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  #1  
Old 18-04-2020, 07:28 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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Procedures for Setting Up Skywatcher HEQ5 and similar mounts

A couple of beginner members have asked me to provide assistance with setting up their Skywatcher HEQ5 mounts or similar Skywatcher mounts for either Visual use or Astrophotography
Rather than PM each one I have chosen to send a number of posts so others can use the information if they wish or choose alternative sources of information at their own discretion. I’m happy to offer advice which has worked for me over the past 4 years but by no means the only way to set up your mount
Procedures for setting up the mount will be in this order -
1/Finding true south at your location
2/ Setting up Tripod
3/ Installing mount head
4/ Balancing Mount
5/ Polar alignment

1/ Finding Celestial True South using Solar Noon ( Shadow ) method

Items needed
1 metre length of 12mm diameter timber dowel with a 2mm deep 90 deg cross cut into one end using a hacksaw
2 x 3 metre pieces of 1mm string cotton type
4 x weights like a brick or paver etc...
1 x straight edge, alum angle or ruler 500mm long would be good
1 x fine point black permanent marker
1 x 300mm long Stanley or quality boat type builders bubble level
1 x PC with a planetarium software program. Stellarium is a good choice as it’s free and easy to use
1 x Smartphone like an iPhone

Location
Your observing location ( approximately 1.5 sqm ) or where you will set up your telescope mount should be a reasonably flat and level area with a good view of the sun at around midday ( a paved , tiled or concrete area is preferable) At a remote site you will need to clear the ground and make it reasonably flat or level

Procedure

(Setting up for your Shadow)
Erect timber dowel vertically below your preferred observing tripod position and use the 2 strings to anchors the dowel like tent guy ropes at N,S,E and W using weights to hold it in position. Use your bubble level to ensure dowel is exactly vertical at 90 deg in all directions ( very important ) The hacksaw cuts at the top of the dowel make it easy to adjust the dowel N,S,E or W

Finding Solar Noon Time

(Using your Planetarium like Stellarium )
Start your PC mid morning and open Stellarium. Rotate your cardinal point to the North position and raise view up until you see the Sun
Click on the Sun and then click on the clock , move the time forward or backward to the point where the Suns Alt/Az degrees goes from 359 deg to 0 deg or exactly bisecting the North South meridian line ( refer to top left hand data on screen for Az/ Alt deg )
Record this exact time which is Solar Noon ( hypothetical eg 12.35pm )

(Finding Solar Noon on a Website)
Most meteorological websites show Solar Noon times at or near your observing location

Marking your Celestial True South Line

Go to your observing location 10 minutes before Solar noon with your smartphone , ruler and permanent marker. The dowel should be casting a 12mm wide +500mm long shadow on the surface towards the south
At exactly Solar Noon time mark a thin line on the surface or ground from the central base of the dowel outwards along the exact centre of the shadow for at least 500mm ( be as precise as you can )

This line is marks the Celestial Meridian (True North / South )

Use this line to align your tripod front leg “N”to True South and then set up your mount
I found this method far more accurate than any app or compass with magnetic declination
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Old 18-04-2020, 07:35 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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2/ Setting up Tripod

Setting up a HEQ5 or similar Tripod
NB: This procedure is based on having your True South line already marked on the ground from a previous procedure ( length of true south line marked on ground approximately 500mm long or alternatively 2 fixed points marked on the ground 500mm apart)
1/ Open your tripod fully out and extend all 3 legs out by about 100mm then lock them
2/ Place foot of front tripod leg marked “N” directly on True South line and roughly line up the 2 rear tripod legs equally spaced in respect to the True South line
3/ Level the base platform of your tripod by adjusting the legs in or out as required .Check level of the tripod base in both north/south and east/west directions using a good quality builders aluminium bubble float level.Level the base as accurate as you can then lock the tripod leg adjusters nice and tight.
4/ Extend out your True South Line along the ground just past the intersection of the 2 rear tripod legs using a string line, aluminium angle or a straight edge. The feet of both rear tripod legs must be equidistant from the intersection of the extended True South Line. When adjusting make sure you only move the 2 rear tripod legs left or right whilst keeping the front tripod leg “N” stationary or pivoting but not moving off the True South Line
5/ Once the 2 rear tripod legs are equidistant from the true south line , the tripod is now set up level and pointing to Celestial True South
6/ Ensure you take care in setting up the tripod and measuring accurately to the nearest millimetre.This will assist the accuracy of your polar alignment procedure.
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  #3  
Old 18-04-2020, 07:41 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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3/ Installing Mount Head

