Solar telescopes – Buying guide & Comparison
If you’re short on time and you just want to find the best solar telescope, this short paragraph should help you get exactly the model you need. We have gathered plenty of information about the top selling products on the market by looking into dozens of the best solar telescope reviews and comparing the ratings there with what actual owner feedback has to say. Fortunately, after all the exhaustive product research and evaluation, we have found what we believe is the best telescope for solar viewing, the Meade Instruments Coronado Personal. This affordable telescope provides a means to spice up your summer season by enabling you to do solar viewing when the stars just seem to disappear during that period. Use this to see impressive sun spots, filaments, flares, prominences and various other solar phenomena. This instrument is equipped with an advanced 40mm-diameter dedicated hydrogen-alpha optical system that enables you to experience various solar phenomena up close safely and most enjoyably. Super lightweight at just 2 pounds, this telescope is a joy to bring along anywhere your solar viewing adventures take you. If the Meade Instruments Coronado Personal runs out of stock, we strongly recommend the second best option, the Orion 8974 SkyQuest XT8 PLUS.
The best solar telescopes in 2017 are typically small refractor instruments with modest apertures, usually 40mm to 60mm across in diameter. They feature special built-in interference filters to allow direct aiming at the sun while ensuring safety. It can be difficult to make a choice among the varied options on the market. So how do you distinguish the best solar telescopes from the not-so-great ones?
Utilize specially designed optics
A hydrogen alpha filter carries out efficient selective slicing and dicing of all the other colors from sunlight, leaving only a razor-thin slice of red light. This special filter essentially creates an artificial eclipse even when the sun is glaring brightly during your observation session. In fact, hydrogen alpha filters are even better than an actual eclipse in one aspect, as they render solar prominences visible aside from letting you see a variety of other solar phenomena that have remained hidden for ages from human vision.
An H-alpha filter works by weeding out all except the narrow slice of H-alpha light. This is accomplished in a series of steps. First, over the telescope objective is a red glass pre-filter that rejects most of the shorter, bluer wavelengths at the beginning, allowing through only the red light to reach a Fabry-Perot etalon and blocking or dichroic filter located at the end of the telescope where the eyepiece is found. Working together, the filters mesh out unwanted light via destructive interference, which involves the removal of specific wavelengths through multiple reflections. Constructive interference is employed as well, which involves the amplification of the needed wavelength and transmitting it to the eye. The unwanted light is weeded out by the etalon in this manner, with the remaining necessary wavelength transmitted to the blocking filter that eliminates all the others as well, thereby sending just the desired H-alpha segment.
Some of the small, dedicated H-alpha scopes available are set up in a slightly different way, with the etalon, pre filter and blocking filters configured dissimilarly. However, one thing remains unchanged: all premium quality solar scopes separate the H-alpha line using a combination or filtering and destructive/constructive interference. Smaller scopes also feature temperature-regulated heaters that are utilized for Doppler studies aside from pressure-tuning or a mechanical tilting mechanism to create variations in red light wavelength at diminutive to carry out Doppler studies.
There is greater elimination of off-band light with a narrower filter wavelength, which also results in a higher level of contrast. Those elements are essential for viewing chromosphere details. It is ideal to use filters with a passband of 0.7 to 0.5 angstrom to be able to view exceptional surface prominences and detail. A filter that transmits in the 0.9 to 2 angstrom range can still deliver decent views of prominences. However, disk details will be rather hard to distinguish because of lower contrast due to too much light, for instance.
Offer viewing of a rich variety of solar phenomena
The best value solar telescope allows you to view a spectacular array of solar phenomena that has remained hidden from the human eye for centuries until the introduction of this type of equipment. You’ll be stunned to behold spicules running all the way around the edge of the sun, looking exactly like red fur. Those are jets of hot gas extending between 2000 to 6000 miles high as viewed in profile. It would be spectacular to magnify a small group of those spicules to 100x or greater to see how long they can keep their shapes. Nature has ensured that around 300,000 active spicules stir the chromosphere at any given time.
