A Temporary Pier

I finally finished constructing a pier in my backyard this afternoon (1998 Oct 11). It is constructed of 4 wooden 4x4s glued together with a little plywood to attach the scope on top. It extends 30" above and below ground level (this is a little shorter than my tripod). The hole is simply filled with the dirt and rock that came out of it plus a little sand. Nothing fancy here; this is just temporary until I build my observatory with a real concrete pier.

Gluing it up and drilling all the holes was the easy part:

Digging the hole was a LOT of work.
Filling it in again was relatively easy :-)

Now I'm a happy camper!

The evening of 1998 Oct 13 my new pier had its "first mass" (no Catholic jokes, please ;-) with my 12" LX200. I'm sorry to report that while it does work, it is not as stable as my Meade giant tripod. Vibration from kicking the pier doesn't damp for several seconds. This is somewhat surprising to me. Later experience with wind shows that it is not too bad, though. The vibration is not good (I'll use massive concrete for a more permanent setup) but it is acceptable for visual observing.

But it sure is nice to leave the scope set up all the time. And its nice not to have to worry about stubbing my toes on the tripod legs. The final touch is a 6' x 8' piece of Astroturf and a Desert Storm bag. It fits so nicely that no bungee cord is needed to hold it down.

Update three months later: I've gone to a larger Desert Storm bag so that it is big enough to fit over the OTA with accessories mounted (now I need a bungee). And I have all but forgotten about the vibration. It's still there but doesn't interfere with ordinary operation of the scope visually. I also ran an extension cord "permanently" out to the pier so that I don't have to worry about that, either. The Meade power supply sits on the side of the pier held with a nail and a bungee (not pretty but it works).

I really do use the scope more now that it takes only a minute to remove the bag and start observing.

Update 10 months later (1999 Aug 10): Well, tomorrow we start excavation for the landscaping project that will include my observatory and so the LX200 had to be moved (LX200s and back hoes don't mix :-) So we have come to the end of the line for the temporary pier and the Bag.

And not too soon, either. The Bag now has several holes in it that I've patched with Duct Tape and a few that I just noticed today that aren't. Most of the material has delaminated, separating the aluminized layer from the mylar. I don't think it would have survived another big storm.

So my experience is that the Bag works well but don't expect it to last more than one year. To be fair, we have quite a lot of wind here (though not by Midwestern standards). And I secured the Bag around the scope with only one bungee cord at the bottom; this let it flap a little at the top. I expect that may be largely responsible for the delamination and possibly therefore the holes.

Still, this is a happy day. I'm finally getting started on the Real Observatory! :-)

Bill Arnett; last updated: 1999 Aug 10