Attaching your HEQ5 or similar mount head to Tripod

1/ Once your tripod is set up (levelled and pointing True South) place you’re mount head ( without Altitude and Azimuth bolts ) on the tripod base with the retracted counterweight bar roughly facing the front tripod leg “N” or True South
2/ Ensure your Azimuth bolts are evenly screwed in both sides until they are just touching the base post or puck. Then re adjust screw in or screw out both Azimuth bolts so they are equidistant and touching the base stop post again ( ie: equal amount of thread or bolt length each side of mount head )Azimuth bolts will be adjusted again during polar alignment routine later.
3/ Install locking bolt shaft and tripod leg accessories spreader plate up into mount head and tighten up
4/ Now install your Altitude bolts and screw in or out as required to set your local latitude. This has to be checked again after your telescope is fitted. Preferably use a digital inclinometer ( eg: AccuMaster model 7434 ) with accuracy to 2 decimal places.
5/ Mount head is now installed ready for setting your mounts “Home Position” procedure
6/ If you want you can mark a short line across both tripod base and mount head at the front in the centre and rear in the centre with a small black texta line for future set ups to ensure your mount head is placed in the same position each time.
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Old 18-04-2020, 07:44 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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4a/ Setting Home Position on your mount

Home Position on your HEQ5 or similar Mount
1/ Level your tripod pointing to the SCP
2/ Install the mount head and ensure the counterweight shaft is pointing down towards the south tripod leg
3/ Set you Altitude on the mount using the altitude adjusting bolts (Long chrome bolts with thumb tabs ) to the latitude of your current location
4/ Ensure the Azimuth bolts ( black knobs) are screwed in and equally spaced each side of the mount and tighten ( finger tight only )
5/ Do not install the counterweights yet
6/ Stand behind the mount looking south , release the RA clutch and rotate the mount anti clockwise until the counterweight shaft is level . Use a bubble float level to check and then lock the RA clutch
7/ Release the RA clock ring and rotate it anticlockwise until the pointer reaches 6.00 (18.00) don’t tighten up yet
8/ Unlock the RA clutch and rotate the RA axis back to the home position and lock it when the pointer reaches 12.00. Lock the RA clutch
9/ Unlock the Dec clutch and rotate the Dec axis until the saddle is exactly level .Check with a bubble float level then lock the Dec clutch
10/ Release the Dec clock ring and rotate it until it lines up with the pointer at 90 deg. Don’t tighten up yet
11/ Unlock the Dec clutch and rotate it anti clockwise until “0” on the Dec lock ring lines up with the pointer then lock the Dec clutch
12/ The Mount should be now in the “Home Position”
13/ Rotate both RA and Dec clock rings so the pointer lines up with “0” and screw down the clock rings
14/ You are now ready to install your counterweights and balance your telescope
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Old 18-04-2020, 07:46 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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4b/ Balancing your telescope

Balancing Your Telescope

Ensure telescope is set in the “Home Position” before you balance
Also ensure all equipment ( eye pieces or camera etc... ) and cabling is installed on your telescope and mount ready to observe or image

Start with balancing Dec axis first
Dec Balancing
1/ Release the Dec clutch and rotate the telescope so it is horizontal and parallel to the ground, then carefully see which way it tilts.Telescope should sit level if balanced
2/ Adjust if necessary by locking the Dec clutch, loosen the tube rings and slide the telescope forward or backward as required and retighten tube rings.
3/Check Dec balance again by releasing Dec clutch and rotate telescope to the horizontal position to check if it sits level.
4/ Repeat adjustments until telescope is freely sitting level then return to home position and lock Dec clutch
5/Release the RA clutch and rotate the mount so that the counterbalance shaft is level and parallel to the ground then lock the RA clutch
6/ Unlock the Dec clutch and rotate the telescope so it is level and parallel to the ground then lock the Dec clutch. If you viewed from above you would see the letter “T” formed by the mount and telescope
7/ Now unlock the Dec clutch while holding the telescope and see if it tilts to one side or the other.Lock the Dec clutch and loosen the tube rings and slide the telescope forward or backward as required then retighten tube rings
8/ Repeat adjustments until the telescope is freely sitting level and parallel to the ground and then retighten Dec clutch. Dec is now balanced in horizontal position.
9/ Now release the Dec clutch and rotate the telescope in the vertical position whilst holding it. If it falls one way or the other you must balance in the vertical position by locking the Dec clutch , loosening the tube rings and rotating the telescope clockwise or counterclockwise , tightening the tube rings and then unlocking the Dec clutch until it remains stationary in the vertical position
10/ Repeat adjustments until the telescope sits freely in the vertical position then rotate the telescope to the horizontal position level or parallel to ground. The telescope should now be balanced in Dec at both horizontal and vertical position
Leave the telescope locked in the horizontal position ready for RA balancing

