Polar Alignment Scope – Should you have one?

This is an interesting question. Lately, with the recently relesed “AllStar” alignment routine for the Celestron GEM mounts, many would say NO. In fact, emphatically NO.

I have a different opinion, but I’ll agree that a polar alignment scope (PAS) is not necessary. Further, that a PAS does not typically provide accuracy equivalent to the software alignment provided by the hand controller routines, or a drift alignment. AND finally, that the hand controller alignment routines are “good enough” for decent long exposure photography.

However, I prefer to use a PAS. I use the PAS to get a decent (close) polar alignment when I initially set up my mount. Then, first thing (before doing a pointing alignment) I do a drift alignment. This works great because the PAS gets me very close and the drift alignment goes quick and easy since the final adjustments are small. After the drift alignment, I do a quick pointing alignment, usually just a sync to one star. This gets me close enough to find my intended target for the night, I don’t need to be able to navigate the whole sky with spot on Go-Tos. I just need to be able to find my target…. gotta fuss around with calibrating the guider and framing the target anyway.

Following this method takes a few minutes more (i think) than doing the “AllStar” routine, but it’s not much more. I prefer this method because when done, I’m SURE of the polar alignment… no guesswork.  Alignment to the NCP is the the important part for AP and I want to be sure the alignment is right where I want it. I don’t want to waste a night because my guiding wasn’t up to snuff.  I also don’t need to spend much time on doing pointing alignments which are typically not too important since I usually shoot only one or two targets per session.

Does this make sense to anyone but me?


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