One of H-alpha’s greatest highlights are the prominences, which are also much larger than spicules. Prominences can be seen along the solar circumference, with small ones frequently dwarfing our planet itself. Prominences are generally categorized as either active or quiescent. Looking like bushes or hedgerows, quiescent prominences are characterized by plenty of internal branching configuration, with some exhibiting structural alterations in just 10 minutes or so. Quiescent prominences or filaments tend to throw themselves slowly higher up in the corona before recollecting and settling back down into the chromosphere. Active prominences are flare-like structures that can be viewed as bright blobs or as sprays or nested loops at the limb. They’re breathtaking because of how they surge and change their shape in real time. Prominences are anchored in the photosphere to the surface of the sun.
Solar telescopes also allow you to see bundles of hot plasma called fibrils, which are confined in magnetic tubes and give the sun a swirly, dark and mottled appearance. Filigree resemble dark mottles and tendrils of glitter running between prominences. They are small, moderately bright points of light that define the chromospheric network. Bright, patch plages are more apparent when viewing the H-alpha sun for the first time. They mark the sites of active sunspot groups and regions. Sunspots have umbrae or dark cores that resemble what can be seen in white light, with the penumbrae branching out into remarkable spicule and fibril whirls. A premium quality solar telescope allows you to view an awesome amount of filament/fibril and plages detail in large groups of sunspots. Flares exhibit a characteristic sudden brightening within a sunspot group, looking like white-hot lava flows in multiple ribbons. Demonstrating raw star power, solar flares change in both intensity and area in real time and can last between a few minutes to hours.
A reliable heat stop and other components
The heat generated by the tightly-focused sunlight is an issue that cheap solar telescopes may not be equipped to handle effectively. A heat stop is an integral part of solar telescope design. This component is designed not only to survive the heat load but also to ensure that it remains cool enough not to roil any additional turbulence inside the dome of the telescope. Air motion due to convection is eliminated thanks to light paths operating in helium or a vacuum.
Telescopes with an aperture of over 1 meter do not allow this set up, as the pressure difference at the vacuum tube entrance window is too large. For this type of scope, there’s active cooling of the dome to reduce the temperature difference between the external and internal air of the instrument. A focuser, built-in solar viewfinder and bandpass fine adjustment controls enable easy use and viewing. The scope should also accommodate a variety of mounting options.
Top solar telescope reviews in 2017
There is a host of models and brands of solar telescopes on the market, which can be quite overwhelming especially to those who’ve just stepped into the world of solar viewing. The buying guide above is designed to simplify your decision making and shopping journey. We have also showcased award winning solutions to your persistent question on what is the best solar telescope.
Enabling you to open up a whole new world of astronomy, the Meade Instruments Coronado Personal brings the study of our nearest star within reach of the novice astronomer. Employing the same technology and quality built into the units in the SolarMax series of telescopes, this personal solar telescope is undoubtedly the best small solar telescope sold on the market today.
Boasting an impressive 400mm focal length, this 40mm f/10 H-alpha telescope allows you to get up close and personal to the various solar phenomena that have remained invisible and impossible to view with the human eye until now. Equipped with revolutionary internal, fixed filtering optics, this scope lets you revel in the spectacle of solar flares, fibrils, filaments, plages, prominences, spicules and sunspots exhibited by the solar disk.
These are elements that have made NASA solar studies impressive as they are and can now be viewed in the comfort of your own home. Equipped with a 1.0 angstrom hydrogen-alpha (Ha) bandpass, the scope’s special filter is supplemented with a 30mm internal etalon primary blocking filter, focuser, built-in solar viewfinder and bandpass fine adjustment controls that make it easier to see solar phenomena and surface detail than ever before. Highly portable, the instrument lets you view the constantly changing prominences at the sun’s edge along with the filaments and other spectacular surface details in the distinctive and bright red color of hydrogen-alpha light.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($580)
Designed as a deluxe upgrade of the popular XT8 Classic Dobsonian, this model comes with a smartly re-engineered base that not only looks fantastic but also boasts weight-reducing cutouts that ensure portability.
The white trim makes the base highly visible even in a dark night. The scope has adjustable tension knobs on the altitude axis, making the instrument more versatile because it will be easier to adjust the tension of the altitude axis of motion so you can use heavier two-inch eyepieces, multiple finder scopes, barlow lenses and other hefty accessories without the optical tube drifting downwards during use.
This Dobsonian is built around an 8-inch diameter parabolic primary mirror mounted on a rigid and stable cast-aluminum support cell. Collecting 78% more light compared to a 6-inch one, the 8-inch mirror delivers an increased ability to view dust lanes in nebulae, reveal the more subtle structures in distant galaxies and clearly show the cores of prominent globular star clusters.
