- How do I determine what height is best for me?
Provided you have an adjustable-height tripod, mount your telescope on its tripod and adjust the tripod until you have a comfortable height for viewing. Measure from the ground to the top of the tripod. We recommend, for fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrains, a 30" tall height as a good sitting height for adults and a good standing height for children. For German equatorial Schmidt-Cassegrains, we recommend the same height. For German equatorial refractors, our recommended pier height is 48". This height is recommended for refractors up to an f10 focal. For German equatorial Newtonians we recommend a height from 18" to 30." Again, reference your tripod height.
- How is the height of the pier measured? Does the 44" Professional Grade Polaris mount include the height of the wedge?
The height of all Astro Piers is measured from the bottom of the base plate to the top of the vertical tube. The height of the wedge or any mounting plate is not included in the height measurement of the pier.
- Could you give me a little bit more info on how you install the pier precisely to celestial North?
When installing the pier, the configuration of the mounting bolts will be in a triangle pointing North. The pier does not have to be set precisely North. There is a 5 degree plus/minus tolerance for the pier itself. The mount is what is set precisely on celestial North. Depending upon the mount, this may be achieved a couple of ways. Some mounts have built in azimuth adjusters. Those that do not can be rotated in the pier top prior to lock down.
- Since I will be installing my pier during the day, how do I make sure it is oriented correctly?
Magnetic North is not an accurate representation of true North. We recommend the evening before concrete is poured, go outside, and locate the North star. Standing from behind the excavated site (approximately 10 feet to the South) line the excavated hole or location of mounting bolts with the North star in respect to your line of sight. On the North side of the hole, lay a 2x4 and adjust the direction of the 2x4 until your alignment looks perfect with the Nsorth star. Once this is achieved, spray a stripe of paint on the ground, along the edge of the 2x4, so that your reference is not accidentally lost. When the pier is mounted on an existing slab, or suspended slab or suspended deck, we recommend that you use chalk, which is easily removeable with water.
- If I decide to buy a different pier for a different mount, can I use the same mounting bolt assembly?
Except for the 4 ¼" diameter pier, all Astro Piers have the same size base plate utilizing the same mounting bolt size and bolt pattern; therefore, in most cases, the same mounting bolt assembly may be used. Even if you're currently using a 4 ¼" diameter pier and wish to upgrade to a larger diameter pier, upon request we will accommodate the larger pier to mate to the existing bolt pattern.
- The site ground for my pier is essentially solid mountain rock, can I attach the pier directly to bolts drilled into the rock?
Yes. After digging down to the solid rock, you will need to drill three one-inch diameter holes in the rock, using the bolt pattern template, that is included in the mounting hardware, as your reference. These holes will need to be drilled approximately 3 1/2" deep. Next, fill holes 2/3 full with a good, high-quality, industrial epoxy. Then, set the bolts in place, using the bolt pattern template to hold the bolts on the correct bolt circle, until the epoxy is hard. We offer an excellent epoxy, which is so tough that a 3/4" diameter bolt twisted off without the epoxy giving away.
- Can you tell me why you recommend approx. 18" diameter concrete footing for a pier when most everyone else says 3 or usually 4 ft.? 18" sure would save a lot of concrete if its adequate!
Our concrete footing is 18" diameter by 48" deep. We require 18" diameter because our piers' base plates are usually 14" diameter. We recommend 48" deep as it creates a better center of gravity for the pier. This is quite sufficient.
- I am setting up my pad for the pier and my observatory. My question is this. Is it recommended that I pour the foundation for the pier separate from the pad, pour the pad then the pier foundation or just go ahead and set the hardware for the pier and pour everything all at once? Should I place isolation joints (expansion joints) around the pier foundation when pouring the concrete pad? My observatory is 10'.
If you pour your floor 5 1/2" thick, you can pour both the pier footing and the floor at the same time. If it less than 5 1/2" thick, you will want to isolate pier footing from slab with expansion joints.
- How tall should my pier be in my observatory?
