Best Solar Telescope – Top Reviews of 2019

Planets and moons get so much credit for awe-inspiring beauty through the telescopic lens, but have you ever tried to study the sun with a solar telescope? Astronomy enthusiasts everywhere share a fascination and love for focusing on the astonishing celestial bodies of space. Solar telescopes are just as exciting as regular telescopes, but they’re especially impressive because they give us the power to examine what we dare not look at with the naked eye.  There’s only one safe way to stare at the sun and that’s through special filtered lenses which block unsafe light. Trying to look at the sun for any length of time with no filter is very dangerous and can cause permanent damage to the eye. But with the proper equipment, solar observation is a very fulfilling and distinct part of astronomy. The sun is a complex enigma but observing it can be very easy with the right solar scope and filters.

In this review, we look at two different, high quality, solar telescope options, that range in functionality and capability.  We’ve considered first and foremost, if the telescope is safe. Both are certified for safe viewing. Light pollution is a notorious challenge for solar enthusiasts so we’ve also considered whether the telescope was capable of adapting and adjusting to this issue. We’ve also considered the precision of calibration and that of viewing, and whether the telescope is dedicated or if it can also be used to view other objects in the sky.

LUNT Solar 50mm Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope

MEADE Day and Night Solar Telescope

Top Solar Telescope Reviews of 2019

If astronomy is your hobby and you are still deciding how much you want to invest in it, we have you covered. While both models are highly affordable to the astronomy enthusiast, one may be better for a beginner and one may be best for someone taking it to the the next level in solar observation. One offers more versatility, one offers more precision.  Both will offer hours of awe and inspiration. Which one will work best for you? (Want to know how many planets are in the solar system? Or how many stars? If you don’t know the answer to the latter question, you’re in serious need of a solar system model.)

MEADE Day and Night Solar Telescope

Best Value

This telescope is an excellent option for entry-level astronomers and it’s highly economical. It’s weight and size makes it a convenient piece to bring with you to new viewing locations.  It comes with a bonus white-light filter which is removable so it can be used during the day or night. This is an easy-to-use solar telescope. You have four different options to choose from with distinct aperture sizes: 76 mm, 82 mm and 114 mm which are all reflecting telescopes having the well-known Newtonian reflector.

They have the amazing advantage of not suffering from chromatic aberration, also being cheaper. This type of telescope can be much bigger, having the mirror fixed onto a metal plate. The 60 mm version is a refracting telescope. The advantage of using this type of telescope is it does not collect dirt and debris inside its components since the tube is sealed at both ends. This also helps to mitigate the issue of air moving inside the tube, which can cause images to appear blurry or unsteady.  However, this telescope may on occasion not be as capable of removing the rainbow of light that sometimes surrounds objects as effectively as very expensive scopes might.

Based on those differences the weight is variable as well: 6 lbs, 7.2 lbs, 3.8 lbs and 10.8 lbs. The main characteristic they have in common is the removable solar filter. Normally, a white-light filter is placed over the front of the telescope, reducing the light that hits the eyepiece. This type of star observation is designed for allowing the view of the solar photosphere and sunspots. This is the cheapest option available since it can be used to see other stars and planets of the galaxy during the night. For flares or prominences on the sun’s surface, a more specialized Hydrogen-Alpha filter lens would be necessary, as the white filter will not be capable of such detail.

PROS:

  • Inexpensivev
  • Easy-to-use, point-and-look design
  • 360° swivel mount
  • Aluminium, fully-extendable tripod included
  • Can be used night and day
  • CE & ISO Certified for safe viewing

CONS:

  • Not weatherproofed, should not be left outside

LUNT Solar 50mm Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope

Editor's Pick

The H-Alpha telescope features a built-in solar filter for solar observations with no worries. Most filters are attached to telescope eyepieces, but this isn’t the case for solar filters. Instead, they cover the aperture directly. This way, you cannot hurt your eyes when you change eyepieces. It also prevents any damage caused by sunray to your mirror or lens.

This is an advanced telescope and is perfect for safely observing the entire activity of the sun. This type of filtering also gives the most essential view of the sun, in brilliant yellow, orange, and red colours. Because dedicated H-alpha solar eclipse telescopes are designed to operate at a single wavelength, they use objective lenses and very simple eyepiece designs. They are only to be used for solar observation and never to be used for observing any other celestial objects.

This solar telescope has a 50-millimetre aperture and weighs 13.75 pounds. It includes a B400 blocking filter and 12mm eyepiece, not to mention the newest technology for fine tuning. All these allow basic research of the sun’s disk and it can show some surface details, including filaments and plagues. The spectrum in which we can observe detailed views of the sun’s surface is known to be at a 656 nm wavelength. This telescope facilitates observation of granulation, sunspots, flares and other details by restricting the unwanted bandpass of light.

PROS:

  • 50mm H-alpha filter
  • Clamshell mount - can be used with a variety of tripods
  • Travel/carry-on size
  • 5-year warranty

CONS:

  • Tripod not included
  • Not to be used for other astronomical objects

How to Safely View the Sun?

