Alt-Az Telescope Mounts

Alt-Az mount Astrophotography – easier than ever It’s getting easier and easier to use Alt-Az mounts for Astrophotography (AP). You don’t have to bother with levelling and polar alignment, so you can setup very fast and easy. With the many new computer devices it is also possible to control the system remotely. Most Alt-Az mounts can be used for short exposure AP as they are. When you want to take longer exposures you need a field de-rotator. In this article I will explain how you can use the ASIAIR Pro computer unit to automate the imaging process. Most things are general for any mount type but I will focus on the things that needs special attention when using an Alt-Az mount. This PART 1 article will focus on making the [...]

In the autumn of 2020 I noticed quite a few great astrophotos on Instagram from @azastroguy. All the images were taken with a Panther telescope mount in Alt-Az mode. The guy behind these great images is Mark Johnston of Scottsdale, Arizona. I asked Mark if he could tell a little about his images.         Can an Alt-Az Mount produce good astrophotos? Yes! I have been an active amateur astronomer for decades but only began my first astrophotography in June 2020, so keep in mind these photos were taken by a relative beginner. 100% of my photos are taken with the TTS-160 Alt Az mount. First of all, I’d like to say the mount is awesome as a visual mount. Portable, rugged, easy & quick to set up [...]

When observing and imaging the moon, the sun and the planets you need a mount that can track the object fairly precise. Generally speaking you can use either an Alt-Az mount or an polar aligned mount (GEM or fork). Here I will look at how an Alt-Az mount can be used and how it compares to a polar aligned mount for this kind of observations. It is important to remember that an Alt-Az mount is not necessarily (even though it often is so) of a lower production quality than a polar aligned mount.   Setting up for planet observations Setting up and Alt-Az mount is faster and easier than setting up an polar aligned mount. The basic steps are: Setup the tripod/pier and mount head no leveling needed no polar [...]

Comet NEOWISE is making a great show right now. It passed closest to the sun on July 3rd and is now slowly moving away from the sun. This means we have to observe the comet very low in the sky. This is absolutely normal for comets but it put some demands on us observers. 1. Find an observation spot with a free horizon in the comets direction Find the comet position for the planned observation time and find the Azimuth direction. is fine for this kind of planning. Using the Azimuth direction look at Google maps and find an observation spot where you have a free view in that direction. Google Streetview can help estimating the local horizon. 2. Bring your mount and telescope to the observation spot Most [...]

The winter sky with the many gas nebulas has disappeared in the western twilight. In an earlier post – Fast Deep Sky Imaging – I described how these large objects could be imaged with fast optical systems with limited focal length and large field of view. In springtime our view points away from the milky way arms and we get a free look to myriads of distant galaxies. Observing and imaging galaxies is a quite different matter as you can read in this post. Galaxies and dark sky For most unskilled visual observers Galaxies are faint hazy spots. If you try to observe galaxies from a light polluted place and don’t give you the time it takes to learn to really see these faint objects – all you will see [...]

PHD2 is a fantastic tool for guiding our telescope mounts. Most of the basic features and settings were created with a German Equatorial Mount in mind. Using it with an Alt-AZ mount is just as precise, as long as you have the right settings. In this post I will explain how to setup PHD2 when using an alt-az mount with special focus on the Panther mount, but the general aspects will be the same for all Alt-Az mounts. Two simple terms you need to know PHD2 was created with Equatorial mounts in mind. Therefore PHD2 uses the terms Right Ascension axis and Declination axis. When guiding an Alt-Az mount: Azimuth is equal to Right Ascension     AZ = RA Altitude is equal to Declination     ALT = DEC How to [...]

                  To many clouds – to little clear sky – what can you do   In Denmark we have few clear nights and from May to August we have light summer nights. So the nights where I can image the sky – as I love to do – are few. What to do about it?   Some people invest in remote observatory facilities – but that is not really me. I enjoy to much being out with the telescope under the clear sky. Instead I decided to try how I can get the most from the limited clear sky hours I have. The focus has been on: A fast optical system A pixel scale to give best sensitivity One Shot Color camera [...]

