Southern Hemisphere Polar Alignment

Southern Hemisphere observers cannot polar align on Polaris—it is invisible. Polar alignment south of the equator is a little more difficult than it is in the north because there is no bright star to mark the location of the South Celestial Pole (SCP). The SCP lurks among the dim stars of the far southern constellation, Octans, the Octant. The southern pole star, the star currently closest to the SCP, is Sigma Octanis, which is pretty dim at magnitude 5.5. It is almost as well placed as Polaris, however, being approximately 1 degree from the SCP at this time.

Sigma Octanis should be visible through a polar borescope, and the process for aligning on it is identical to that for Northern Hemisphere alignment. There should be a circle on the borescope reticle for Sigma or other stars in the area. Place the stars in their spots (assuming the borescope is properly calibrated), and the mount is aligned.

What about a simple sight-through-the-bore alignment? If the skies are dark and Sigma is high enough in the sky, that is possible. Frankly, any scope for which a boresight alignment is good enough, like the Celestrons, is probably forgiving enough to provide good go-tos if the RA axis has been pointed south with the aid of a compass and elevated to an angle equal to the site's latitude. Do not forget to flip the "N/S" switch on the mount to "S" or select "Southern Hemisphere" in the HC to set mount rotation for Southern Hemisphere operation before beginning a go-to alignment.

Many beginners worry needlessly about polar alignment. The foregoing "easy" methods are, again, all that is required for visual observing. The occasional declination adjustments required to keep a target object centered will not get in the way of productive observing.

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