Equatorial Mount Vs Altazimuth: A Detailed Comparison

An equatorial mount tracks stars and objects using two axes aligned with the Earth’s poles, while an altazimuth mount moves horizontally and vertically. In astronomy, choosing between an equatorial mount and an altazimuth mount depends on the observer’s needs and preferences.

An equatorial mount’s primary advantage is its ability to track objects using a single axis, allowing for longer exposures in astrophotography. Altazimuth mounts are simpler to use and more portable, making them popular for stargazing and casual observing. Both mounts have their pros and cons, and the choice depends on factors such as budget, portability, and the observer’s specific interests and usage requirements.

Ultimately, understanding the differences between the two types of mounts will help choose the right one for various astronomical activities.

Movement And Tracking

Equatorial mounts and Altazimuth mounts are the two primary types of mounts used for telescopes. While they both serve the purpose of allowing a telescope to move and track celestial objects, they differ in terms of their movement and tracking capabilities.

Horizontal And Vertical Axes

Equatorial mounts move along two axes: the right ascension axis (horizontal) and the declination axis (vertical). The horizontal axis allows the telescope to track the movement of celestial objects as the Earth rotates, while the vertical axis enables adjustments to view objects at different altitudes.

Altazimuth mounts, on the other hand, move along two perpendicular axes: the horizontal axis and the vertical axis. The horizontal axis allows the telescope to move left and right, similar to panning a camera, while the vertical axis enables adjusting the altitude of the telescope.

Spherical Vs. Rectilinear Motion

Equatorial mounts operate using a spherical motion, providing smooth and continuous tracking of celestial objects as they move across the sky. This spherical motion is based on the rotation of the Earth, allowing for accurate tracking of objects with minimal adjustments.

In contrast, altazimuth mounts employ a rectilinear motion, which means they move in straight lines along the horizontal and vertical axes. This type of motion requires regular adjustments to compensate for the rotation of the Earth, as objects will appear to move at different rates across the sky.

To summarize, equatorial mounts offer the advantage of continuous tracking due to their spherical motion, while altazimuth mounts require more frequent adjustments due to their rectilinear motion. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the specific needs and preferences of the observer.

Usage And Applications

Equatorial Mount and Altazimuth Mount are two commonly used mounts in the field of astronomy and photography. Each mount has its own unique features and applications. Let’s explore how these mounts are used in different areas.


In astronomy, the choice of mount depends on the specific needs of observation and tracking celestial objects. Equatorial Mount, also known as the polar axis mount, is widely used by astronomers. Its primary advantage lies in its ability to mimic the Earth’s rotation, allowing for precise tracking of stars, planets, and other astronomical objects. The equatorial mount aligns with the Earth’s axis, enabling astronomers to easily follow celestial objects as they move across the night sky.

On the other hand, Altazimuth Mount is a popular choice for beginners and casual stargazers. Its simple design with two perpendicular axes, vertical and horizontal, allows for easy movement in both vertical (altitude) and horizontal (azimuth) directions. This mount is ideal for observing larger celestial bodies such as the moon or planets, which do not require continuous tracking.


Both Equatorial Mount and Altazimuth Mount find their applications in astrophotography, the art of capturing images of celestial objects. The choice of mount depends on the specific type of astrophotography one wishes to pursue.

Equatorial Mount is favored by experienced astrophotographers due to its precise tracking capabilities. With the Earth’s rotation compensated, long-exposure images of galaxies, nebulas, and other faint objects can be captured without blurring. The equatorial mount allows for accurate alignment with the celestial pole, ensuring steady tracking of the desired object throughout the exposure.

On the other hand, Altazimuth Mount is often used for wide-field astrophotography, capturing expansive views of the night sky. This mount is particularly suitable for imaging star trails, meteor showers, or capturing the beauty of the Milky Way. It provides a more intuitive and straightforward setup, making it accessible to photography enthusiasts who are just starting their astrophotography journey.


In summary, Equatorial Mount and Altazimuth Mount serve different purposes in the realms of astronomy and photography. Equatorial Mount excels in precise tracking and is commonly used by astronomers and experienced astrophotographers, whereas Altazimuth Mount offers simplicity and is preferred by beginners and enthusiasts engaging in wide-field astrophotography. Understanding their applications enables individuals to make informed decisions about which mount best suits their specific needs and goals.

