My first telescope returning to astronomy after many, many years was a Celestron NexStar 127SLT Maksutov-Cassegrain with an alt-azimuth goto mount. I have to admit that I was not very happy with the mount. The biggest problem was that it would vibrate very easily and the vibration would take 5-6 seconds to subside. It made even focusing hard.
So I saw the Celestron Vibration Supression Pads (VSP) and thought I’d give them a try. They are not very cheap, especially in Europe they cost around £60, while they are a more manageable $40 in the US. There are other much cheaper versions, like “Seben” in Europe, or “Solomark” and various Chinese unbranded ones, which might or might not be similar. But I went ahead with the Celestron VSP, just to make sure that if they don’t work, I won’t have to wonder whether the more expensive ones would have worked.
Celestron VPS With a Celestron NexStar SLT mount
Well, simply put, the 5-6 sec vibrations were immediately reduced to 3-4 seconds. The difference was noticeable and welcome. Note that this is on solid ground, because soft ground already does a bit vibration suppression, so the VSPs do not have much of an effect.
Still I would not call the mount “solid” and after testing various things, I came up with an additional improvement: adding a 7kg weight on the accessory tray would further stabilize the mount, reducing vibration to less than 3 seconds. Note that adding the weight without the pads, did not actually have an effect, so it is the pads working differently depending the configuration of your mount.
In any case, if you have a wobbly mount on solid ground, these pads might really do the trick.
Celestron VPS With an iOptron ZEQ25 mount
When I upgraded to a heavier mount, I did not use the pads again, since my iOptron ZEQ25 did not wobble annoyingly with most of my OTAs. However, my C8 with accessories did cause some noticeable vibration, so I thought I should give the pads a go with it.
In this case, the difference was not as pronounced, so I had to make sure by taking a video through the scope while I bang the tube hard. I could get the 4.5s of dampening time down to about 3.5s. For comparison, switching to a better saddle (see my ADM saddle post) had a greater effect, reducing dampening to less than 3s. Using the Pads on the mount with the upgraded saddle had a very small effect, not obvious visually, but somewhat measurable with the video method.
So from this second test I am getting that while the pads seem good on some unstable mounts, it is very likely that they won’t be much help to a more stable mount. I also have an HEQ5, which is even sturdier than the iOptron, so perhaps I’ll also give it a go with that one to get an extra data-point.
Update: Celestron VPS With a Sky-Watcher HEQ5 mount
And how wrong I was with that last statement about more stable mounts. The HEQ5 is heavier than the ZEQ25 and has no problem with small and medium scopes, but I tried out the pads with a heavy load. Specifically, a Celestron C9.25, some accessories and perhaps a not very precise balancing gave me a dampening time of almost 6 seconds in my test. Adding the Vibration Pads immediately reduced it to just over 2 secs! It was like an entirely different mount.
My takeaway is that the pads will work differently depending your mount and your load. Sometimes they will help a little, other times they will make a huge difference, so it is a good idea to give then a try if your setup is suffering.