Line of sight is one of the factors in determining pier height or the height of the structure to support the pier. In all circumstances that I have experienced and discussed with customers, everyone seems to agree that it is impractical to view 15 degrees above the horizon or lower. Therefore, the telescope should be high enough so your view of the sky is not interfered with by the walls of the observatory until you are looking down to the 15 degree area. Also, the telescope should go to the zenith position without hitting the ceiling of the observatory when it is closed. If a dew shield is used, this added length should be taken into consideration.
- How tall should the walls be in my observatory for a 14" or 16" fork-mounted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope?
In a 10-foot observatory, the walls should be 4 feet tall. This will give an inside maximum height of approximately 9 feet, which will accommodate this telescope with a dew shield in place on a 30" tall pier.
- Where should the pier be placed in a dome?
When installing a pier in a dome, German equatorial mount piers are placed in the center of the dome. Fork-mounted telescopes using a wedge will be mounted off-center according to latitude.
- How much weight can this pier support?
Our in-house testing has proven that our piers can handle a balanced load of at least 2,625 lb. and an unbalanced load of 1,225 lb.
- Can you modify my pier to accept other mounts or do I have to order another one?
We do make multiple adapter plates for azimuth mounting and Polaris mounting to a fit a variety of our piers. In most cases, if you decide to change telescopes, we can deliver you a new pier top to accommodate your new scope.
- How does your Azimuth Adjuster function?
The Azimuth Adjuster is a two-part adjuster. One part bolts to the wedge itself. The adjustment mechanism bolts to the pier. All holes for mounting are pre-drilled. The adjuster has a degree span of about +/- 10 degrees; 20 degrees total of adjusting movement. The actual adjustment thread is a 24 pitch.
- Can I leave the pier mounted outside without protection from the rain and snow? Would I also need to cover the bolts and nuts with grease?
The pier was manufactured to withstand outside weathering. Of course, as mentioned in our installation manual, you will want to apply a coating of wax to the pier annually to protect the finish and a drop of oil to each locking screw on the top of the pier. The zinc-dichromated mounting bolts that we use for installing the pier withstand rust for five times longer than regular zinc-plated bolts. However, if you like, it wouldn't hurt to place a drop of oil on the top of them once every year or so.
- What kind of vibration problems will I have? How fast do vibrations damp with your piers? Does filling them with sand or concrete, or covering them with foam help dampen the vibrations?
For the most common causes of vibration, e.g., knocking a chair over onto the pier, the vibration dampening time is 5 seconds or less. For a more profound cause of vibration, e.g., smacking the pier with a metal hammer, the vibration dampening time is about 15 seconds. The pier may be filled with sand for added vibration resistance, but it usually isn't necessary.
- Why do you think the Astro Pier is better than an 8 to 12 inch steel pipe or concrete pier?
A few of the more desirable qualities distinguishing the Astro Pier from a steel pipe or concrete filled sonotube set in concrete is that firstly, the Astro Pier can be re-leveled in the event that the footing has shifted for one reason or another. Secondly, the Astro Pier can be relocated. Thirdly, in the event a new Astro Pier is needed to replace an old Astro Pier, this can more easily be done from a standardized item.
- Do you stock the piers and if not, what are the delivery times?
Our piers are built to your specifications with respect to height, accessories, color, and type of telescope. Although we do have a number of standardized components for our piers, there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of variations possible. Therefore, each pier is manufactured on an order-by-order basis. Normal delivery time is 3 to 4 weeks from date of order.
- Do you make portable piers or adapters that allow for portability?
We only build telescope mounting piers for direct mounting to a footing or other solid surface. One of our selling features is that the Astro Pier is a permanently mounted pier, eliminating the need to level and re-align for every observing session. At this time, we have no plans to manufacture a portable pier.
- What about shipping and handling?
Presently, we ship most orders by UPS. The normal shipping time for our piers is two to four weeks after receipt of order. We charge only our cost for freight, which varies daily, plus a packing fee (handling charge). Shipping weights for piers usually range from about 60 lb. to about 150 lb. Overseas shipment is available.