Advantages And Disadvantages

When choosing between an equatorial mount and an altazimuth mount for your telescope, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. Both types of mounts have unique features that make them suitable for different purposes, and understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision.

Equatorial Mount

Equatorial mounts are designed to align with the Earth’s axis, allowing for smooth tracking of celestial objects as they appear to move across the sky. This type of mount is well-suited for astrophotography and long-exposure viewing, as it compensates for the Earth’s rotation, resulting in clear and precise images.

Advantages of equatorial mounts:

  • Efficient tracking of celestial objects
  • Ideal for astrophotography and long-exposure viewing
  • Accurate compensation for the Earth’s rotation

Disadvantages of equatorial mounts:

  • May be more complex and time-consuming to set up
  • Require polar alignment for optimal performance

Altazimuth Mount

An altazimuth mount operates on a horizontal and vertical axis, making it simpler to use and align with terrestrial coordinates. This type of mount is often preferred for casual stargazing and observing celestial objects that do not require long-exposure tracking.

Advantages of altazimuth mounts:

  • Simplified and user-friendly setup and operation
  • Suitable for terrestrial viewing and casual stargazing
  • Convenient for observing celestial objects with short exposure times

Disadvantages of altazimuth mounts:

  • Less suitable for astrophotography and long-exposure viewing
  • May require manual adjustments to compensate for the Earth’s rotation

Portability And Setup

Equatorial mount and Altazimuth mount have distinct differences in terms of portability and setup.

Weight And Size

Equatorial mounts tend to be heavier and larger than Altazimuth mounts, making them less portable.

Alignment Process

Equatorial mounts require precise polar alignment for tracking celestial objects accurately.

The Altazimuth mounts offer easier and quicker setup, making them more suitable for beginners.

Equatorial Mounts:

Pros Cons
Accurate tracking Heavy and bulky
Great for astrophotography Time-consuming setup
  • Equatorial mounts are ideal for long-exposure photography.
  • They require alignment with the celestial pole.

Altazimuth Mounts:

Pros Cons
Easy setup Lack of precise tracking
Compact and portable Less suitable for astrophotography
  1. Altazimuth mounts are user-friendly for visual observations.
  2. They operate on horizontal and vertical axes for simple movement.

Notable Features

Notable Features of Equatorial Mount Vs Altazimuth Mount

Notable Features:

Synchronization For Equatorial Mount

Equatorial mounts require synchronization to align with the Earth’s axis.

Allows for tracking celestial objects as they move across the sky.

Auto-tracking For Altazimuth Mount

Altazimuth mounts feature auto-tracking for simplified celestial viewing.

Automatically adjusts to keep objects centered in the field of view.

Cost And Accessibility

In comparing equatorial mounts and altazimuth mounts, considering the cost and accessibility is critical to selecting the most suitable option for your astronomical needs.


The affordability of equatorial mounts varies based on the complexity and precision needed for astrophotography. They tend to be costlier due to their intricate design and tracking capabilities. Altazimuth mounts, on the other hand, are generally more affordable, making them a popular choice for beginners and casual observers.


Equatorial mounts are widely available, especially at specialized telescope and astronomy equipment retailers. However, the abundance of options can sometimes make it challenging to find the perfect match for your specific needs. Altazimuth mounts are widely accessible and can be found not only in specialty stores but also in general electronics and hobbyist shops, making them convenient to obtain for many.

Frequently Asked Questions On Equatorial Mount Vs Altazimuth

What Is An Equatorial Mount Used For In Astronomy?

An equatorial mount is ideal for tracking celestial objects as it aligns with Earth’s axis for smooth tracking and long-exposure astrophotography.

Why Choose An Altazimuth Mount Over Equatorial?

An Altazimuth mount offers intuitive movement in both vertical and horizontal axes, making it great for visual observation and easy setup.

Which Mount Is Better For Beginners, Equatorial Or Altazimuth?

For beginners, an Altazimuth mount is recommended due to its simplicity in operation and quick setup for basic stargazing experiences.


Both equatorial mounts and altazimuth mounts have their unique advantages for stargazing and astrophotography. The choice between the two depends on individual needs and preferences. While the equatorial mount offers precise tracking for long-exposure photography, the altazimuth mount provides ease of use and portability.

Understanding their differences can help you make an informed decision for your astronomical pursuits.