How to Set Up an Equatorial Telescope Mount In Polar Alignment.

How to Set Up an Equatorial Telescope Mount In Polar Alignment.
How to Set Up an Equatorial Telescope
Mount In Polar Alignment.
Please note that these directions are for Australian users only. Readers in the
Northern Hemisphere can substitute "North" wherever "South" is used.
This guide is designed for the novice astronomer to be able to get the most
benefit and enjoyment from their new telescope.
As the Earth turns on its axis the stars in the night sky appear to move across the
sky. An Equatorial mount is designed to allow to the user to follow this apparent
movement of the stars with ease, by rotating the telescope on a similar axis.
To be able to do this the equatorial mount of the telescope must be set up in
alignment with the Earth’s axis. This is called "Polar Alignment".
The procedure is relatively straight forward and will take only a few minutes. You
will however need:
1. A compass or some other method of accurately determining south (which is
the nearest of the Earth’s two poles).
2. The latitude of your location. A table of the latitude and longitude of all major
Australian and New Zealand cities is provided at the end of this guide.
This guide assumes that you have already assembled your telescope.
Step 1. Balancing the telescope and the mount.
This is necessary so that the telescope will not tend to fall away from any position
that you may move it to.
Set your telescope tripod on a hard level surface.
Loosen all the locking nuts so that the mount can swing freely.
telescope laid over in the position shown above:
Then with your
1. Loosen the clamping collar on the telescope tube and slide the telescope left
or right until it is balanced and will stay in this horizontal position.
2. Adjust the counter weight until the mount is balanced and will stay in this
horizontal position.
3. Re-tighten all the screws you loosened.
4. Lift the telescope back up to its usual upright position.
Congratulations your telescope is now balanced.
Step 2 Setting the tripod to face south.
At the base of the mount between the tops of the three tripod legs on most
models is a graduated ring marked from 0 to 360. Find zero on the ring. This
will be opposite one of the three tripod legs. (see picture below) If your
telescope does not have this ring do not worry. Choose one of the three tripod
legs and proceed straight to the next step and align the upright posts as shown in
the next step.
Zero degrees
Now loosen the locking nut so that the whole base can turn around this ring.
Turn the whole base (including the telescope) so that a line drawn through the
middle of the "tunnel" in the middle of the of the base points to the zero mark. At
this point the two upright posts that come up from the base which sits on this
graduated ring will be evenly aligned with the bracket that attaches to tripod leg.
Align these edges
Align these edges
Tighten the locking nut so that this part of the mount cannot turn anymore.
Take your compass and turn the whole tripod and telescope assembly (by lifting
and moving the tripod legs) until a line drawn through the exact centre of the
mount and the zero degree marking on the ring - faces south.
Step 3.
Setting your Latitude.
The angle from the surface of the earth to the axis of the Earth’s rotation varies
with your latitude - at the Equator the Earth’ surface is parallel and at the North
and South Poles it is at 90 degrees.
The second dial from the bottom is used for setting the latitude for your location.
Loosen the clamp and lift the mount until the pointer is at the number
corresponding to your latitude (there is a table at the end of this guide). The
nearest whole number will suffice. Eg Sydney will be 34 degrees.
Set this pointer to your latitude
Please note sometimes the mount will need to be rotated through 180 degrees
when it is first unpacked as some models are packed this way to save space.
Check your telescope to the picture above.
Also, some telescopes are fitted with a small screw which is designed to take
the weight of the mount when setting the latitude and ease the strain on the
clamping nut. Adjustments are made by screwing the screw in or out.
Tighten the clamping screw and you are finished. Your telescope is now in
"polar alignment". This means that the axis of the telescope’s mount is parallel
to a straight line drawn from the Earth’s North Pole through the centre of the
Earth to the South Pole. You will now be able to easily adjust for the apparent
movement of the stars with small adjustments of the cable adjusters.
Step 4 - Optional - Mark your positions.
Many people now choose to mark the positions of the tripod legs with small paint
circles or similar on the ground. This means that in future they will only have to
walk outside and set the three tripod legs in the circles and their telescope is
correctly aligned. Whether or not you choose to do this is entirely up to you.
Final Note. - The other two graduated rings.
You will note that there are two other graduated rings on your telescope which
have not been used. These are for the Right Ascension and Declination settings
which are for more advanced users, (and yes, one of them is designed to rotate
These rings allow advanced users to locate objects which are invisible to the
naked eye with the use of star charts.
If you wish to learn more about using these controls we suggest that you read a
more detailed guide book such as "Southern Skies" or "Astronomy 98" both
of which are available from your Tasco stockist. A brief guide is on page 9 of
"How to use you Astronomical telescope for the first time". The link will take you
to page 1 because we recommend that you read the whole guide.
Table of Latitude and Longitude for major Australian
and New Zealand cities
Alice Springs
Latitude South
27d 30s
33d 55s
37d 45s
34d 56s
31d 58s
12d 23s
16d 51s
42d 54s
35d 18s
23d 42s
36d 55s
43d 33s
45d 52s
41d 17s
35d 08s
Longitude East
153d 00e
151d 10e
144d 58e
133d 52e
115d 49e
130d 44e
145d 43e
147d 18e
149d 08e
133d 52e
174d 47e
172d 40e
170d 30e
174d 47e
173d 18e
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