Sky and Telescope - July 2018 - 62
S&T Test Report by Alan Dyer
t The QHYCCD PoleMaster is a compact
camera no bigger than an eyepiece dedicated
to one purpose: performing an accurate polar
alignment. It clamps to either the telescope tube
(as shown here) or directly onto a mount so the
camera aims at the celestial pole.
This dedicated camera and software from QHYCCD promises
to make accurate polar alignment easy and painless.
U.S. Price: $268
What We Like
Software with good
What We Don't Like
Mac software needs
J U LY 2 0 1 8 * S K Y & T E L E S C O P E
FOR ANYONE GETTING into deep-sky
imaging, one of the most daunting tasks
is often polar alignment. I personally have never found it to be an issue,
but I've always used portable German
equatorial mounts with built-in polaralignment telescopes. Adjusting the
mount to place Polaris at the right spot
on the alignment-scope's reticle (made
all the easier now with mobile apps that
show you where that spot precisely is)
takes only moments.
However, for anyone using a forkmounted telescope (or any equatorial
mount that lacks a polar scope), polar
alignment is not so straightforward.
Yet, the long focal-length telescopes
that are usually paired with such
mounts are the very ones requiring
accurate polar alignment, particularly
if your plan is to record long-exposure
The PoleMaster is a CCD camera with
a stated 11×8° ﬁeld of view. It connects to any computer with a supplied
Mini-USB-to-USB-A cable and continuously streams its live images into QHY's
PoleMaster software, available for both
Windows and MacOS. The camera is
powered through its USB cable; no other
power source is required.
The PoleMaster alignment process
has several steps, requiring you to ﬁrst
match the actual star ﬁeld to the software's built-in template of known stars
around Polaris. Rotating the mount
around its polar axis tells the software
where the mount's rotational axis is
versus where the actual celestial pole
is. You then use the mount's altitude
and azimuth adjustments to align the
former with the latter by aligning onscreen markers.
The multi-step process initially took
me 15 to 20 minutes, but once I performed it a few times, it typically took
only 5 minutes. However, on occasion,
A LL PHOTOS BY THE AU THOR
High-Tech Polar Alignment:
Some Go To mounts have polar
alignment routines as part of their ﬁrmware. If not, there's always the triedand-true but tedious drift-alignment
method, which can take the better part
of a precious clear night to complete.
The PoleMaster from QHYCCD
promises to sidestep the tedium. When
I ﬁrst heard of the device I was skeptical. Was this yet another gadget to
hook up and learn to use? Surely, it was
technical overkill - a high-tech alternative to simply learning the skill of using
a polar-alignment scope.
But after using the PoleMaster on
a number of nights, I am impressed. It
really does work. The device provides a
great solution for many photographers
for whom using a polar scope is not
feasible, not accurate enough, or simply
inconvenient to use.