Setting Up an Equatorial Mount

This beginner’s guide to setting up and using an equatorial mount is rather long, so is broken into sections. I suggest a true beginner read them in the order provided.

There are a lot of parts to an equatorial mount, and the unusual directions of motion may be confusing for a beginner. Here we start with a basic tour of the parts and the motions on a typical equatorial mount.
In this section we assemble the equatorial mount from its base parts, showing what each is for and giving a suggested order for putting it all together.
Next, we review the various mechanisms that are used to attach your telescope to your mount, including the two major types of attachment and the use of adaptors to mix systems.
In this section we go through an important step that is often overlooked by newcomers — balancing the mount so the weight is properly distributed in both directions of motion.
This small article points to a separate article on aligning the finder scope, and discusses why now is the best time in the setup sequence to perform this important step.
This is probably the most crucial step in setting up an equatorial mount. We go over several different methods for aligning the mount to the North Celestial Pole so it will properly mimick the motion of the sky.
Now that the mount is properly set up and aligned, this article finishes with a quick summary of how to move it around the sky to find and track objects.

62 Comments

  1. I have a Meade lx200 on a cgem mount. When I balance scope I get it to where I think it is balanced but when I turn it past I point it starts to flop, same thing happens in other direction. Shand1@optinline.net

  2. This may seem a stupid question , but when the telescope is mounted on a dovetail on an EQ3 – is the locking screw upper-most or is the large screw upper-most&|60;? I’ve seen both in photos , yours I think is upper-most …

  3. Wow. I have been trying to finalize my decision on a first “real” scope after a childhood Tasco-based trauma, and have really been struggling with wrapping my head around German Equatorial Mounts. This series of steps you have provided have made it all seem so clear now. The good, the bad, and the “meh” of EQ mounts is masterfully illustrated and boiled down by you. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for putting the effort in and creating these pages. I have just bought an Orion 200 with a GEM1 mount with no instructions and being a complete newbie I was finding it a little difficult to get off the ground. This was just what I needed.

    If you happen to have the original GEM1/2 user guides it would be great to post a link to a PDF copy. Not that I really need it now but more for completeness.

    Thank you again for your work.

    AndyH

  5. Thanks for this! I’ve looked at other articles and they miss out important information – important to me anyway! Like how best to point your telescope at a part of the sky in the south. I was also constantly having problems with hardwire getting in the way of itself and the eyepiece ending up in an unusable position – I thought I must be doing something wrong! Now I know it’s a normal issue that most people have. Thanks again.

    Bresser Exos-2 (Manual) Mount/Orion Optics 6″ OTA

  6. Great article indeed. Until now I used the EQ mount as an AZ, adjusting the Elevation and the Declination&|60;:) Now I also understand why those counterweights are needed, as I never positioned the telescope as in the pictures.

    I’ll wait for the spring to try it, I think it will not do any good for the scope if I carry it out in the freezing cold, and then back in the room.

  7. Simply superb article, as a novice this has really explained what should be happening and what I should be doing. A great set of documents to help make sure that the beginner can make use of an EQ mount.

    First night out, all up and running and even a smashing photo of the moon&|60;!

  8. Just bought a Traveller telescope SU 7535 and am a complete novice, instruction booklet not much use can help please

  9. A very well written and clear article. This is the best guide that I have seen for setting up an Equatorial mount. Thanks!!!!!

  10. Honestly, Skywatcher and a few other manufacturer’s should just include this URL to explain how to actually use an Equatorial Mount. I really found your animated pictures invaluable in realizing that I was in fact doing most of the right things – it just looks and feels wrong at first!

  11. Hello Richard

    I have recently been given an 8″ Orion Europa f6 on a GEM1 mount, but the manual was very vague for a beginner. This series of guides has been far clearer and more helpful.

    Thank you.

  12. Thank you very much for an article that makes sense on telescope setup for an equatorial mount. I am planning on buying my first “real” telescope, and would like to eventually do some astrophotography. Thanks again for the most comprehensive tutorial I have found.

  13. I understand the polar alignment and that it’s helpful for tracking stars, but I still don’t seem to understand something. Say I have my telescope polar aligned perfectly, I can track a star from the time it rises to the time is sets using just the R.A. How do I do this same thing facing south? A lot of what I am viewing I have to aim south and follow from rise to set, but not sure how I turn this around and keep it polar aligned. Not sure I’m completely getting this, or missing it mentioned somewhere, or what?

    • Hi Mike, I just got a new scope with an EQ mount and am(was) thinking the SAME thing. Look at the pictures provided, and watch how the whole scope can be flipped all over the place and leaving the mount stationairy, thus staying Polar aligned. Very good articles and answered a lot of by question’s.

