Polar Alignment

Polar alignment can be a daunting task for a beginner. Here, I break it down step-by-step using my Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro mount. Your mount may vary slightly but the process is still the same. Once you have this process nailed down, you should expect to complete polar alignment in a matter of minutes.

Why do we polar align?

To counteract the rotation of the Earth, our telescope mount needs to be polar aligned. Polar alignment is the most important part of the setup process in preparation for a night of deep sky imaging. Depending on your focal length, you can expect to see star trails from 30 seconds upwards – not ideal. By carrying out the process below you can expect to take 2-minute exposures with no issues. If you want to take longer exposures than that, then you’ll want to start auto-guiding.

Video Tutorial

Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer – Polar Alignment

I have written out the process below or you can follow my YouTube video tutorial here!

The Process

Listed below is the equipment you’ll need in addition to your astrophotography equipment.

  • Compass (mobile phone app is fine)
  • Spirit level if your tripod/mount does not have one built-in
  • A polar finder app (PS Align or similar)
  • Most importantly, a can-do attitude!

Step 1: Level the tripod. First, you’ll want to point your tripod north so that when the mount is sitting on top, you’re looking north through your polar scope. Once you’re pointing north, you’ll need to level the tripod by adjusting the legs. The Star Adventurer kindly has a bubble level on the equatorial wedge to make this part of the process nice and easy.

Step 2: Adjust the latitude. Now, you’ll need to find out what your latitude and longitude is for your location. I get mine from the PS Align or SAM Console app but a quick Google search will also tell you. My approximate latitude is 51 degrees, so I adjust my mount to approximately 51 degrees using the latitude adjustment bolt supplied with the mount.

Believe it or not, carrying out these first 2 steps will give you a rough polar alignment. Polaris should now be somewhere in your polar scope reticule, if it isn’t, you’re either not pointing North or your latitude isn’t quite accurate enough. Keep going, you’re nearly there!

Tip: Polar aligning at twilight is much easier as Polaris is one of the first visible stars in the sky. If you align before it’s fully dark, Polaris will be the only star visible in your reticule so you know you’re definitely aligning to the correct star.

Step 3: Fine tune adjustments. Next you’re going to carry out some fine-tune adjustments while looking through your polar scope until Polaris matches the position on your app. See the example image below from PS Align.

This image shows Polaris at the 9 o’clock position. Using your azimuth and latitude adjustment bolts, adjust your mount until Polaris is in the same position as the app shows. Once you’ve done this you’re polar aligned.

Tip: Don’t forget to turn your mount on once you’re aligned!