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The Ultimate Guide to Telescope Piers – How To Choose the Perfect Setup for Your Astronomy Observation Needs

The first handheld telescopes, also known as "spyglasses" or "perspective glasses," were developed in the early 17th century. These early telescopes comprised two lenses held in a tube and magnified distant objects. They were shaky from being handheld, and mounts on ships and castle walls soon followed. The modern telescope, being a far more sensitive scientific instrument, requires a quality telescope pier.

A telescope pier is a structural support for a telescope mount used to hold and position a telescope. The pier is typically a sturdy, stable platform anchored to the ground or a concrete foundation. It is designed to provide a stable, vibration-free base for the telescope mount, which is critical for accurate tracking and precise pointing of the telescope.

There are a few different types of telescope piers, including:

  • Astronomy piers. These are piers that are specifically designed for astronomical telescopes and mounts. They may be made of steel, concrete, or wood and are typically tall enough to allow the telescope to point at objects in the sky without interference from the ground or nearby objects.
  • Mount piers. These are piers designed to support a specific type or model of the telescope mount. They may be custom-made or purchased as a kit and are usually compatible with various telescope types and sizes.
  • Mounting piers. These are piers designed to support the mounting hardware for a telescope, such as the tripod or equatorial mount. They may be made steel, aluminum, or composite materials and are usually adjustable to allow for precise alignment and balancing of the telescope.

A telescope pier is a critical equipment for any serious astronomer, as it provides the necessary stability and support for precise celestial observation.

Types of Piers and Their Pros

There are several different types of telescope piers, each with its own set of pros and cons. Here are some common types of telescope piers, along with a brief overview of their key characteristics:

  • Tripod piers. These are piers supported by three legs, similar to a camera tripod. They are usually lightweight and portable, often used with small or medium-sized telescopes. One of the main advantages of tripod piers is that they are easy to set up and take down, making them ideal for astronomers who need to transport their telescopes frequently.
  • Equatorial mount piers. These are piers to support an equatorial mount, which is a type of mount that allows a telescope to follow the movement of the stars across the sky. Equatorial mount piers are typically heavier and more stable than tripod piers and often used with larger telescopes. An advantage of equatorial mount piers is that they allow for precise tracking and pointing of the telescope, which is essential for long-exposure astrophotography.
  • Permanent observatory piers. These are piers designed to be installed in a permanent location, such as a backyard observatory or a dedicated astronomy site. Permanent observatory piers are usually made of concrete or steel and are extremely stable and weather-resistant. They provide a consistent, reliable platform for astronomical observations.

The best type of telescope pier for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences as an astronomer.

How To Choose the Right Telescope Pier for Your Astronomy Needs

When choosing a telescope pier, consider the size and weight of your telescope, the location where you will be using it, your astronomy goals, your budget, and compatibility with your telescope mount. Make sure to select a sturdy and weather-resistant pier if using it outdoors, and ensure that it is compatible with your telescope mount. High-quality piers can be expensive, but they may be worth the investment for serious astronomers. Choose a pier that meets your needs and helps you get the most out of your telescope.