Once you've built your tracker, and have calibrated it, the next thing you'll want to do is learn how to set it up and use it.
So you're ready to take pictures! This is the way we recommend that you get started. Remember that the most critical thing is for the mount to be polar-aligned. What this means is that the mount should point at the celestial pole when it is in the Home position.
The polar alignment is relatively easy in the northern hemisphere and the mount can guide you through that setup. For the southern hemisphere it is a little harder.
For more information on different PA methods, see the Polar Alignment page.
Luckily there is a fairly bright star (called Polaris) very close to the celestial north pole. We utilize it to do the alignment.
Level the mount
The mount should be level in a sideways direction (i.e. roll, such that the extrusion between the roll mounts is level). Do this by using only the two front screws and turning them in directions that make the front extrusion level. Don't worry about front to back "levelness" (i.e. pitch), that will be done in the next steps.
The mount controller requires the current HA of Polaris to function correctly. This is automatically done if you:
Home the mount
Homing means rotating the RA ring to be centered and the DEC ring rotated such that the camera points out of the RA ring at 90 degrees (see figure at right). This adjustment does not need the camera, it is purely physical, using the OAT hardware. If you are using the LCD, use the four arrows to center the RA and DEC ring like shown and press
Yes to confirm.
If you are using OATControl, use the four directions to center the RA and DEC ring like shown, then click
Polar Align the mount
This requires you to use your camera If you are using OATControl click on
Polar alignment, if you're using the LCD: select
The mount will move for a bit, mostly around RA. After the slew, physically move the mount (via the single back M14 screw and via rotating the whole mount) such that Polaris is in the dead center of your viewfinder. Make sure the front stays level. If you're taking pictures (as opposed to Live View), move the mount in one direction only between pictures to see where the star goes. Repeat until centered. You may need to mark your laptop screen somehow from pic to pic so you can see how the movement of the mount corresponds to the star movement.
If you are using OATControl, confirm that it is centered by clicking
Done, if you're using the LCD press
SELECT to confirm.
You're now polar-aligned.
Since there is no bright star near the southern celestial pole, it is recommended to use Drift Alignment e.g. DARV.
Alternatively, some software can automatically and interactively tell you which direction to adjust the mount by taking 2 or 3 reference images. On Windows, you can use Sharpcap (paid, £10/yr). On Linux, KStars includes an alignment module built in to the Ekos suite (free). Note that these tools work best with a rather long equivalent focal length, e.g. Sharpcap recommends a field of view of 1-2.5 degrees (that's >400mm on APS-C/FF, you will also need to find compatible drivers for a DSLR). An easier option is the OpenAstroGuider Add-On, which seems to works well with Sharpcap, and is a useful upgrade too.