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How to Polar Align a Telescope During Daytime

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Aligning your telescope is one of the biggest steps you can take on your journey to enjoying the sky. Observing the planets, tracking the sun, or even doing some astrophotography are all up there on why you may need to align your telescope during the day. Sure, it is easier to align your telescope at night, but that isn’t always going to be an option.

You should know how to polar align your telescope during the day if you want to capture the view of an event happening during the day. You don’t know how, though? Fortunately, you made it here and there are various methods to use. Below are two methods with steps to help you align your telescope during the day.

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The Smartphone Method

This is the most convenient method. While a smartphone is the most common tool, everyone has many didn’t know it can also help you align your telescope. All you need is a planetarium app and a few rubber bands.

What this app does is use the internal compass and accelerometer of your phone to line up with the sky. When you get the app, make sure you have the equatorial grid function on. Also use the crosshair or a Telrad field of view circle with it, which should be on your phone already. If not, use the apps Sky Safair of Skeye.

Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Steps to Follow

Now that you have your phone ready, there are a few simple steps to walk through.

  1. Set up your mount with the polar axis pointed to the North. If you are using a German equatorial mount with your telescope, attach your optic to the mount, then set the declination to +90 degrees and keep the lens cap on. This lens or the telescope itself is going to act as a surface perpendicular to the mount’s polar axis.
  2. Following that, open your planetarium app and place the phone on the lens cap with the back flat against the cap. You can do this with your phone in a case as well. Use the rubber bands or even tape to secure your phone to the mount. Make sure your brightness is as high as it can get to make sure you can see what is going on.
  3. Keeping in mind that the phone will be effectively pointing downward, as the display is on the top. Keeping that in mind start adjusting the fine controls on the polar axis of your mount and the grid will change accordingly.
  4. Move till you see the grid align with the South Celestial Pole. Once you have the Pole centered in the Telrad circle or behind the crosshairs, you are aligned. That is it!

This technique is easier with wedge-mounted telescopes, which are devices used to match the user’s latitude. To do that simply remove the telescope and use the flat surface of the wedge just like the lens cap. Once you’ve aligned the wedge the same way, you are ready to place your telescope back on the mount.

With practice, this entire operation will take less than a minute. This allows you to catch as much action as possible with the amount of time you have to track it.

Computerized Alignment Method

Let’s say you have a more technologically advanced telescope on your hands. If you do, then you don’t have to go through too many steps to get your optic aligned perfectly. Most of these telescopes have a built-in polar alignment routine. It is what takes the guesswork out of the alignment process.

Image Credit: Dewan S. Rahman, Flickr CC 1.0

Once you get to your location, make sure your telescope is on a flat area of land. This makes your life easier in the long run, and it allows for a stable platform. Then make sure your mount is facing the north.

What you are going to start is called the star alignment. You will use the Null star alignment on the mount and it will only require minor adjustments from you. Once you start the star alignment, you accept the default positions of the aligned stars. Do not make any adjustments at this stage. The star that you are going to use is the sun.

As soon as your device is done finding the alignment, you can then adjust the alt/az knobs to bring the intended target to your eyepiece.

That is the complete process in getting your telescope polar aligned with technology. It is simple and can be done in a matter of seconds.

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In Conclusion

With practice, you should be able to align your telescope with ease. Having an aligned telescope is going to make life easier for you to capture the best moments possible. With the ability to align your telescope during the day, you can take it anywhere. You’ll never miss an event during the day again.

Featured Image: Wutthichai Charoenburi, Flickr CC 2.0

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.