There can be many reasons why you need to polar align your telescope during the day. You may want to track the sun, take some images of planets or do some long-exposure shots after sunset. Whatever the reason may be, you can actually polar align a telescope during the day.
In this article, I am going to show you 2 methods on how to polar align a telescope during the day.
So, let’s get started!
First Method: Using A Smartphone and 360 degree Protractor
This method is divided into two parts:
1. Aligning The Azimuth Towards North
- First, you need to get yourself a 360 degree protractor. Place the protractor on the pier or flange of the tripod. Make sure the 0/360 scale is aligned to the peg-hole or alignment peg. Also, both the center of the flange and the center of the protractor needs to be aligned.
- Now you need to have an app on your smartphone that can effectively track the sun. if you are a windows phone user, try Sun Tracker. Sun Surveyor will be good for Android users. Sun seeker is good for iOS users.
- Use the app to track the direction of the sun. Morning and evening are the best time for it.
- Now take a ruler and place it on top of the 360 degree protractor. Take the direction of the sun from the app and form a radius with the ruler following that direction. Take a pin and put it along the radius.
- Rotate your pier or tripod until the radius and shadow of the pin overlap or seems to be in parallel.
- Now install the equatorial mount usually.
2. Aligning the Altitude
- Install a GPS app on your phone. The app needs to be able to determine your current longitude and latitude. Now with the app, find out your current latitude. Google Map is my preferred app for this purpose.
- Download an inclinometer app on your smartphone. Take a flat surface to calibrate the app. Make sure the app comes with a function for calibration. Clinometer + bubble level app will be perfect for this.
- Turn ON the inclinometer app. Secure the smartphone above the dovetail saddle. Now you need to change the inclination of the mount and set it according to the latitude considering the offset.
Congratulation! You’ve successfully polar aligned your telescope (during the day!).
Second Method: 30 Seconds To Polar Align Your Telescope
This is a rough estimation method for polar alignment. But the good thing is, it only takes 30 seconds once you get the hang of this method. Also, all you need to have is a smartphone with a planetarium app. The planetarium app will automatically line up with the sky using the accelerometer and internal compass of the phone. You’ll also need an equatorial edge or a flat surface over the lens cap.
- The first step is to install the app. Make sure the app comes with an equatorial grid function. Also, a Telrad field of view or crosshair view will be of great help for this. Sky Safari or SkEye both of these apps will be perfect for this purpose. Make sure you’ve set the display brightness of your phone as high as possible (as daylight makes the screen hard to see).
- In this step, we’ll set up the mount. The polar axis needs to be directed towards the north. For those who have a German equatorial mount, set the optic to the mount, change the declination to +90 degree and leave the lens cap ON. The lens cover will act as a perpendicular surface to the polar axis of the mount.
- Open the planetarium app first. Now secure the phone above the lens cap using some elastic cord or tap. As the display of the phone is on top, the phone will be directed towards the South Celestial Pole.
- Keeping the above point in mind, you need to fine-tune the polar axis of the mount. The EQ grid should change accordingly. Adjust until the south celestial pole and the grid aligns perfectly.
- Once your pole is perfectly centered behind the crosshair or in the Telrad circle, your telescope will be polar aligned perfectly.
If you have a wedge-mounted telescope, this technique will get far easier. Adjustable wedge-like devices can move according to the user’s latitude, which makes this technique extremely easy.
This method won’t guarantee a perfect long duration sun tracking, however, this 30 second procedure will offer you 3 to 4 minutes perfect tracking of the sun.
Why Polar Aligning Your Telescope Is Necessary?
It is very important to perfectly align the telescope mount axis according to the motion of the sky. Only after an accurate polar alignment, you can easily track objects in the night sky. The polar alignment process varies from telescope to telescope. German equatorial mount owners can very easily polar align their telescopes within just 10 minutes.