Finding Polaris?

Started 9 months ago | Questions thread
Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 6,036
Re: Finding Polaris?

If you're able to see the Big Dipper, you can use the front "bowl" stars as pointers to Polaris.

Courtesy: Earth and Sky

If the local night sky is too bright to see the Big Dipper, there are mechanical approaches you can apply to get close.

Polaris is about 0.9 degree from the celestial north pole. You can dial-in the approximate angle of Polaris above your horizon by setting the finder at an angle equal to your local latitude. If you're at 40° N latitude, set the finder's tilt angle to 40°. Set it to 60°, if you're at that northerly latitude.

To finish an approximate alignment, look up the magnetic offset of North on a compass from true North for your location. With this number, you can use a compass as a reference to rotate the finder around your horizon until it's pointing toward magnetic North. Then rotate the finder according to your local magnetic offset for a more accurate alignment.

You should be roughly aligned and, unless you're using very long focal lengths, should be able to make tracking exposures up to some reasonable length of time.

If you need or want a more precise alignment and are unable to see Polaris, Google "declination drift" method of polar alignment. The rough alignment I've described is a good start to that process.

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