what I’ll be talking about next time so I may go through one of my images to make things a bit more interesting!