  14. Thanks this is a very good article. just one query though… you note to 1st: level the tripod and set the Lattitude, then 2nd: bodily rotate teh tripod and mount to north. The second step will undo the leveling of the tripod on any unlevel ground. I think you are better to do a 3 step process: 1. rotate to very nearly north 2. level tripod without moving feet, set lattitude. 3. do fine adjustment for north using mount adjusters. Cheers Ian

  15. This article is absolutely brilliant, far more use than the 2 instruction booklets that came with my SKP1145EQ1. Thank you so much.

  16. Very helpful tutorial, now I understand how to set the Polaris, and how set the latitude, thanks a lot for take the time to make it

  17. Hello Richard. I´d like to ask for your permission to translate to spanish some of your articles in setting up a telescope or at least use it as a guide. Of course your name and page will be mentioned as the author. I belong to a small amateur group in Chihuahua, Mexico and found your explanations a lot better than most scope manuals. Please send an e-mail if more details are needed. Thanks in advance.

  18. I’ve read several articles on how to set up the mount correctly and none of them made sense. The instructions that came with my telescope were just as bad. Your article rocks dude. Unbelievable how much more fun astronomy is with the mount properly oriented. Thanks!

  19. I am so very thankful to you for your excellent explanation on setting up and polar alignment. my own telescope didnt even mention the hole in the mount which is there in mine and makes it so much easier to align.!!!!now I understand the basics. as a new amateur even at my older age, I look forward to many enjoyable nights. thanks again.

  20. As a newbie, the telescope handbook was too vague in setting up the telescope properly. Your articles confirmed what I did understand and added the missing information I needed. The pictures / illustrations probably helped the most. Thanks again.

  21. Having just purchased an Astrotrac with polar scope I found this tutorial extremely useful for a beginner such as myself. Again, thank you very much

  22. I spent about an hour trying to figure out the instructions that came with my scope, ending in failure. The instructions and pictures in your wiki were amazing and helped me understand exactly what was going on. Thank you so much!

  23. John Crockatt

    I’m only a beginner and your articles are really valuable. However, there is a point about using the compass on which I can help. You refer to magnetic declination. As an experienced yacht navigator aI can tell you there’s no such thing. You are referring to Magnetic Variation which occurs because the magnetic pole is not in the same position as the true pole. There is another error in the compass which navigators have to account for, and that is Deviation. This is caused by local magnetic fields, eg a lump of iron or such. If there is ferrous metal somewhere in the mount or scope it will be best to keep the comapass three feet or more from it to keep clear of the magnetic field it creates. Thanks again for the illumionating articles – the best I’ve seen.

  24. and much appreciated. The animated pictures helped in lesarning how to move the scope. Many thanks.

  25. invaluable.going on to next bit.if this keeps up i ll be able to use my cg5 soon!

  26. Thanks for taking the time and effort to put this article together. The instructions with my 130pm were awful. This is the most user friendly guide that I have found. I’m a complete novice and have been fighting with my eq2 for the last week! We have now come to a truce! Who knows, we may even become friends! I have never before felt the need to post a comment, but you should how much your help is appreciated. Once again thank-you.

  27. Thank you so much for your clear instructions and pictures. You’ve taken all the confusion out of setting up an EQ mount. Now I can concentrate on observing instead of setting up!!!

  28. Very nice and clear! You may however, want to take a look here: http://starizona.com/acb/basics/using_balancing_gem.aspx and switch the order of balancing. I just ran across this after reading your instructions.

    • Thanks for that. They make an excellent point, and I’ve changed the recommended order of operations in the article to match their advice.

      – Richard

  29. Wow, brilliant. The instructions I got with the telescope were utter rubbish by comparision. Thank you for an excellent and informative article

  30. A picture paints a thousands words, Thank you!

  31. Richard, outstanding series. I have been frustrated by the lack of setup examples out there and found your series and it was perfect. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. I am sure it will help many over the millenium

  32. Thank you, After years (30ish) away from a telescope, I have just set up an 8.25inch relflector in my garden. I had completely forgotten what RA and Declination were and although I have read other less clear instructions (I got nowhere with these). Your little animations and text narration put the whole concept of alignment and tracking firmly in my head before I had finished the page. 🙂 Many; Many Thanks All the best Antony

  33. thnk you, very useful description!!!!!

  34. I found your instructions on polar alignment to be the best that I have seen anywhere. The instructions that came with my Skywatcher HEQ5 are poorly written and the diagrams even more confusing). You have helped take the mystery out of polar alignment, helped boost my confidence and I am really now enjoying stargazing again. THANK YOU very much.