RA Balancing
1/ Unlock the RA clutch whilst holding the telescope to see if the telescope falls down or lifts up
Move the counter balance weights up or down the shaft as required to ensure the telescope is balanced level parallel to the ground. Adjust as required and lock the RA clutch
2/ Now you need to make the telescope slightly “East Heavy” by moving the counterweights down the shaft a bit so the balancing is slightly in favour of the counterweights. Lock the RA clutch
3/ The telescope should now be balanced in Dec and RA so unlock the RA and Dec and return the telescope to the home position and lock both clutches
4/ For long exposure Astrophotography you should adjust your correct balance , slightly “east heavy” by moving the counterweight/s about 15mm up or down the shaft depending on which side of the meridian you are imaging. This ensures the RA gears on the mount are always engaged when it tracks across the night sky east to west
East Heavy for imaging East side of the meridian ( slide counterweights down the shaft towards the ground about 15mm)
East Heavy for imaging West side of the meridian ( slide counterweights up shaft towards mount about 15mm )
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Old 18-04-2020, 07:49 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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5/ Synscan Polar Alignment Routine

Synscan Polar Alignment Routine V3 and V4 Skywatcher EQ Mounts

1/ You will be using a 2 Star Alignment to start the process so nominate your 2 Alignment Stars on the same side of the meridian, one of which will be your Polar Alignment Star ( Alignment Stars should be fairly bright stars where possible to ensure they appear in the Synscan hand controllers data base, usually greater than magnitude 2.5 )
(Alignment stars for polar alignment ideally should be located between 35 degrees and 70 degrees in Altitude and no more than 50 degrees in Azimuth from the meridian) Important - Your Polar Alignment Star or 1st Star Alignment Star will be the one closest to the south meridian. To assist with locating and nominating your Alignment Stars use a Star Chart, a Planetarium like Stellarium or Cartes Du Ciel.
2/ Complete a 2 Star Alignment generally in accordance with Syncan 2 Star Alignment procedure. Start with your 1st Alignment Star close to the south meridian ( this will be your Polar Alignment Star as well ) and then 2nd Alignment Star away from south meridian no further than 50 degrees in Azimuth
3/ After completing a 2 Star Alignment press “Menu” then “Alignment” then “Polar Alignment” and then “Enter”
4/ The screen will display “ Select Star”. Scroll through list of stars until you find your previous nominated Polar Alignment Star and press “Enter”
5/ Mount will slew to the selected Polar Alignment Star
6/ Use direction keys on the hand controller to centre the Polar Alignment Star in the telescope eye piece reticle or Computer screen reticle. Once centred press “Enter”
7/ The hand controller screen will now display the polar alignment error ( degrees: minutes: seconds) then press “Enter” to proceed
8/ The mount will now slew to the new Altitude position. Now use the Altitude adjustment bolts only to move the Star to the closest point to the centre of FOV on the reticle eye piece or computer screen reticle. Remember this position and then press “Enter” to show the new polar alignment error ( degrees: minutes: seconds )
9/ Press “Enter” again and mount will slew to the new Azimuth position. Now use the Azimuth bolts only to move the Star to the closest point where the Star was centred in step 8. Press “Enter” to show the new polar alignment error
10/ Press “Enter” again to end the Polar Alignment procedure
11/ Go back to the “Alignment” menu in the hand controller and execute another “2 Star Alignment”. 1st Alignment Star will be your Polar Alignment Star which you should be already centred on from the previous Polar Alignment routine and 2nd Alignment Star is further away from the south meridian.Once the 2 Star Alignment is completed , the polar alignment error will be displayed on the hand controller ( degrees: minutes : seconds )
12/ Repeat the above procedures ( iterations) 2 or more times as required to reduce your polar alignment error below 1 arc second in both Altitude and Azimuth.
Polar Alignment Error displayed on hand controller should show as many zeros as possible
Eg: 1 arc minute error 000 01’ 00” Eg: 20 arc sec error 000 00’ 20”
Try and get below 1 arc minute error in both Altitude and Azimuth if conditions and time permit.
13/ Note: you must perform a 2 Star Alignment before you start with a Polar Alignment routine each time
14/ To improve accuracy of your Star centering and alignments , de focus the star slightly into a small donut shape, this way you can perform more accurate centering operations looking into your reticle eye piece or at your computer screen reticle
15/ The 2 Star Alignment stars you use for Polar Alignment maybe different from 2 Star Alignment stars you use for locating objects ( Goto) as the accuracy of Goto may improve with a wider distance between alignment stars in Azimuth.The 2 Star Alignment stars for Polar Alignment are fairly close to each other near the meridian and only span a small part of the night sky. The Polar Alignment routine obtains better results ( lower error ) when Alignment stars are within 50 degrees apart in Azimuth and closer to the south meridian at between 35 degrees and 70 degrees in Altitude.
16/ With some experience the Synscan Polar Alignment routine can usually be completed with sub arc minute PA error in around 15 to 20 minutes depending on seeing conditions
17/ Note: Star Alignment and Polar Alignment are two different processes
Star Alignment is used to tell the mount exactly its location in the night sky on an object using singular or multiple pointing model algorithms.
Polar Alignment is aligning the central axis of the mount and telescope to the South Celestial Pole using the Altitude and Azimuth adjustments. Depending on the accuracy of Polar Alignment,the celestial object will remain stationary in the FOV for at least a minute or so before any noticeable drift.
However Polar Alignment and Star Alignment do affect each other when adjustments are made. An adjustment of Altitude or Azimuth affects your star alignment accuracy, that’s why you perform a 2 Star Alignment after PA is adjusted.
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Old 18-04-2020, 10:45 PM
Astronovice (Calvin)
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Definite sticky material

