You are fond of observing planetary position, tracking the sun, or doing some astrophotography. These are enough reasons that require you to be polar align a telescope in the daytime. It is also essential to align the telescope mount axis perfectly according to the sky’s motion. At night, it may be easier to polar align your telescope.
But you should also know how to polar align your telescope in the daytime if you want to observe a particular event taking place during the day. Fortunately, a couple of methods described below will address how you can polar align a telescope in the daytime.
Smartphones are multi-purpose mobile computing devices that have narrowed down various other devices by bringing them all in one. You can also use your smartphone to align your telescope during the daytime, and sounds great, right!
Sky and Telescope developed an app for mobile devices called Planetarium.
The app will use the internal compass and accelerometer of your phone to line up with the sky. Install this app on a smartphone, make sure it comes with an equatorial grid function. Crosshair or a Telrad field-of-view circle, either, would be great. Sky Safari and Skeye apps are perfect for this purpose.
Now follow few simple steps:
- Adjust the mount such that its polar axis exactly points in the north.
- After fixing the telescope on its mount, keep the lens cap open. The lens cover acts as a perpendicular surface, which can hold your phone. If you are using a German equatorial mount, you have to set the optic to the mount and then change the declination to +90 degrees, leave the lens cap ON.
- Launch the app and, using some elastic cord or tape, secure your phone above the lens cap. Make sure that your phone screen is facing up. As daylight makes the screen hard to see, set the display brightness as high as possible.
- Fine-tune the polar axis of the mount. EQ grid will change accordingly. If you are based in the southern hemisphere, twisting prescribed knobs for adjustment will align the EQ grid with the north celestial pole and vice versa if you are located in the northern hemisphere.
- The instance, your planetarium views directly behind the crosshairs or centers in the Telrad circle, you have successfully polar aligned the telescope.
The whole procedure takes a few seconds. However, this technique will get far more manageable if you have a wedge-mounted telescope. Telescopes, such as ETX EC-90 and Meade LX200, come with wedge-like surfaces where you can put your phone. The polar alignment process is different for each telescope. If you have a German equatorial mount, you can easily polar align your telescope within just 10 minutes.
Using a smartphone and 360-degree protractor:
This method is divided into two parts, aligning the Azimuth towards the North and aligning the altitude.
Aligning the Azimuth towards North:
- Get a 360-degree protractor and place it on the flange of the tripod. Align the 0/360 scale to the alignment hole and align the center of the protractor and the center of the flange.
- Install an app that can track the sun on your smartphone. Sunseeker is good for iOS users, Sun Tracker for a Windows phone user, and Sun Surveyor for Android users.
- Track the direction of the sun using the app. Morning and evening are the best time for it.
- On top of the 360-degree protractor, place a ruler. Form a radius with the ruler following the direction of the sun. Put a pin along the radius.
- Rotate your tripod until the shadow of the pin and the radius overlap or seems to be in parallel.
- Install the equatorial mount.
Read More about the using steps of a tripod
Aligning the Altitude
- This requires a GPS app that can determine the current longitude and latitude. Find out your current latitude.
- Install an inclinometer app on your phone. Take a flat surface to calibrate it.
- Secure the smartphone above the saddle and turn on the inclinometer app. Considering the offset, change the inclination of the mount to set it according to the latitude.
Using Polar Scope and Compass
To polar align your telescope using this method, you need to have a good compass with hairline sight. Using the compass, you will be able to find the location and changes in the horizon. Along with a compass, you also need a polar scope for more precise alignment.
The procedure is as follows:
- Adjust your mount facing north. Make sure you place your mount on a flat surface. Use a bubble level to confirm it.
- Update GPS in mount’s controller, and it will detect time and location. Align the polar scope reticule. Remove the dust caps from either end of the Right Ascension RA axis, and then lower the countershaft bar and rotate the Declination axis so that you can see through the polar scope.
- Check bisection on RA axis through compass, the line that is falling on a faraway object in the horizon. Using the latitude adjustment bolts, correct the inclination of your mount. And by fidgeting the alt/az knobs on the mount, the altitude changes, and you can point polar scope near the horizon.
- By following the steps mentioned above, you can polar align your telescope.
Computerized Alignment Routines
Many goto equatorial mounts have been designed with advancements in technology that contain a built-in polar alignment routine. Polar alignment routine is programmed into the hand controller functions. For example, the Celestron mounts have an All-Sky Polar Alignment technique. You do a normal star alignment, then the mount syncs on a star near the meridian in the south.
Using “Null” star alignment on a goto mount requires only slight adjustments. The procedure involves following steps:
- Set up your mount facing the north and start a star alignment.
- Blindly accept the default positions of the alignment stars, don’t make any adjustments.
- For daytime polar alignment, use goto to point to the sun. Otherwise, go to a bright star instead.
- To bring the intended target to your eyepiece, use alt/az adjustment knobs.
The QHY PoleMaster:
The QHY PoleMaster is an electronic pole alignment device. To capture an image of the northern sky to calculate where true north is, the QHY PoleMaster utilizes a high-sensitivity camera. The information is displayed on the screen, and you can quickly adjust the mount. It is a high-precision electronic polar alignment device.
If you are using this, you don’t have to worry about entering the date and time to the handset, nor does it require you to kneel or contort your body to look through the polar finder scope.
A precise polar alignment doesn’t just ease out the process of taking better images. Still, it also beneficial when it comes to astrophotography, especially when it comes to capturing longer exposures without you worrying about tracking errors.
If you have a permanent home observatory where the polar alignment process needs to be done once, you are lucky enough. If not, experience in doing so will make you master polar alignment.