Building a telescope pier


My NEQ6 has a weight of 16.5kg. This does not sound like too much, but I needed to bring it into my backyard each night and back into the house the next morning. Then I always needed to do a good polar alignment. Without any software – just using the hand controller – this means to do a three star alignment followed by a polar alignment. This process needed to be repeated until I reached some point of accuracy which was good to go. Sometimes things can go wrong and for this reason sometimes it took up to two hours to get there, other nights it was done in less than 20 minutes. Today I’m using software for the polar alignment and my hand controller is not used anymore, but back in the last spring it was the way to go. 

To save time and to avoid the need to transport my mount each night I built a telescope pier. The foundation was built using concrete. For this I wanted to dig a hole with a deep of at least 60-80cm. However, because of the stony clay soil, I could only reach a depth of about 50cm. To increase stability, I drove several thick metal rods another 80cm deep into the ground. The hole was then filled with concrete, with the metal rods protruding upward from the concrete. After the concrete had dried for two days, a pipe with a diameter of 16cm and a length of 1.5 meters was placed centrally over the metal bars and fixed in place before this was also filled with concrete.  




For the support of the mount I got some 2cm thick aluminum plates, in which I drilled corresponding holes in the middle for screwing the mount from below and for 4 one meter long 18mm thick threaded steel rods. This mount support was screwed to the large threaded rods and sunk into the still fresh concrete in the pipe. A piece of wood served as a spacer between the aluminum plate and the pipe with the distance just large enough to still reach the screw by hand. Now, the concrete needed to dry for more than one week. 

About 9 days later I adjusted the aluminium plate to be leveled and finally put the mount on top of it. Finally, in the next clear night I made a very accurate polar alignment. 


DIY telescope pier with Skywatcher 80/600 on NEQ6

Since August I’ve been using this new pier now. The pier is very stable and I only need to check if the polar alignment is still accurate enough from time to time. Meanwhile, I’m using N.I.N.A for imaging and can do the entire polar alignment using N.I.N.A in just a few minutes. My guiding quality did improve significantly. Because N.I.N.A requires Windows I installed a small holder for my Mini PC on the pier. The disadvantage of this approach is that there is much more potential for cable snagging, while my Raspberry PI was mounted directly on my mount. However, due to a lot of problems with WLAN and other small issues using N.I.N.A just works better for me. 

Maybe I will build some kind of observatory around this pier next year.    


Using my 80/600 Skywatcher on a N-EQ6 equatorial mount limits the exposure time for each frame to about 20s or lower. Longer exposures lead to star trails, but with short exposures it needs much more light frames to produce good results. In order to go to the next level I finally needed a way to overcome this limit - I needed a way to improve the tracking of my mount with autoguiding. However, connecting a notebook with the mount does not feel comfortable for me. After some investigations I found a nice solution. 

I bought these items: 

  • Raspberry PI 4 Starter Kit 
  • 60mm Guiding Scope
  • ZWO ASI 120mm mono camera


On the Raspberry PI 4 I installed „Astroberry“ and configured a WLAN hotspot. It took me a rainy Sunday to get this to work. After solving some small issues I was able to connect to the Raspberry from my iPad using VNC where I now can start PHD2. The ZWO ASI 120mm camera is connected to the Raspberry via USB and to the ST4 port of my mount via ST4 cable. 

On 03 March 2021 I tried my new setup for the first time. But I did not get a stable WLAN connection due to some wrong setup. So I corrected my WLAN setup and retried it on 05 March 2021. This time I decided to create an image of the famous Horsehead nebula and flame nebula in Orion constellation.  It took about 50 minutes to improve my polar alignment, then I started PHD2 from my iPad and the auto guiding calibration started. After a few minutes the autoguiding worked very stable for some minutes, so I started my exposures. 

About two hours later Orion was already near the horizon and it was now time for me to start creating darks. Another half hour later I pointed my telescope to the Zenit, put a Handkerchief on the objective and the iPad on top to create a few flat frames by switching the Canon into Av mode. 

On the next evening I started processing my image with Siril and Affinity Photo. The autoguiding worked really great, Unfortunately, I did not have a light pollution filter with IR blocking. This affects my star images and maybe also brings some additional noise into the image - so this is one thing for improvements next time. I also did not find a way to do dithering, so next time I will also try to use Ekos for the entire imaging process. Okay, the image could have also a bit more exposure time, but this is just impossible in March. For a first shot I think this is a quite good result, but have a look on it by yourself.

Copyright 2023 by Jürgen Terpe