Can I Motorize My Manual Telescope?
July 25, 2023
The short answer is: it depends. If you own an alt-azimuth manual telescope, unfortunately, you won’t be able to motorize it. But suppose you own one of Celestron’s manual CG-2, CG-3, or CG-4 equatorial mounts—the ones used with PowerSeeker, AstroMaster, and Omni XLT telescopes. In that case, you can motorize it by adding an optional bolt-on drive motor.
Why motorize your mount? Adding a motor drive allows the telescope to track the motion of the sky, keeping your target centered in an eyepiece or camera’s view. But remember, a motor-driven equatorial mount must still be polar aligned, just like a manually controlled one. And you’ll still have to locate and center sky objects manually.
The CG-2, CG-3, and CG-4 equatorial mounts ship without a motor drive on either the right ascension or declination axis (except for the AstroMaster 130EQ-MD, which comes with a motor drive for the right ascension axis only).
To motorize your CG-2 or CG-3 mount, you’ll need the AstroMaster/PowerSeeker Motor Drive. This accessory attaches to the right ascension axis. There is no option to motorize the declination axis on the CG-2 or CG-3.
The motor drive runs on an internal 9V battery. It features an on/off switch, a power indicator light, a North/South toggle switch, and a variable speed knob to slightly speed up or slow down the drive to match solar and lunar motion in the sky.
Mount the motor drive to the left side of the CG-2 mount or the right side of the CG-3 mount. The motor will be upside-down on the CG-3 mount but will function normally.
The motor drive will replace the standard right ascension slow-motion cable. Although you can attach the cable to the opposite side of the right ascension worm gear, you won’t be able to use it to move the telescope. This is because the worm gear is held in place by the motor drive gear train, and there is no slip clutch. Instead, you’ll move the telescope along the right ascension axis by loosening the right ascension axis clutch knob.
The CG-4 mount is included with Omni XLT telescopes and sold separately as the Omni CG-4 Telescope Mount and Tripod. You can motorize this mount on both axes by installing the Dual-axis Motor Drive. This motor drive has a slip clutch on the declination axis, so you can still nudge the telescope with the standard slow-motion control cable after you’ve installed the motor drive.
The CG-4 motor drive is a 6-volt ONLY device. You can’t power it with the standard 12V power options that work with our other telescope models. Instead, power the motor drive with four 1.5V D-cell batteries. The motor drive control has a North/OFF/South switch and four direction control buttons with selectable 2X, 4X, and 8X sidereal speed rates on both axes.
Once you polar align your mount, the motor can accurately track objects in right ascension as they move from east to west across the sky. You’ll only need to make minor adjustments in declination to keep celestial objects centered in your eyepiece for an extended period.
Both motor kits are only for tracking objects; they cannot slew rapidly across the sky. Because they have drive motors only and do not have electronics, they aren’t compatible with any telescope computer control program or the NexStar+ Hand Control.
If you ever decide to remove the motor drive from your telescope, doing so is easy. Simply decouple the flexible drive coupler and remove the motor mounting bolts.
Have fun experimenting with a motor drive. Clear skies!
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