How to use a Star Tracker: Setup and Polar Alignment

In the following video by Dark Skies with Matt Quinn, he walks us through how to set up and polar align a star tracker. The tracking mount he uses in this video is a Sky Watcher Star Adventurer, but the basic concepts are the same for all equatorial tracking mounts. Set up the mount, polar align and track! It’s that easy, well almost.

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I stumbled on this video after purchasing the Sky Watcher Star Adventurer for use in my personal photography. After unboxing everything and skimming the instructions I felt a little overwhelmed. I was looking for a short, easy to understand tutorial and Matt Quinn delivered! He breaks down the set-up process from start to finish giving you an easy to follow visual demonstration.

Sky Watcher Star Adventurer mounted on the Latitude (EQ) Base, Declination Bracket, Polar Scope Illuminator and Counter Weight

Matt starts with setting up the star tracker on a tripod. Then he touches on how to balance the camera with a counter weight. The counter weight is not always necessary but if you’re using a longer lens, or a heavy camera set up it’s a solid addition. Next, he goes over the anatomy of the tracker touching on all the knobs and dials and how they operate. Like your camera, you’re going to need to know how to operate your tracking mount in the dark. Lastly, he goes over the polar alignment process. This is easily the most important step. A proper polar alignment will let you to stretch your shutter speed allowing your cameras sensor to gather as much light as possible. 

If you just purchased an equatorial tracking mount or you’re just considering it, I would highly recommend watching his video. Check out the full video right here! Have a Star tracker already? Let us know what you like or dislike about it. If you have a more specific question you can always head over to our community forums and get answers!

Dark Skies with Matt Quinn

Matt has an excellent body of photography. His website has galleries for “The Dark Night”, “The Canadian Rockies”, and “Ontario Landscapes”. You can see more of his awesome photographs on his website, and his YouTube Channel “Dark Skies with Matt Quinn“.

Matt’s Links:

Items Discussed in this Article –

SkyWatcher S20510 Star Adventurer Astro Package

SkyWatcher S20530 Star Adventurer Latitude (EQ) Base

SkyWatcher S20540 Star Adventurer Counter Weight Kit

SkyWatcher (S20580) Star Adventurer Mini –

Neewer Tripod Leveling Base –

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kdk 1/13/20

Dean Vinson


  1. It’s a good vid to watch when you’re first starting with a tracker. A couple of things I will add.

    1. setup became much faster for me when I began to also use my tripod leveling base. Getting your tripod level with the legs is a pain in the ass.

    2. I have been upfront on numerous occasions when I composite in my MW images. As a hobbyist, I want to maximize my imagery, so I’ll get several blue hour images and composite in the MW I capture from that same night/day. Most don’t like this method, but I don’t hide that I do it, and it yields the type of images I like. I print my MW landscapes large, and this technique produces the cleanest print.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. A leveling base is a great addition! The one you recommended is the same one I’ve been looking to get for myself.

      For the foreground, I would encourage people to try different techniques, including a blue hour blend, and not just stick to what they know. It might be just the thing to take someone’s images to the next level and they might not know it yet.

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