A solar eclipse, even when partial, can be a magnificent sight. In order to enjoy the view, however, you need proper protection and this is where solar filters come into play. Whether you create DIY solar eclipse glasses from a special sheet or you use a filter to cover your telescope, binoculars, or digital camera, this is the handiest accessory to have around the house during a solar event.
Because your safety is at stake, though, you have to be extra careful about the products you choose to buy. The guide below will help you make your decision.
THOUSAND OAKS OPTICAL Solar Filter for Cameras
THOUSAND OAKS OPTICAL 8"x8" Solar Filter Sheet
BAADER AstroSolar Visual Solar Filter Film Sheet (ND 5)
- 1 What Are the Best Solar Filter Sheets in 2020?
- 2 How to Tell If a Solar Filter Is Safe?
What Are the Best Solar Filter Sheets in 2020?
Unfortunately, there are more unsafe solar filters on the market than there are certified products. It’s also fairly difficult to test a filter without special equipment, so the best way to ensure that your eyes are protected during the eclipse is to buy solar filter film sheets from reputable, accredited manufacturers. The following are some of the best examples.
1. THOUSAND OAKS OPTICAL 8"x8" Solar Filter Sheet
This solar filter sheet comes in several sizes, from 4”x4” to 12”x12”, but an 8”x8” rectangular is usually enough for several pairs of DIY solar eclipse glasses or to cover a telescope or other device. The manufacturer, Thousand Oaks Optical, is based in Arizona, US, and has been certified by NASA to produce solar filter film sheets more than 30 years ago.
The sheets are made of black polymer, which is one of the most frequently used filtering materials for observing solar events. You can use the sheet to create solar eclipse glasses, but also to cover your binoculars, protect a digital camera, and transform your telescope into a solar observer. The price is more than affordable, while the sheets are highly versatile, provided that you are very careful when cutting them into shape.
- An affordable solution to protect your eyes and any observation device during a solar eclipse
- Comes in multiple sizes to suit your specific requirements
- Compliant with ISO international safety standards
- Can easily break (and thus become useless) if not cut and handled with care
2. ORION 5.81-Inch Glass Telescope Solar Filter
If you want a front-row seat at the next solar eclipse, a telescope might be one of the best ways to go about it. However, it is absolutely paramount that you use a filter in order to protect both your eyes and your equipment. This full aperture glass telescope solar filter by Orion is perhaps the best of its kind on the market.
You can use it during the solar eclipse, but also at times when the sun is in its regular form so that you can observe it safely. The filter blocks 99.9% of incoming sunlight, as well as harmful UV radiations. In addition, it fits snugly over a variety of reflectors, refractors, and telescopes because its diameter can be adjusted from 5.56in up to 5.81in.
- One of the best solar filters for telescopes on the market
- Blocks out 99.9% of sunlight and harmful UV radiation
- Diameter is adjustable for a variety of telescope models
- Slightly more expensive than other options
3. THOUSAND OAKS OPTICAL Solar Filter for Cameras
Taking photos of the solar eclipse is a great way to commit this once in a lifetime event to memory. Just like your eyes, though, a digital camera requires protection in order to focus on the sun without burning up. You can make your own camera filter using solar filter sheets or you can try out this pre-made solar filter for cameras by Thousand Oaks Optical.
The filter can be ordered in 14 different diameter measurements and even though it is slightly more expensive than a simple sheet, it comes with a frame and it is already cut into the shape you need. This can help you avoid causing any damage to the filter while attempting to fashion your own protection.
- Black polymer filter that allows you to observe and take pictures of solar eclipses, sun spots, and granulation
- Pre-cut into shape so you don’t have to worry about damaging the shee
- Can be ordered in 14 different measurements to fit the diameter of any digital camera
- Must be properly secured with sticky tape to prevent it from falling off
4. DAYSTAR FILTERS Binocular Universal Solar Lens Filter
Yet another great way to enjoy a full or partial solar eclipse is to use binoculars, but while the latter can enhance your view, they cannot replace proper protection. On the contrary, using binoculars without a solar filter can be even more dangerous for your eyes than direct observation. To use binoculars safely, you need to cover them with a solar filter film sheet.
If you don’t want to go through the bother of cutting and fitting the solar filter sheet yourself, then this universal accessory by Daystar Filters is just what you need. The filter fits any diameter from 50mm to 69mm and can even be made to fit smaller binocular lens with proper use of sticky tape.
- Black polymer solar filter pre-cut and fitted with a carton frame that can be easily assembled
- More affordable than other solar filter sheets for binoculars
- Fits a variety of diameters between 50mm and 69mm
- Will break easily if not handled with care
5. DAYSTAR FILTERS Binocular Universal Solar Lens Filter
Unlike the previous products described here, this solar filter film sheet is not pre-made for a specific purpose. It comes at an affordable cost per 7.9”x11.4” sheet and it is recommended for solar observation and photography using astronomical telescopes, binoculars, and digital cameras. In addition, it can also be cut into an appropriate shape for DIY solar eclipse glasses, but this must be done with extra care so as to not damage the sheet.
Sold by the Baader Planetarium, this ND 5 solar filter sheet is guaranteed to keep your eyes and your equipment safe both during a solar eclipse and during regular solar observation. The foil creates a white, rather than orange or yellow image, and will filter out harmful IR and UV radiation.
- One of the most affordable and reliable solar filter sheets currently on the market
- Comes in a decent size that can be cut down and shaped for any telescope, binoculars, camera, or other observation device
- Filters both excess light and IR/UV radiation
- Must be cut to fit specific devices and is thus prone to break if not handled with care
How to Tell If a Solar Filter Is Safe?
During a solar eclipse, but also outside of it, the sun can be extremely harmful for the naked eye. To observe it safely, we must wear protective equipment and the same goes for our telescopes, binoculars, digital cameras, and other devices. Otherwise, the human eye can suffer permanent damage, while solar camera lenses can burn and become obsolete. (Click here for an explanation of solar energy and what it can do.)
It is crucial, therefore, that when you buy solar filter film sheets to protect yourself and your loved ones during a solar eclipse, you make sure that the eyewear is 100% safe to use during the big event. You can do this, first and foremost, by double checking whether the product is inscribed with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard code. However, you should also bear in mind that there are vendors around the world who sell inscribed filter sheets without having actually received approval.
It can be extremely dangerous to look directly at the sun during an eclipse if you’re using protective eyewear that does not work. The heavens can be a fascinating place, as this article about the Fermi paradox illustrates, but one must be careful. This is why you should only purchase solar filter sheets from acknowledged manufacturers, all of which are listed on a dedicated page by the American Astronomical Society.
In addition, if you intend to observe the eclipse using an astronomical telescope, binoculars, or a digital camera, you must attach and secure the solar filter sheet with utmost caution. Use the safety mechanisms provided by each product and add sticky tape when needed. Otherwise, the sheet might fall off during the event and this can have disastrous consequences for your sight. Better to be safe than sorry.
All of the solar filter sheets presented above are compliant with ISO international safety standards, so you don’t need to worry about whether or not they are reliable enough to use. (Like this “Dolichol” filter that can be photoenhanced.) However, you must still take good care to keep the filters on at all times and to avoid damaging the sheets by bending or cutting. Once your protective eyewear is in order, you’re ready to enjoy the magnificent display of the sun!