If you’ve just got an equatorial mount, this is a super quick guide to getting yourself polar aligned.
It’s not as accurate as the full alignment (a full alignment guide is coming soon), but it will be more than good enough for visual observing and even medium exposure astrophotography.
Steps 1-5 cover the initial set up, while steps 6-9 take you through aligning.
Make sure your tripod is level using the bubble level (if your mount has one) or use a spirit level on the tripod before attaching your mount.
Set your mount on its tripod, facing as close to north as you can (use a compass if you have one), add the counter weights then the telescope.
Rotate the Right Ascension (RA) axis to this position and check that the scope remains horizontal when you leave the RA clutch unlocked. Hold the scope while you try this! If the RA axis moves, adjust the counterweight until it - and the scope - are balanced.
Keeping the scope in this position, unlock the Dec clutch and check the scope remains horizontal. Again, hold the scope while you try this! If the scope starts to rotate, its position in its saddle will need adjusting until balanced.
Return both axis to the home/park position (pointing towards Polaris) and lock the clutches.
Find the latitude of your location (Google, GPS or an iPhone app can do this for you - Stockholm is 59º, London 51º, Vancouver is 49º, New York is 40º, Athens is 38º), and adjust the altitude adjustment screws until the arrow on your latitude level points to this number.
With the azimuth adjustment screws loosened, look through the polar scope and turn the mount until you can see the pole star – it will be far brighter than any other (see image right).
As the pole star is not quite aligned with the North Celestial Pole, use some free software that gives you its current position (such as Polar Finderscope or Polar Finder). Rotate your RA axis until the view through your polar scope matches the software’s position.
Use the altitude and azimuth adjustment screws to move Polaris into the small circle on the edge of the larger circle.
You’re polar aligned!
Return to the home/park position to begin star hopping or set your goto controller.