Alignment Problems

An "Alignment Failed" message is almost always the result of user error, specifically misidentification of alignment stars. As noted, alignment stars are always bright, but there are areas in the sky where there are plenty of bright stars. If the CAT's slew stops at a point where it is midway between bright stars, it is quite possible for novices to pick the wrong one. Heck, it is easy for an experienced observer to make a wrong choice, especially when most telescope HCs identify stars by their proper names instead of Greek (Bayer) letters or Arabic (Flamsteed) numbers. Sure, you know where Arcturus is, but where the heck is "Rasalhague"?

What is the solution? Keep a star chart on the observing table during alignment. What if you still cannot figure out which star the telescope wants? Have the telescope select a different star. Even in "auto-alignment" modes, go-to scopes will allow the user to choose alternate stars (when operating in the backyard, it is likely some first choices will probably be blocked by houses and trees anyway). Use the "Undo" button on a NexStar or the up/down keys on an Autostar to scroll through alignment star choices. Usually, the first star the scope picks will give the best alignment "solution," but even if go-to accuracy suffers a little from using alternate stars, at least it will be working.

SkyAlign users do not have to be able to identify alignment stars, but they are required to choose good ones. What is good? First, choose three bright objects. Even more important, the second of these three objects should be as far as possible from the first one—at least 90° away. The third choice should not be on a line connecting the first two. Although it is possible to use the Moon as an alignment object, don't do that unless there is no choice due to obstructions. Planets can also be used, but generally bright stars yield better SkyAlign alignments.

Another common cause of alignment problems is failure to place the scope in home position or failure to position it in home position accurately. Telescopes that require homing do so for one reason: They need to know their exact starting position before heading for alignment stars; if they do not know where to start, they will never be able to "hit" alignment stars. Understand how to home the telescope, and do so accurately.

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