BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Step by step


Step 1

Find the direction of north at your location. If it is your home location, you may already know the rough direction to point the mount. If you do not know where Polaris will be in the sky, use a compass or mobile phone to find where magnetic north is.

Step 2

Set up the equatorial mount with the north leg and counterwei­ght pointing in the approximat­e direction of north. It will be a rough alignment at this point, but the closer it’s pointed towards true north, the less work there will be in Step 4.

Step 3

Use a computer, or the handset if the software allows, to select and slew the scope to point at the Sun. For safety, ensure any finder has a secure cap fitted and the scope is not left unattended. Always use certified solar filters on the front of the scope or objective.

Step 4

It’s likely the scope is not pointing directly at the Sun. Without moving the mount’s Right Ascension and declinatio­n controls, you can move the position of the head using azimuth and latitude bolts. Get the Sun as close to the centre of the field of view as possible.

Step 5

Look at the shadow of the telescope cast onto the ground or safely let correctly filtered light in through the telescope to refine the centre of the Sun’s image. The mount should now, to all intents and purposes, be polar aligned.

Step 6

Lock down the mount so it doesn’t move and start observing. Monitor the movement of your target. If it drifts north or south in the field of view, the polar alignment is slightly out. If required, revisit Steps 4 and 5 until any image drift stops.

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