I have an 80 mm refractor telescope on a tripod, but it shakes on every touch. It's very hard to see via 6 mm (x120) ocular. Even a little wind causes the image to become too unsteady.

How can I make my tripod more steady?

  • $\begingroup$ How about just using a bigger eyepiece? 6 mm is pretty aggressive magnification. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Jan 29 '12 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ 6mm gives me x120, and 20mm (x35), so via 20mm I cannot see features on the planet surfaces, like bands on the Jupiter. Generally speaking even 6mm make it possible with difficulties. $\endgroup$ – coms Jan 29 '12 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ A telescope at high magnifications doesn't ride well on cheap photo tripods. I also have an 80 mm refractor (an Orion EON 80) which sits on a astronomy alt-azi mount (a Vixen Porta II). Perfect combination. This mount dampens vibrations very well and also provides slow motion controls. Essential when using high magnifications. In amateur astronomy the mount is arguably more important than the scope. You have to invest some money to enjoy vibration-free views. $\endgroup$ – Johannes Oct 14 '12 at 10:03

First make sure all your screws are tight, and that there isn't any shaking because of slack in any areas where things connect to each other.

Another thing you can do is buy vibration dampening pads to put your tripod on.

Finally, you can add counter weights and pendulum weights to the tripod to give it more mass to withstand the wind and touches.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, but vibration dampening pads are costly and I think overprised. Have you try? I'm not shure about their efficiency. $\endgroup$ – coms Jan 28 '12 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @coms Yes, I do own this exact brand, and I am satisfied with them. Although, my wife bought my telescope, so she didn't get me the exact version that I wanted. Refractors tend to be much longer, giving a more problematic moment arm to deal with than a more compact reflector. I found the pads helped a bit. And you may be able to find some for much less than $40 (US) at a local hobby or photography store. $\endgroup$ – Larian LeQuella Jan 28 '12 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not saying the "vibration pads" are identical to placebo, but they're not much better either. The trick with the weights may work better. The issue here is that the tripod is bad to begin with. $\endgroup$ – Florin Andrei Jan 30 '12 at 23:57

You may try various semi-placebo methods, but the real issue here is that this particular tripod is shaky to begin with. This might be due to the fact that there is too much flex in the three legs, and/or the bearings and the moving parts are loose. Likely both. This is, if not the #1 issue with all cheap scopes out there, then it's pretty close to #1. It's a well known problem and I tell everyone to be very very careful with the mount when they purchase a cheap scope.

You may spend your time tinkering with it; the effort may or may not prove fruitful.

If your scope has a standard photo mount (it goes on a photographic tripod without modifications), then you could try to rummage through yard sales and such, see if you can find a better one. Some photo tripods are fairly sturdy; perhaps not as good as a real astro tripod, but perhaps better than your current one.

Put the potential purchase on solid hard ground, grab its head, and try and move it around. If it moves at all in any direction, it's not good.

You could try to improvise something if you're handy with the DIY stuff. Some folks build entire telescopes from scratch and such a DIY mount can be pretty good if done right. OTOH, there's plenty that could go wrong here too.

Or you could try to purchase a real astro mount, a better one, assuming it's compatible with your scope, or the required mods are easily done. But this would negate the price "advantage" of the initial purchase (not much of an advantage if you can't use the scope).

Frankly, I think it's unethical of many vendors to sell such things. Sure, profit above all and so on, but a shaky mount is essentially not usable. Not many car makers would stay in business if they sold a car whose brakes don't work. But, well, a scope can't kill anybody so I guess that's how they get away with it.


You could use weights but you could also anchor the tripod in the ground. I've never done it myself but I heard that some folks take a string, fix it to the tripod (where the weight is supposed to be fixed), drive a large screw or hook into the tarmac and then fix the string at the screw or hook.


I have a Meade ETX-80 refractor. The tripod is well, horribly made. I recently purchased a #884 tripod for use with the ETX-80. Meade told me several months back that this won't work. Well, it does work, and it is a solid tripod for this small telescope. This is the main thing you can take from this: Best method for a stable telescope is its mount. I realize this approach may not be practical for folks with tight budgets....and I'm one of those, but it is the best approach.


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