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How to Mount, Balance, and Polar Align an Astrophotography Rig

Updated: May 31, 2023

   Setting up your brand-new mount can be pretty confusing, especially if you are worried about breaking anything before even using that shiny, new telescope!

We made a video showing exactly how to mount everything, balance the telescope, and polar align the mount, which you can see at the bottom of this page.

Below, you will find the written version of this video, in case you would like to keep it in your notes and take it with you for your first outing (however, we strongly recommend setting up everything in your living room the very first time!).

how to mount astrophotography rig

Steps to Mount, Balance, and Polar Align:

Step 1: Set Up the Tripod First

This is the base of our entire mounting process. At the top of your tripod is a raised cube-like piece which will be important in the next steps. As you open the legs of the tripod, be sure to point this cube toward the north, AKA toward Polaris (the North Star).


Step 2: Attach the Motorized Mount

This piece of equipment is the most important and ironically is the heaviest. Therefore, always handle it with care! Now, remember the raised cube we talked about? To best secure the mount onto the tripod, you will place it atop it. Along with the cube, there is a large screw in the tripod that screws into the mount. Follow the mini-step below before continuing.

Step 2.1: You will next grab the support for the tripod base, which also doubles as a lens holder. This strange piece of metal with holes in it will fit in between the tripod legs and is supported by the screw at the base of the tripod (the same one that went into the mount). As you put it into place and then tighten the knob it will ensure the tripod legs are fully open and secures the mount as well.

All this happens BEFORE attaching a telescope. Make sure it is tight for now, but know that you will have to loosen it later during the polar alignment step.

Don't know what target to shoot tonight? Buy an astrophotography book to keep handy at night.


Step 3: Attach the Counter-Weights

Where do you attach the counter-weights? A knob at the end of the mount pointing to the ground will reveal a pole that is conveniently tucked inside the mount. However, in our case, the standard pole was not long enough so we attached an extender first.

Once attached you can place the weights and screw them into place. Be careful not to smash your toes with loose weights by remembering to screw in the end piece, also called a "toe saver."