  35. I’m a novice astronomer and was struggling with the very basic manual supplied with my telescope. Found your articles and all became clear. THANKS VERY MUCH.

  36. My reflector came with a few handwritten, useless notes and with no prior knowledge of scope setup or EQ mounts, my first night was a big dissapointment. I was very thankful to find your excellent article on the web. Thumbs up!!

  37. Richard; A great article. The best I’ve found on the net. I understand that the NCP is about 40 arc seconds from Polaris on a straight line between Polaris and Alkaid( Ursa Major) or Kochab (Ursa Minor) whichever. If this is true then why do all the polar alignment charts including yours show the NCP on the opposite side of Polaris? Is the NCP actually 40 arc minutes on the other side of Polaris. Help me out here, Please it doesn’t make sense.

  38. A truly excellent piece of work. Having recently purchased a SkyWatcher with EQ mount I have found this article invaluable. As a complete beginner the manuals on EQ mounts seem rather frustrating and don’t explain what each procedure actually accomplishes. Carry on with the great job you are doing – I will be back to read more !

  39. Studying the manual for my first scope gave me a serious headache.I really wondered how i ever would accomplish setup the EQ mount,and why i didn`t get a goto mount.Thanks to you it made perfect sense in no time!I also found the animated images very useful.Great article!!Thanks man. Regards.

  40. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am new to astronomy and trying to understand the instructions that came with my new telescope on how to set up for obseravtion was driving me mad. That is until I read your article. A great help. It has become a whole lot clearer!! Thank you again!!

  41. An excellent, clear and concise guide to setting up and using eq mounts. It was a pleasure to read it.

  42. Thanks for a really great article on setting up a telescope. Would you please identify the make (brand) and model of the telescope in the first picture in the article?

  43. As a beginner I have to say that your articles explained more to me than countless hours reading other resources. Thanks very much for taking the time to put this together.

  44. What a useful, informative article. The text along with the photographs make this a far less daunting process than contained in the manual that came with my mount. Thank You.

  45. I hope I am not the only person who has this technique a ‘pain’ – I am new to telescopes. Your article was extremely useful and effectively ‘kicked’ the telescope manual way into ‘touch’ Thanks

  46. A huge thank you for putting this guide together. Like many others Christmas was my excuse to get my first Newtonian and equatorial mount. Sadly the supplied instructions were minimal at best. Your guide is by far the best I have seen and the images are invaluable. You have helped me immeasurably and I thank you for your effort.

  47. I have found this article extremely helpful as I have struggled for some time in understanding this type of mount. Thank you very much Terry

  48. Anthony Cathcart

    Your instructions are excellent, thank you so much. I will use them to set up my 90 mm refractor, which I got for christmas. This will be my first ever view through a telescope.

  49. Just got a wonderful used telescope for Xmas but the set up instructions were confusing and to make matters more confusing the telescope was partly assembled for me…incorrectly as it turns out. This article is brilliant. The text is clear and easy to follow and the images are truly worth a thousand words ESPECIALLY the animations! Thank you!!!!

  50. A complete beginner, I have just purchased a second hand Bresser R102 with no manual or instructions and failed to find anything on-line. Your web page is absolutely brilliant; thank you so much for the time and effort you have put into it.

  51. I am making the switch from using an SCT in Alt Az to a new goto eq mount and was looking for good instructions on the net when I found your site…it is terrific and has greatly assisted in getting things right and less frustrating than this could have been.

  52. I am using an equatorial mount for the first time and am grateful to you for your very clear instructions.

  53. Thank you very much I will be out trying to set it up agian I have read my Celestron book over and over about seting up my mount. You need to call them and Meade and get paid for wrighting how to on scopes and mounts.

  54. I have just made the leap of faith from the “Run Spot Run, See Spot Run” school of telescope mount into the seemingly arcane world of the equatorial. I was getting slightly frustrated by the badly copied instruction booklet translated across at least five languages (some of which are long-dead) and into broken English when I found this set of instructions. All I can say is well done Sir. They are brilliant in every way explaining what to do in simple terms and demystifying the whole process. The illustrations are fantastic and my enthusiasm has been entirely renewed. Congratulations on a great piece of work! I will be recommending it to anyone I meet who has even a vague interest in the equatorial mount.

  55. These articles are great. The only criticism I would have is the use of animated images used but then they do serve a very useful purpose, just harder to hardcopy. These articles are the best I have found on the web and really do take you step by step but not to bore you to death.

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