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Performance Test of Anti-Vibration Pads - Manufactured and Homemade



In the interest of full disclosure I have no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned in the following report.

One of the most useful (but least used) accessories one can have is a set of Vibration Suppression Pads (VSPs). While they are not a magic cure-all for a shaky mount, they can improve vibration dampening times by a noticeable margin. Every amateur astronomer should keep a set in their accessory case. Celestron was the first company to offer them, but they are now also sold by Orion, Meade and a handful of others. All of them perform virtually identically, and operate by using a “visco-elastic” material to separate the tripod from the ground. The price for a set of 3 typically falls between $45 and $65.

For the following tests, I used a slightly more standardized test than the typical “tap test” to determine vibration dampening times. The “tap test” is a flawed measurement of stability, as there can be huge variation in the strength with which you tap the tube. A better test is this; use a length of twine to hang a 1lb weight from the focuser, with 1 foot of line between the weight and the focuser. Cut the twine and use a stopwatch to measure the time that elapses before the image settles down. Testing stability this way ensures the same force is exerted every time. I carried out this test 5 times with Celestron pads and 5 times without pads using a Galileo FS-102 Newtonian altazimuth scope operating at 110x.

Dampening times:

With pads

Without Pads

2.8 seconds

3.5 seconds

2.8 seconds

3.7 seconds

2.9 seconds

3.2 seconds

2.7 seconds

3.4 seconds

2.9 seconds

3.8 seconds

Average dampening time with the pads was 2.82 seconds. Average dampening time without pads was 3.52 seconds. An improvement of .7 seconds is definitely noticeable!

Some amateur astronomers have taken to making their own anti-vibration pads by following instructions published in Star Ware, 4th Edition by Phil Harrington and initially designed by Jim Dixon. Homebrew pads are made from plastic furniture leg cups and silicone sealant. A full set costs (at most) $8 in parts, and requires about 15 minutes of labor to make. But how does silicone sealant stand up against the visco-elastic material used in commercially available vibration suppression pads? Surprisingly well, it turns out.


Celestron Pads

Homebrew Pads

2.8 seconds

3.0 seconds

2.8 seconds

2.9 seconds

2.9 seconds

2.6 seconds

2.7 seconds

2.9 seconds

2.9 seconds

2.8 seconds

The average dampening time with homemade pads was 2.84 seconds, only .02 seconds longer than with the Celestron pads! Ultimately, my recommendation is that all amateur astronomers should use anti-vibration pads. However, the advantage of using expensive mass-produced pads is so negligible (and can be chalked up to a margin of error in testing) that I would strongly advise everybody to make their own and save a lot of money!






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