Polar Alignment… a practice

As there was a short break in the cloud cover this evening, I thought I would take advantage and see if I could polar align my scope correctly following issues at the AstroCamp the weekend before.

Having read many guides and watch lots of videos, the first thing I did was set align my scope tripod north using a compass. This was followed by leveling the tripod using a bubble level, with the right equipment this is a fairly straightforward process.

Once I was happy my tripod was aligned and level I put the mount on top and begun the alignment process with Polaris. I had previously scored a line on the tripod to make setting the mount alignment easier. I used both this line and by looking along the side of the mount to set my polar alignment.

The next step was to balance the mount and set the home position, this was achieved using a small spirit level purchased from the local DIY store for under £5. In all it took about an hour to setup the scope, this time should be reduced when setting up in the day time.

Once I was happy with the setup of the scope, I attached my camera and re-balanced the tube. Unfortunately, live view on my camera doesn’t show any stars in order to focus the camera. To do this I take a 1sec, hi 2iso and check what is shown. The first photo came out like this:

After lots of adjusting and tweaking the focus (about 5mins) I finally got a decent focus of Shedir:

I carried on testing at different ISO or exposure times. At the recent AstroCamp the maximum exposure I was able to get without star trailing was 3 seconds, tonight I managed to get that up to 10 seconds.

I was really pleased with the results and to top it off I saw a shooting star!

Although it wasn’t a long night, as the clouds rolled in earlier than expected, I was really pleased with the results. It gives me hope that with more practice and time preparing the scope before a gazing session, I will be able to extend to possible exposure times further allowing me to photography deep sky objects.

Till next time.

As I journey through the wonders of the universe, my enlightenment to its beauty and vastness still amaze. As an amateur astronomer just starting out on my adventure, this is my blog and record of my adventure.