Dr. Clay's Permanent Polar Alignment Without Polaris

This method allows anyone to get a semi-permanent OR permanent alignment of a telescope which cannot have access to a clear shot at Polaris nor the North Celestial Pole (NCP).   This can be done with either a German Equatorial or Fork mounting.

First, hit celestial north as best you can without actually seeing it.  When doing the two-star alignment, you can expect to see at least one if not both stars pretty far off; your setting them to center is your communication to the telescope and Autostar that it is not set exactly right and this will help to equalize this.

When you have a moment (during the full moon) a good exercise that can get you closer for permanent installation (you did not say if you were using a permanent setup or bringing it all in every night) is to go ahead and do your initial alignment.

Once done, slew to a star about 30 degrees NE of the meridian with a known declination; look at the DEC circle and note how much you are off from what it should be (be sure and use epoch 2000 coordinates);

Next, unclamp the DEC and turn it until the actual known DEC is entered on the dial properly.....the star will not not be in the field of view.... adjust the WEDGE so that you can bring that star BACK into center of the telescope and stop once done.

Now, repeat the process by slewing to another star in the NW part of the sky and do the same thing again.....your offset should be about half of what it was before the first procedure.

Once that is done, your final step is to slew to a star ON the meridian and almost overhead (near the zenith).  You guessed it:  do the same thing to that star.  It should be a very small amount by this time, adjusting only the wedge and leaving the two clamps firmly engaged.

It takes some time and muscle with the Superwedge, but the benefits are tremendous.

If you have the tripod and big wedge, why not MARK the feet of the tripod onto the surface that you use most AFTER this procedure is done; them just reset them each time out.  Or, you can do like Jim Phillips in Saipan and leave the wedge and tripod outdoors and cover with a good weather proof tarp.  A periodic squirt of WD-40 does wonders!

Best of luck.  This is a tried and true procedure for perfect alignment when Polaris and the NCP cannot be seen!

Dr. Clay


Copyright Arkansas Sky Observatory 2001  [A.S.O.] All rights reserved. Revised: May 30, 2002