Celestron’s SkyAlign is the simplest method to align a computerised telescope, providing ease of use for beginners while retaining the accuracy demanded by experienced users. The telescope software needs to know the exact orientation of the telescope in relation to the night sky in order to find the tens of thousands of celestial objects programmed in the hand control.
This SkyAlign technology allows the setting up of computerised telescope to be achieved faster and easier than ever before. Simply point the telescope at three bright objects in the night sky, and the telescope controller will tell you what the objects are. You don’t need to know the names of the stars—you can even pick the Moon or bright planets! SkyAlign technology is standard on LCM, NexStar GT, NexStar SLT, NexStar SE, and CPC telescopes.
Simply input the date, time, and your location (GPS-equipped telescopes obtain all this information automatically) into your Celestron telescope’s hand controller and then point the telescope at any three bright objects. There is no need to point the telescope north or to level the optical tube as in other alignment methods from competing telescope brands: the initial position of the telescope is irrelevant. Other methods for aligning a computerised telescope require the user to confirm what star the telescope is pointing at in order to align. If you don’t know where Arcturus or Sirius is, how can you confirm that information? The best you can do is guess!! With Celestron’s SkyAlign, you truly don’t need to know anything about the night sky in order to enjoy it—and this technology is only available from Celestron and takes the guesswork out of alignment!
SkyAlign will work with any Celestron computerised alt-az telescopes that use the NexStar software (excluding the original NexStar 5 and NexStar 8 models). However, a new flash-upgradeable hand control with SkyAlign will be required; this will allow you to download software updates from the Celestron website. Contact Celestron Technical Support for more information on obtaining an upgraded hand control. SkyAlign is not currently available for German equatorial mounts and does not work with alt-az scopes on a wedge.
Tips for successful alignment with SkyAlign
- Be sure to level the tripod before you start. Assumptions about the available bright stars and planets rely on a level tripod. Once the alignment is complete, GoTo and tracking are not dependent upon the accuracy with which you leveled the tripod, so “close enough” is good enough. Several Celestron telescopes feature bubble levels built into the tripod to assist with leveling.
- If you do not have a GPS-equipped telescope, make sure your time is accurate to within a couple of minutes.
- Select a city within 50 miles or enter your longitude and latitude to within one degree.
- Only stars of magnitude 2.5 or brighter are included in the SkyAlign procedure, so it is best to take a look around and select three of the brightest objects in the sky. Don’t worry about confusing planets for stars: SkyAlign also works with the four brightest planets (Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars). You can even use the Moon as one of your alignment objects, though due to its size and the speed with which it moves across the sky, you would need to switch to a low-power eyepiece to center it.
- Pick stars that are far apart from each other. Keep this in mind when scanning the sky for alignment stars, and be sure at least two of the three objects are widely spaced. Only two of the objects (those with widest separation) will actually be used for calculating the model of the sky; the third provides a positive identification of the other two.
Steps of the SkyAlign procedure
- Level the tripod.
- Set up the telescope in alt-az mode (mounted right on top of the tripod).
- Power on the scope.
- Scan across the sky looking for three bright points. Two of them should have wide separation, while the third should not be close to the line connecting the other two.
- On the hand control, press Enter to begin, then press Enter again when the display reads SkyAlign. The hand control will show either the current time or the time when you last used the telescope. The top line of the display will cycle through the messages “Enter if OK” and “UNDO to edit.”*
- If your scope has a GPS module, the GPS receiver will shortly lock onto three GPS satellites and update the date, time, and location; when this happens, skip to step 6.
- If you don’t have a GPS module in your scope or don’t want to wait for the GPS sync, use the Up and Down buttons (6 and 9 on the keypad) to scroll through the date, time, and location settings. If they are all correct, press Enter to accept and proceed with the alignment. If they need to be adjusted, press Undo and make any necessary corrections. You will see a short message about what will happen next; press Enter to continue.
- The display will now prompt you to centre the first object. Use the arrow buttons to slew (move) the telescope to the first of your bright objects. Centre the object in the finderscope and press Enter. Then, centre the object in the eyepiece and press Align.
- Repeat Step 8 for two additional objects.
- The hand control will display “Match Confirmed” and ask you if you’d like to see the matches (press Enter) or continue (press Undo). If you hit Enter to see the matches, it brings up a list of the matches that you can scroll through.
* Time entry will vary depending on the mount.