Astro Engineering 3D Counterbalance Weight System

Astro Engineering 3D Counterbalance Weight System

The Astro Engineering 3D Counterbalance Weight System on a 10 Meade LX200 Classic- What an excellent looking system. Classy. The Astro Engineering 3D Counterbalance Weight System doing what I find most interesting and helpful - Moving the weight of axis.

I am always looking for a new way to keep my telescope balanced, especially when I'm doing astrophotography. The problem with using a fork mounted telescope on a wedge is the fact that weight needs to be shifted to apply moderate pressure to the RA drive motor. Most counterbalance systems on the market can either apply weight down the axis of the tube, or can move the weight away from the tube creating a 3-D system.  The digital astronomy system adds a nice little twist to the standard 3-D system.  With the digital astronomy system, manufactured by Astro Engineering, you can shift the weight off of the center axis, thus applying weight towards one fork or the other.  This means weight that is used to counterbalance the tube can also be used to apply weight to the RA motor.

I received a counterbalance system for my 10 inch Meade SCT.  It appeared to be well-made and well-designed.  The system I received came with three pounds of counterbalance weight, however, I knew that I would need more weight than this for my 10 inch scope and its accessories.  Fortunately, this system has a narrow shaft for the weights, so other weights that I already own could fit on the system.  Of course, I'm not condoning using weights not made for the system, but in a pinch, the option is available.  The counterbalance system consists of a front and rear mounting standoff, a counterweight bar, a counterweight shaft, in three pounds of counterweight in the form of 3 1 pound weights.  The mounting standoff's fit relatively well on the 10 inch scope, however there is a small amount of area under the standoff that does not mount flush with the scope.  It appears that the standoffs are designed for the 7 inch and 8 inch scopes as well as the 10 inch.  It did not appear to be a problem, and the standoffs mounted securely.  The counterweight bar slides through the openings in the standoff and a secured with metric hex setscrew. This set up is fine for permanent or pier mounted telescope.  However, I have a tendency to reconfigure my telescope and its balance points often, so the set screw was a bit of a hindrance.  I will be replacing the set screws with knurled knobs for easier transitions.

Once the skies finally cleared in this area, I had a chance to try out this new system.  To say I was pleased would be an understatement.  The ability to shift weight off of the center axis is a real plus in my book.  It was extremely easy for me to take the weight I was using to balance the OTA and shift it to apply a small amount of weight to the R. A. Drive. Once I had set the weights off axis, I then set forth to see if there was any flexure in the fork mount.  I added seven more pounds of weight, looking closely at how the fork's reacted to the off center weight.  I did not see any ill effects from the weight being off axis on the OTA.  This really set my mind at ease, because I was concerned with the possibility of torsion being applied to the OTA and the foorks by the off center weight. Once I had set my mind at ease with the torsion aspect, I set forth using my scope in the usual manner.  The fact that I did not notice the counterweights to rest of the evening proved to me that this is a worthwhile counterweights system.

There are a lot of counterweight systems on the market.  Many of them are very similar in design, with minor changes to distinguish themselves from one another.  However, every once in a while, a new design or system comes out that sets itself apart from the rest.  This is one of those systems. Just as a further note, the Astro Engineering 3-D Counterbalance Weight System is still mounted on my scope. That should tell you what I think of this system.


Mike Overacker

Product is available from Astro Engineering