Review of Solar Telescopes

The great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 is the perfect occasion to acquire what is called a "solar telescope". A solar telescope is like solar glasses or binoculars designed only to look at the Sun.

What can you see through a solar telescope? Well, that depends on what kind you buy. The cheaper "white light" solar telescopes allow you to safely view the Sun in natural full-spectrum sunlight. If you want to see solar flares, the more expensive Hydrogen Alpha filter solar telescopes are the only way you can.

Celestron EclipSmart Solar Telescope

Celestron EclipSmart Solar Telescope 50 with Tripod and Backpack
Comes with adjustable height tripod and bonus backpack.

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White light solar telescopes like this one allows you to safely view the Sun in natural full-spectrum sunlight. You can see Mercury cross in front of the Sun or Venus make another transit like in 2012 although you will have to wait 105 years for the next one! Sunspots in great detail can be studied and enjoyed through a white light telescope as you can observe the rotation of the Sun by the movement of sunspots as well as explore and record these giant stellar storms' birth and death.

The Celestron EclipSmart Solar Telescope is a white light telescope with a permanent solar filter built-in that cannot come off ever. The 18 power eyepiece yields an excellent sized Sun image to see details like sunspots on the Sun's surface, You can look at the Sun all day without fear of damaging your eyes from Ultra-violet or Infra-red Sun radiation. The big complaint with this telescope is the tripod which is a flimsy addition although with the legs extended for table top viewing works just fine. (You can always get a better tripod.) At under $100 it is an excellent value for someone who is ready to graduate beyond solar binoculars to something that offers more detailed viewing of the Sun.

Meade Instruments Cornado Personal Solar Telescope
Small and light; you can hold it in your hands or mount it on a standard tripod.

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Coronado Personal Solar Telescope

The other type of solar telescope contains an expensive built-in Hydrogen Alpha filter. If you grew up seeing films of the Sun in school showing giant flares and prominences coming off the Sun, these were filmed through a Hydrogen-Alpha filter. Many companies have offered this more exotic type of solar telescope, which is the only way to visually see solar flares.

Currently Coronado offers 2 versions.

The Coronado PST, which stands for Personal Solar Telescope, comes in at just under $700 and pretty much delivers the same detail and delight as it's big brother except it does not come with a tripod. It's a way to get into solar astronomy under $1,000. You can hold it in your hands it so small and light or mount it on a standard photo camera tripod.

Coronado Coronado SolarMax II 60 Solar Telescope with RichView Tuning, 10mm
Optimal contrast and surface detail. For the serious observer.

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Coronado SolarMaxz 60 Solar Telescope

The big brother Coronado SolarMaxz 60 Solar Telescope has additional features for the serious observer. You can choose the exact wavelength of light you would like to look at the Sun with. The focus and imaging on this more expensive version is professional quality. The fit and finish is excellent on both the telescope and tripod and the polished brass will look great at home or in the office. In addition to a hard carrying case, the Solar Max even comes with lifetime tech support!

The great thing about solar astronomy is that you don't have to stay up late, the Sun is always available every day whenever it's clear of clouds, and the Sun's surface and atmosphere is always changing. The Great American Eclipse of 2017 may have provoked your interest in solar astronomy but a solar telescope will maintain that interest and enjoyment for years to come as a way for you to share the wonders of our parent star with friends and family.