Telescopes

Polar Alignment of Fornax 10 LighTrack Mobile Tracking Mount

Polar Alignment of Fornax 10 LighTrack Mobile Tracking Mount
The Fornax 10 LighTrack is one of the best tracking telescope mounts available on the market

The latest, 2014 version of the Fornax 10 mobile tracking mount.

Recently, we received an email from a customer who purchased a Fornax 10 tracking mount, who had difficulties with taking images without star trails. It turned out that he didn’t polar align it… Polar alignment is an essential requirement to use it purposefully, so we wrote up a short instruction about how to polar align it in a Q/A format.

Question: Do I have to polar align the Fornax 10 mount to take pictures?
Answer: Yes. Without polar alignment the mount will not be able the track the movement of the stars. The stars move along an arc on the sky. To be able to follow the movement of the stars along that arc, the camera will have to move in the same pattern around an axis parallel to the Earth’s axis.Question: How to polar align the mount?
Answer: Here we’ll describe two ways of polar alignment, a simple one without a polar scope, and more precise one with an optional EQ3 polar scope. On the following image you can see an aluminium tube that contains a polarscope that was not included with your package, but available separately.
An earlier version of the Fornax 10 shown with a EQ3 polarscope installed.
It’s directly next to that spike with the N on the tripod.
The N should actually look in to the direction of South in this case as this tripod was not developed for this mount, but the mount was developed so that people can use this or similar mounts that have that spike for polar alignment.
So, setup the tripod so that the “N” is directed South.
(Unlike GOTO telescope mounts, leveling the wedge is not necessary, but would help to set it up quicker next time.)
Set the latitude on the wedge to your latitude (appr. 51 deg in the South of the UK, 53 deg further up in the North near Liverpool, and 56 deg near Glasgow) i.e. Scotland). This can be set more precisely if necessary at a later step.
If you have the ball head in on-axis position, unscrew it as otherwise you won’t be able to look through the polar alignment tube.
If you don’t have an EQ3 polar scope, then just look through the aluminium tube and center Polaris by moving the wedge left or right by the azimuth adjustment screws (release one and tighten the other). To be able to do that the center screw from underneath the tripod head that holds the wedge on top of the tripod has to be very slightly loosened up. Once you completed the polar alignment you’ll have to tight it up again.
So you’ve centered Polaris horizontally and now if necessary, center it vertically as well on the wedge (loosen up the armed screws on both sides of the wedge).
The above, simplified polar alignment should be good enough for imaging the sky at shorter focal lengths and/or shorter exposures.
If you want to use the Fornax 10 with a camera with a long focal length lens and at longer exposure times, you’ll have to do a more precise polar alignment that can be done by the optional EQ3 polar scope.
The procedure is very similar, but instead of centering to Polaris, you’ll be centering to the real Celestial North Pole that can be done by placing Polaris in the circle on the reticule of the EQ3 ┬ápolar alignment scope, but before you do that you’ll have to match the orientation of the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia as per the drawing on the reticule to the orientation of the same objects as you see them on the sky.
Once it’s done you install (screw in) the ball head back into in-axis position to use a camera with a large lens or you can use it in off-axis position with smaller camera setups.
Now start taking amazing images!
Article by Zoltan Trenovszki
www.365astronomy.com


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Posted on October 5th, 2013.