Great write up!
On behalf of all us novices, thanks!!
Moderators, this be made sticky please?
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Old 19-04-2020, 01:00 PM
Saturnine (Jeff)
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Thumbs up

That's quite a comprehensive write up Martin, congratulations for taking the time to post this for the benefit of novices and the not so novice of us out there in forum land.

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Old 19-04-2020, 02:26 PM
jahnpahwa (JP)
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Thanks heaps Martin!


I think i see the point where I've been going wrong, choosing stars across the meridian to star align. Do you know why this is an issue?



My other question is, once the mount is polar aligned to an acceptable level, is it necessarily aligned for goto and ready for action?
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Old 19-04-2020, 03:17 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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JP
The answer to your first question is that an equatorial mount (EQ) only tracks in one orientation until it hits the meridian and then it has return to its home position and then flip around to the other side and track in an opposite orientation otherwise the telescope will eventually crash into the tripod legs or ground which ever comes first.So procedures like “star alignment” are programmed to be done on one side of the meridian where all celestial objects rise on the eastern side and arc over the night sky to the western side at different declinations.

The answer to the second question is yes, after Synscan polar aligned , it is already 2 star aligned and ready for Goto
You cannot perform a polar alignment unless a 2 star alignment is completed as part of the Synscan process
No disrespect but you obviously haven’t read my Synscan procedure ( item 5 ) in detail , it clearly states the need for a 2 star alignment then proceed to commence your polar alignment. There are also notes at the bottom of this section to explain the difference between a 2 star alignment and polar alignment

Cheers
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Old 19-04-2020, 03:19 PM
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doppler (Rick)
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The HEQ5 pro doesn't have encoders so even though you are polar aligned you still need to set up the parameters each time you turn the mount on. The latitude and longitudes are stored (unless you travel to a different location) so you need to setup the time and date and then do a star alignment so the computer data base knows the starting reference points to slew to the target.
Rick
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Old 19-04-2020, 03:47 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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2 important points to remember about the Synscan polar alignment routine procedure
1/ A 2 star alignment is required to initiate a polar alignment
2/ After a polar alignment iteration ( adjustment ) is done , a 2 star alignment is required again to display the polar alignment error in Azimuth and Altitude
Refer to item 5 procedures
Cheers
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Old 19-04-2020, 11:45 PM
TareqPhoto (Tareq)
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Time to "PDF" that.
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Old 20-04-2020, 02:46 PM
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jayconnor (Jay)
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i hope you don't mind Martin but i turned this into a .pdf to make it a lot easier. Also good idea Tareq.

Thanks for taking the time to do this write up Martin. You are a very valued member of this community and it certainly doesn't go unnoticed. thank you.

