It really does pay to read the directions! In the last blog I mentioned reading Starizona’s tutorial on balancing a fork mounted telescope. While waiting for a good night to try out the balance I found a couple of tutorials on using the all star polar alignment feature on the nextstar. Turns out I had been doing that wrong as well! You are to use 2 stars widely spaced in the sky for alignment. However, I had gotten lazy and let the computer chose the alignment stars. Plus when you edited the alignment stars the hand controller would often fail to align the mount. I think that was actually caused by the poor balance causing slippage of the clutch.
After getting the balance set I used Betelgeuse in the west and Mizar in the east as the alignment stars. Regulus was chosen for the polar alignment star. So after slewing to Regulus you then go to the polar align menu and scroll up to “mount align.” The scope then slews and recenters and you are instructed to center the star and hit sync. New instructions scroll across the screen and you hit enter and the scope will slew to where Regulus should be if it was perfectly polar aligned. Using the wedge controls center the star and you are polar aligned. I use the CCD and on screen crosshairs for accuracy and that has helped considerably. Did it twice tonight and got perfect alignment of the star on the chip both times.
Last night I got the two images above. This is the first time since I have had the scope that it all worked as it should! 3 years of dinking around with it and it is finally working as it is supposed to. Of course the M 57 run was clouded out in all but one picture. An image taken 20 minutes later was fine!
Tonight I had to pack it in early. The wind picked up to 15-20 mph and that was that. The next project is to get the plate solving function and auto focus reliable so the scope will be completely automated. Looking at the weather that looks like at least a week away!