At times it could be great to setup the telescope mount in daytime. Generally this is not possible when you can’t see any stars. In this post I will describe a method to align the mount precisely in daytime.   Sometimes on a nice sunny day you would like to observe the sun or the brighter planets – Mercury and Venus. Unless you have a fixed installation in an observatory this can be difficult, as you can’t easily spot the planets with the naked eye. Using the principle described below, you will be able to align your mount during the day and make goto’s directly to the brighter planets and even the brighter stars can be seen in broad daylight. The basic idea of using a terrestrial object I got [...]

This is a video recording of a talk about the Modern Alt-Az mount held at The Practical Astronomy Show in March 2019. Actually the recording was made a few weeks later when I repeated the talk at The Astronomical Society of Copenhagen. Unfortunately the video quality is not perfect but I hope it can be useful anyway. The video is rather long so here are the timing if you want to jump to certain sections: Introduction My Journey into amateur astronomy (01:24) Comparison of Polar aligned and Alt-Az Mounts (05:05) Summing up the Comparison (19:12) Alt-Az short exposure Astrophotography (20:39) Alt-Az long exposure Astrophotography (30:41) Summing up (38:30)

You can take great astrophotos using your Alt-Az mount – learn how here If you own an Alt-Az mount, you most likely think “It cannot be used for deep sky astrophotography”. But that is not correct. It is possible to take wonderful deep sky images with an Alt-Az mount if you know how to do it and pick the right objects. As with any astronomy equipment, the quality of the mount (stability, tracking accuracy), telescope and camera will of course have influence on the final result. But with good knowledge and persistence, you can take great images even with modest equipment. This article will explain how. In this post, I will look into the following subjects: Equipment considerations Alt-Az mount tracking Guiding an Alt-Az mount Influence of field rotation How [...]

You may have learned that for taking good astrophotos, you need a polar aligned mount preferably a german equatorial mount. But with new high quality Alt-Az mounts, this is no longer true. New technologies introduced in Alt-Az mounts mean they can deliver precise equatorial tracking while maintaining the basic advantages of the Alt-Az mount (read more about these advantages and a comparison to Polar aligned mount here). Tracking needed for precise astrophotography One of the first challenges when taking astrophotos is to achieve good tracking. Without good tracking of the object imaged, the rest doesn’t matter. Top quality optics, super sensitive low noise camera, everything collimated and aligned perfectly – all this will not help you if the tracking is bad. Tracking the sky means that the telescope must continually [...]

 The Alt-Az mount is gaining fame again after many years in the shadow of the polar aligned parallactic mount. The ever increasing possibilities within computer control has made it possible to design Alt-Az mounts capable of delivering precise equatorial tracking. Having the simple mechanical principles of the Alt-Az mount, these new mounts offer easier transport and faster setup than the typical polar aligned mount. Setting up an Alt-Az telescope mount – no leveling needed Basically, an Alt-Az mount has a vertical azimuth axle and a horizontal altitude axle. However, this does not need to be precise with many newer mounts where the software handles the alignment. Therefore, the great advantage setting up an Alt-Az mount is that no leveling of any kind is needed. Just set up the tripod [...]

This is the first article in a small series that will focus on the use and possibilities of Altitude-Azimuth (Alt-Az) telescope mounts. First the basic overview will be created and in the coming articles more details on the actual use and possibilities of the modern Alt-Az mount will be covered. The historic view The very first telescope mounts made were Alt-Az mounts. Logically, it is the easiest way to mount a telescope to get a compact and stable base. For astronomical telescopes, the need for tracking the objects across the sky lead to the invention of the Polar aligned Parallactic mount. In the times of no computer control, the fixed speed drive needed for the polar aligned mount was easy to make as a mechanical clock. With modern computer controlled [...]

TTS-160 Panther Mount