I will be attempting my polar alignment this week maybe this weekend.
Fingers crossed
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Old 20-04-2020, 04:26 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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Jay
Thanks for compiling the PDF , a lot easier to read now
Hope the document helps newcomers into the hobby
Well done !
Martin

PS: In regard to polar alignment of your mount , there are many many ways to achieve this, however I chose the Synscan method mainly because it is fairly straight forward , it is included in your hand controller menu, it teaches you a bit about the night sky and you get pretty good results.Ive used his method for nearly 4 years ( originally using an Orion 20mm 70deg illuminating centering eye piece ) and now only takes me 10 to 15 minutes using BYEOS on my laptop with sub arc minute error

Good luck all
Clear Skies
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Old 22-04-2020, 10:45 AM
jahnpahwa (JP)
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Thanks again for this, Martin and Jay.

I have a question about expectation of consistency with alignment. I begin by acknowledging that alignment reported with synscan is an estimate

Last night I set up very carefully and was very happy with my first 2 star alignment, both stars were really close, one viewable in the 28mm eyepiece, the other in centre half of the finder scope. I was expecting a fairly low error, but the reports was 10 degrees and 7 degrees off. I didn't trust it, so switched mount off, undid clutches, returned mount to home position and turned back to start again without touching alt or az adjusters on the mount.

Second time, again, stars were close to aligned to start out, report was now 5 deg and 2 deg off. I was wondering if i should have expected the same report? They seem a long way off, especially considering the amount of slewing i needed to do to centre was almost identical on both star alignments. I started a polar alignment to see how much adjustment it would take, and canopus was not only out of the EP, it was miles out of the finder scope field, too, which is hard work for me to correct. This is what happens each night I am out... I start to get close to alignment, say in the teens of minutes on both axes, then I get a report saying I'm many degrees out and once adjusted, I'm starting all over again.

At this point, I just started viewing objects, without doing a single polar alignment. I was getting close enough to the big items that I could then just centre them and look/image them. I know this is not a fix, but it did break a streak of having nothing to show night after night of trying to align my scope!
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Old 22-04-2020, 12:28 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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JP
If your “degrees” out on your PA alignment read out it could be a related to a number of issues
1/ make sure your tripod base is perfectly level on all three axis ( refer my procedure)
2/ make sure you have your tripod pointing “true south” as precise as you can ( refer my solar noon shadow procedure ( throw the compass in the bin )
3/ make sure you set your home position accurately ( refer my procedure)
4/ In the Hand controller make sure you set your latitude , longitude , elevation , No daylight saving , time zone +10 if your in the eastern states or Canberra , and current time
5/ For your 2 star alignment and PA routine choose Acrux as your PA star and Acrux and Hadar as your 2 star alignment stars
So in Menu , choose Alignment then 2 star alignment , 1st Star Acrux , centre it then enter, 2nd star Hadar , centre it then enter.Then in alignment choose polar alignment , select Star Acrux then follow my PA routine procedure

NB : Very important !!!! You need an Orion 20mm 70 deg illuminated centering eye piece or equal to get your star centering very close and therefore get your PA error down to arc minutes rather than degrees. A basic eye piece is not adequate enough for centering

Good luck !!
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Old 23-04-2020, 10:06 AM
jahnpahwa (JP)
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star align stars make all the difference

Quick update here to underline the qualityof these instructions. I kept the same mount alignmentand levelling procedure as i have been doing, but switched to hadar and acrux for star alignment, acrux for PA, as Martin suggests (i had been on sirius and canopus, the latter for PA). First star align gave 16 and 20mins, one polar align on acrux and i was at 8 and 5 seconds... couldnt believe it Thanks Martin.
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Old 23-04-2020, 12:12 PM
Startrek (Martin)
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JP
That’s great news !!
Always works for me , always select your PA star close to the south meridian between 30 degrees and 70 degrees in altitude
Just remember that the two PA stars you select are specifically for PA ( as well as 2 star alignment for PA requirements)
Once PA is done and your happy with the lowest error you can achieve , I recommend to do another 2 star alignment for more precise “Goto” using 2 stars that are further apart in azimuth remembering to keep them between 30 degrees and 70 degrees in altitude. You could use Acrux or Hadar again as the 1st Star and the 2nd Star say Spica ( depending on what time of the night it is )
Just another piece of advice
Well done !
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Old 29-04-2020, 11:30 AM
Dave88 (Dave)
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Martin,

Thanks for compiling these instructions. I bought a HEQ5pro a couple of weeks ago and I've found your notes helpful.

I have a (probably fairly obvious) question about polar alignment however. If I complete the polar alignment function using the Synscan controller, does this remove the need to use the polar scope in the mount altogether?

Are there any situations where it would be better to use the polar scope for alignment over the Synscan function?

Thanks,
Dave
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