The Super Polaris and Great Polaris
German Equatorial Mounts
The Japanese made Vixen Super Polaris is well designed, high quality, low cost German Equatorial Mount (GEM) for use with telescope Optical Tube Assemblies (OTA) weighing up to 16 pounds. Celestron and other US companies including Astro Physics sold the Super Polaris with their telescopes for over decade. A couple of years ago, Vixen made some minor modifications to the mount and re-named it the Great Polaris. The most significant difference between the two mounts appears in the way the OTA gets mounted. The Super Polaris has a two-holed mounting plate permanently affixed to the head. The Great Polaris uses a dovetail clamp for holding several varieties of mounting plates. All the other differences are cosmetic. The Great Polaris and Super Polaris show equal robustness and stability. All Super Polaris and Great Polaris Mounts accept the SkySensor 2000.
I acquired my Super Polaris used for $400. I have recently seen them sold a low as $350 and as high as $800. The Great Polaris can be purchased new from Orion for $744. The one thing to look for in both of these mounts is the tripod legs.
The overall performance of the mount depends upon it being mounted on sturdy legs. There are wooden legs and there are aluminum legs. The aluminum legs are the worse. They are much more vibration prone. They also show a tendency to twist under torque. There are good wooden legs and there are better wooden legs. The Astro Physics wooden legs are excellent. If you get an aluminum legged version, do not despair. Try filling the legs with sand, not extending leg extensions and keeping you eyes open for a replacement set of good wooden legs. Other excellent but costly tripod alternatives are the very sturdy Tiffen ST600 and the Celestron 93499. In any case, invest in a set of the Celestron anti-vibration pads. They make a huge difference.
The overall design and manufactured quality of these two mounts is outstanding especially when considering the cost. The fit and finish are excellent. The telescope moves very smoothly in the RA and DEC axis movements without a trace of the stickiness that sometimes plagues other GEMs. The worm gears are designed with four way adjustment screws that make it easy to eliminate almost all the worm gear backlash. My particular Super Polaris has a measured periodic error of 5 arc seconds, which is outstanding.
The mount comes with a polar alignment scope that makes the attainment of a near perfect polar alignment a five minute operation. The polar alignment scope sits inside the RA axis. To align the scope, swing the OTA in RA until the current time of day is matched to a date scale. Next, turn on the illuminator and look into the polar alignment scope. Adjust the mount's alt/az controls until Polaris is in the indicated position, lock the screws, turn off the illuminator, replace the caps and you are done.
If you have a Super Polaris mount but are missing the manual, the important pages have been scanned and are available for downloading. Also included is an explaination of how to calculate your time zone offset when setting up the Polar alginment scope. See Super Polaris Manual.