Telescopic Tracking of Mir by Hand

From: Ron Lee (
Date: Sun Nov 19 2000 - 09:35:30 PST

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    At about 01:45 UT on 19 Nov 2000 I had a 79 degree elevation pass
    of Mir.  I decided it was a good chance to try for the second time
    to track it in my 8" telescope.  Skymap showed the maximum elevation
    to occur at an azimuth of 36 degrees.  That means that the polar axis 
    would need to be set to (90-79) = 11 degrees elevation and an azimuth
    of 36 + 180 = 216 degrees.
    Running that through skymap showed the pointing point just south of
    Venus.  Setting up the telescope was reasonable easy and more accurate
    than my first attempt, when I just pointed in the general direction of
    the new "polar" point.
    Checking the path again to find a good starting point, I looked up and saw
    Mir near max elevation.  I acquired it in the finder scope  then moved to 
    the main eyepiece.  Just a glimpse.  Resetting Mir in the finder I then
    was able to follow for longer periods with minimal adjustment in declination.
    Mir appeared at an extended object so I twice verified the focus.  Still
    extended with possible linear extensions.  Magnification was 50x using a
    40 mm eyepiece.
    Analysis:  A key to tracking it by hand using an equatorial mount such as
    my Celestron 8" is accurately setting up the polar axis so that tracking
    in RA only is easy with minimal adjustments in declination.  I took more
    time doing that this time and it was worth the effort.  Given the ability
    to now track it with some degree of certainty, I am now confident that
    I can move on to imaging Mir.  I recently saw photos taken by someone
    using similar equipment to mine and I was impressed.  The photos do not
    get to the quality of Ron Dantowitz but his equipment is very sophisticated
    compared to mine.
    Ron Lee
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