Nearly Perfect Scope Alignment Procedures
The key to any good scope alignment is first getting your tripod as close to perfectly level as possible. Some of the newer scopes base have the ability to correct for slightly missed leveled tripods. Don’t rely on this.
If you mount your scope in Alt/Az mode then once mounted on the leveled tripod level the OTA. Then follow the procedures laid out in your scopes manual.
If you mount your scope on a wedge (polar mode) you can use the scope alignment function, or, if you really want a great alignment follow the procedures below. I have been doing this now for many years and if done correctly you can traverse the entire sky and have the object be very close to the middle of the eyepiece. The first few times you use this method you may feel it takes too long. Once you get it down it should take only about 30 minutes and is worth it.
1. Level tripod and wedge as close to perfect as possible (This not as important as in Alt/Az mode) making sure you are pointed as close as possible, using a compass, to true North. Set your declination plate as close as possible to your current latitude. I use one of the many free clinometer apps on my iPhone to set this properly.
2. Mount scope and loosen the clutches. Run thru the alignment procedure with the clutches loose, setting date, time and location as necessary and accepting other steps along the way without moving anything. (You must do this to get the proper data in to the scopes computer).
3. Choose a star due South along the ecliptic and using a reticle eyepiece determine wether the star drifts North or South in the eyepiece. Don’t worry about East/West drift.
4. If the star drifts South (down in most reflectors.) then your POLAR AXIS is pointing TOO FAR EAST of true North. If the star drifts North (up) then the POLAR AXIS is pointing TOO FAR WEST. Adjust your wedge base accordingly until the star shows no drift for at least 5 mins. (You will need to recenter the star after each adjustment so choose a star that you can see in your finder scope or Telrad or … ).
5. Choose a star to the Far East or West along the ecliptic as your horizon and seeing conditions will allow.
6. If the star drifts South (down in most reflectors) then your POLAR AXIS is pointing TOO LOW. If the star drifts North (up) then the POLAR AXIS is pointing TOO HIGH. Adjust your wedge’s declination plate accordingly until the star shows no drift for at least 5 mins.
7. Repete steps 3 and 4. (If your Dec alignment was off by a lot you may need to do some fine tuning).
8. Now center a known star in your eyepiece.
9a. If you are using a computer program like SkySafari, connect to scope and click on the known star you have your scope pointed at. Then click align and your ready to go.
9b. If you are using the built in scope controls navigate on the hand box to the known star your scope is centered on and preform a sync procedure as laid out in your scopes manual.