The immense 1200mm focal length XT8 mirror enables you to achieve crisp, clear views on clear nights at moderate to high magnifications under ideal conditions. The mirror coatings boast enhanced reflectivity up to 94% for transmission of as much light as possible to the eyepiece.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($499.99)
This personal solar telescope is yet another Coronado innovation. Undoubtedly the world’s most popular telescope for solar viewing, the Meade Instruments 0.5PST Coronado is equipped with a narrow passage of less than 1 angstrom band to ensure high visibility and contrast when viewing the active regions of the solar disk.
The instrument boasts high thermal stability that comes handy thanks to how it ensures that the filter does not slip out of the line of H-alpha emission during operation. This 40mm diameter dedicated solar telescope delivers increased surface detail so the amater solar astronomer can fully enjoy every session of observation.
View the active and dynamic prominences at the edge of the sun, along with the filaments and other surface details in the unique and brilliant red color of hydrogen-alpha light. The scope is equipped with a built-in solar viewfinder that is easy to use, in addition to its specialized Ha optical system, 40mm external tunable etalon, focuser, 30mm internal etalon primary blocking filter, 12mm Cemax eyepiece and bandpass fine adjustment controls.
This achromatic refractor features a 44mm aperture and 400mm focal length and a 40mm aperture objective lens. Made of lightweight, corrosion- and chip-resistant aluminum, this telescope comes with a ¼-inch standard mounting tripod stand.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($1199)
The Coronado SolarMax II 60 boasts the use of the groundbreaking RichView tuning method that enables direct adjustment of the primary etalon filter, which allows the achievement of higher contrast views of active regions, filaments, flares and other surface details. This is due to the tuning for more precise wavelengths of light of the hydrogen-alpha band.
Retuning can be done effortlessly to see solar limb prominences. Equipped with a 60mm SolarMax filter, 25mm CEMAX eyepiece, T-Max 60 tuner, and BF10 blocking filter, this instrument is also equipped with a solar viewing system of less than 0.7 angstrom for detailed views of flares, plages, prominences, filaments and granulation.
At the core of the scope’s viewing system is the T-Max 60 Doppler Tuning unit and the SolarMax 60 filter, a combination that allows selective adjusting for detuning of the unit’s optical system. The adjustment range is delivered to allow viewing of high-speed solar phenomena including coronal mass ejections and active flares that tend to Doppler shift and become invisible to an otherwise fixed H-alpha systems.
Because a SolarMax filter needs to be used with a secondary interference filter, this scope comes with the BF-10 that is thermally stable that will not veer off the H-alpha line as it heats up during use. The 10mm aperture is suitable for the scope’s focal length to allow full solar disk views. The Sol ranger finder scope allows the projection of a beam of light that is safe to look at with the opaque glass viewer when the sun is in the field of view of the main scope.
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The Coronado SolarMax II 90 is expertly designed with the cutting-edge RichView tuning method that enables you to perform direct adjustment of the onboard primary etalon filter. This element enables you to tune the scope for more precise wavelengths of light in the Ha band.
Achieve higher contrast views of active filaments, flares, regions or sunspots and other surface details. To see prominences on the solar limb, the scope can be retuned quickly. This tool has a T-Max 90 tuner, a 90mm SolarMax filter, a 25mm CEMAX eyepiece and BF15 blocking filter. The <0.7 Å solar-viewing system enables amazingly detailed views of flares, plage, prominences, filaments, and granulation.
The smart combination of the T-Max 90 Doppler Tuning Unit and SolarMax 90 filter at the heart of the scope’s viewing system enables selective adjusting to detune the optical system of the unit to offset incidences of Doppler shifting due to wavelengths generated by dynamic high-speed solar phenomena such as coronal mass ejections and active flares that can become indiscernible to a non-movable H-alpha system. The thermally-stable BF15 ensures non-shifting of the image from the H-alpha wavelength as it heats up during use. Get full solar disk views from the 10mm aperture matched to the scope’s focal length.
You can use most Barlow lenses for simplified digital photography and use of binoviewers. The Sol Ranger finder scope, which clamps to the clamshell mount, has a front-located pinhole that enables projection of a harmless beam of light onto an opaque glass viewer when the sun is in the field of view of the primary scope, for an accurate and rapid alignment process.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($6799)