Choose your book when you subscribe to BBC Sky at Night Magazine today! You can check the accuracy of your polar alignment on any clear night by loosening the polar axis clutch and steadily rotating the telescope around this axis. This will help you set up a bit quicker next time you head out observing, providing you plan to position the tripod in the same place – use the markers next time and you’ll find the tripod is near-level from the start. Certain telescope positions are more susceptible to this possibility than others, such as when the telescope is pointed upwards towards the zenith (the point of the celestial sphere directly overhead of the observer). An equatorial telescope mount seamlessly balances the movement of the two axis simultaneously. Fork mount - a two-pronged fork that sits on a wedge that is aligned with the Earth's pole. The simple steps set out below page tell you how, and most of them can be performed during the daytime in anticipation of a clear night’s observing. Now adjust the angle of the polar axis. A GEM is the best possible choice for long-exposure astrophotography. A basic, lightweight equatorial mount and tripod can provide you with support and control of your small telescope. For example, with a non-tracking telescope mount such as a traditional Dobsonian design, objects at high magnification appear to gradually drift by in the eyepiece. You just have to rotate the telescope’s other axis – the declination axis – to stay on target. Properly set up, the polar axis of an equatorial mount is parallel to Earth’s axis of rotation and, therefore, doesn’t need to be adjusted further. Deep sky astrophotography images captured on an equatorial telescope mount. Turn the altitude adjustment bolt until the spirit level is level; the polar axis should now be parallel with Earth’s axis. The equatorial (EQ) mount head is fastened to a tripod that elevates the telescope to a practical height for observations or photography. You’ll find that each company has their own system, but they are all quite similar. Plate solving has several advantages over a manual star alignment routine, such as the ability to match an existing object framing from a previous imaging session or meridian flip. Equatorial mounts can be a bit of a mystery if you’ve never used one before, but they don’t come much simpler than the EQ-1, which many small telescopes come with. Amateur astronomy enthusiasts and astrophotographers rely on an equatorial telescope mount to track the apparent movement of the night sky. This design allows the attached instrument (your camera or telescope) to stay fixed on a celestial object by driving one axis at a constant speed. Equatorial mounts usually include 1 or 2 counterweights as a package, depending on the payload capacity of the mount. The on-board computer system on the telescope mount can be controlled using a hand controller or with your PC. Amateur astrophotographers go to great lengths to ensure that their equatorial telescope mount head is well supported and secure. The QHY PoleMaster electronic polar scope requires an adapter to attach to the telescope mount. Use a compass to adjust your mount away from magnetic north accordingly. It may be easier to set up a camera-type altazimuth (altaz) mount, but an equatorial mount has the advantage of only needing to be rotated around one axis to keep your target object in the field of view, rather than two. To control a computerized telescope mount with your PC requires some additional software and drivers such as ASCOM. These coordinates can be a useful way to pinpoint objects on the celestial sphere and is often used in star charts. , Ideally, one that shows angular degrees and is easy to read under red light, , To mark the position of each tripod leg after you’ve polar aligned your mount, to make the process quicker in future, How to collimate a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, Create a protective shield for your telescope pillar. This ‘How to’ originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Make sure all the bolts are tight. If it does not, turn the finder’s adjustment screws to achieve alignment. There’s a simple explanation for why this is the case. This is also a non-issue for deep sky observations such as galaxies or star clusters, as the movement of the object is quite slow. The same care must be given to the profile of the equipment mounted, as you want to avoid the telescope or camera from ever striking the legs of the tripod. Ninian Boyle is an astronomy educator. For those interested in prime-focus astrophotography, a computerized equatorial telescope mount is essential. An equatorial mount is made up of a tripod and a mount head, which holds the telescope and moves it about on two axes, one called right ascension (RA; east-west) and the other called declination (Dec.; north-south). The DEC axis moves the telescope north and south, and the declination axis moves the telescope east and west. An equatorial telescope mount operates in two axis, RA, and DEC. Hold the template and spirit level against the side of the mount’s polar axis as above; you many need to cut a space in the template for your mount’s wormwheel. An equatorial telescope mount (often called a German equatorial mount, or “GEM”) that has been accurately polar aligned with the polar axis of the Earth can follow a particular object in the night sky for an extended period of time. 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