Becoming a true solar specialist, every astronomer needs to start with a telescope that will safely allow them to enjoy magnified views of solar phenomena like sunspots, planetary transits, and eclipses. One of the well-known dangers of watching the sun is its brightness. Direct and long exposure of the eye to the sun harms your vision by causing temporary damage, permanent damage, and even blindness.  The danger is real even for just one glimpse of the sun. So, in order to safely study the sun, more than 99% of its light needs to filter out. By connecting a detachable solar filter to your telescope or simply by acquiring a specialized solar telescope you can safely filter out unsafe light.

A faint object is seen as black and white when observed through a telescope. This is because it is not producing enough light to trigger your eyes’ colour-sensing cells. Telescope filters come in handy because they remove the light that adds no detail to the object. What you are left with is a much cleaner view, which lets you see perfect details with stunning contrast, as the astronomer Hale did years ago.

What is a Solar Telescope?

What is a Solar Telescope

Solar telescopes have precise built-in solar filters, which are a type of neutral density filter. They cut down the amount of light coming through without changing its quality. One might think that blocking light could be a strange way to improve image quality. Since bad light exists in astronomy, things are different. You need a special filter, for example, the Hydrogen-Alpha filter, to be able to see details like solar flares. Hydrogen is a gas that emits light at a fixed wavelength. The whole process that causes the emission of the orange light to settle at 656.3 nanometers is called the hydrogen-alpha wavelength. This is why the light coming through the photosphere can be blocked with the H-Alpha filter. Simply put, by allowing only the spectral lines of hydrogen to go through, you will observe higher detail on its surface. This is why the blocking filter is a very important part of the system. (See this solar telescope, designed by a researcher at Boston University in 1977, for example.)

Why a Dedicated Solar Telescope?

Hydrogen-Alpha is one of the two most often observed bandwidths of light that the sun emits. The other one being Calcium-K. There are many ways to study the sun: white-light filters, Calcium-K filters, and the already mentioned Hydrogen-Alpha filters. There are advantages and disadvantages to double-stacking, or adding another filter to your solar eclipse telescope, like a white filter. The great thing about it is you can actually remove it if you need to go back to the single stack and simple viewing again. A dedicated H-Alpha solar eclipse telescope comes with everything a telescope needs to allow you to study the sun all day long. It also comes with pressure tuning technology which shows a nice even illumination.

If you’re worried about prominences, you can remove the double stack easily by loosening the set screws that are provided with each purchase. There are separate features with each type of filter. The white-light filters will generally be used for viewing spots with very little surface granulation. The same thing goes for calcium K. However, H-Alpha provides you with the movement of the sun, the desired surface granulation. You can actually see the prominences coming off the side of the sun, making it an amazing observing experience.

When choosing between a dedicated H-Alpha telescope or a filter set, there are a few things to consider. If you choose the filter set you need to get an adapter plate to fit it to your system. With the dedicated H-Alpha scope you have fully optimized coatings and, most of the solar eclipse telescopes, have pressure-tuning technology too. It offers an even illumination across the disk of the sun. Often times with the filter sets you might see a little bit of a sweet spot or banding. This can be a little bit troublesome when imaging. Even though it’s common knowledge, it’s still crucial to never look directly at the sun with the naked eye, so especially never with an unfiltered telescope. Eye damage is the primary injury that can be caused by the sun and the most severe.  We highly recommend to always cover the front of the telescope completely when changing or adding filters, as even an unintentional slip of the hand could do damage to your sight.

Choosing a Solar Telescope Depending on your Surroundings

Choosing a Solar Telescope Depending on your Surroundings

Light pollution caused by street lamps is the biggest challenge for any amateur astronomer who lives in populated urban areas. The size of the blocking filter of a solar diagonal is specified in millimetres. Sizes range from 5 mm to 20mm or more. Smaller sizes are suitable for telescopes with shorter focal lengths of 600 mm to 1000 mm. Telescopes with longer focal lengths will produce larger images of the solar disk, which means larger blocking filters are required. For a given telescope and focal length, smaller filters are suitable for visual observation of the sun. It takes a larger blocking filter for photographic applications to avoid cutting off the sun’s image at the camera sensor. But you can remove this worry by using an aperture mask. Especially if you have a nighttime refractor of over a hundred millimetres.

If you’re interested in using a solar telescope daily, we recommend an 80 mm, 60 mm or 50 mm option. The aperture of these models is big enough to see the desired details but is not obstructed by high clouds or humidity. If you live in this type of climate, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it; it only means that there might be fewer days in between when you can.

Exploring the sun from a distance, even for amateur astronomers, students, and hobbyists, is now easier than anyone could have imagined when the first telescopes were invented.  Prices like these mean that the tools are accessible to many people and there is not necessarily a drop in quality or functionality.

A dedicated solar telescope supports glowing hydrogen gas and allows you to see the sun for all its properties: a powerful, burning, dynamic place where boundless amounts of energy and hot gas are propelled into space even second. So pop one into your solar backpack, find somewhere dark, and start staring at the sun (safely)!

4.5 rating
Based on 29 reviews

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