All too often, we tend to focus on distant stars, galaxies, and planets and miss the most important celestial body essential to human life – the Sun! Although the distance between us and sun is around 92 million miles, it’s the closest star that we have got.
However, it isn’t possible to simply look straight into the sun either with the naked eye or with just any telescope.
The extreme temperatures can break our instruments and cause permanent damage to our retinas. Solar viewing can only be performed by using the right equipment and taking the necessary precautions, which we’re going to discuss.
5 Top Telescopes For Viewing The Sun Reviewed
The cheapest and easiest option to view the sun directly is by buying a special type of filter called a white light solar filter. The filter reduces the amount of light that enters the lens and will protect your eyes from harm. This can be placed over the lens of any telescope that you own, which will then turn it into a solar telescope.
Refractor telescopes can also use a Herschel wedge to block a portion of the incoming light.
Alternatively, there are several telescopes that are manufactured specifically for direct observation of the Sun. These scopes vary in price but most are inexpensive – costing less than $100 on average.
We’ve tried out different types to determine the best solar telescope and ranked the top five, shown below.
1. Celestron EclipSmart Travel Solar Scope 50mm
Our pick for the top solar scope has to be the EclipSmart Solar Scope. First of all, it’s made by Celestron, which is one of the leaders in astronomy equipment. Secondly, this model is specifically made for sun observation and is guaranteed safe by SAI Global Assurance Services.
The Solar Safe filter technology that Celestron uses is ISO certified, which means that it’s gone through some rigorous testing just to ensure that your eyes are kept 100% safe from radiation, infrared, and ultraviolet light during observation.
Its primary features include a 20mm Kellner eyepiece capable of performing 18x magnification, fully-coated lenses for added protection, and the scope itself is water-resistant. The magnification level is more than enough to allow you to see eclipses and sunspots close-up with ease.
Being a travel scope, the EclipSmart 50mm is easy to assemble, disassemble, and pack up for transportation. A handy nylon backpack is included to lug everything around. The finderscope can be used to align the telescope without having to look directly at the Sun.
Other useful accessories include an adjustable tripod which goes pretty high and allows you to point the telescope straight up. The mount is an alt-azimuth so you’ll need to do manual tracking which won’t be a problem because the Sun really isn’t going anywhere.
VERDICT: All in all, for a price close to $100, this telescope gives you all the power you need to start looking at the sun immediately. It’s made by a renowned company and is a good instrument for use by an astronomer of any proficiency level.
2. Meade EclipseView 82mm Reflector
Sliding into second place on our ranking list is the EclipseView 82mm reflector telescope made by Meade. This telescope is one of many in the EclipseView line of Newtonian portable solar telescopes, but it’s the best one in terms of price and value.
You can use this telescope to not only view the Sun but also the Moon and planets. Since it has multiple functions, this increases the value and makes it a worthwhile investment.
Usage of this product is also maximized due to its ability to be used during either day or night. The aperture is 82mm and it weighs about 3.8-lbs. Focal length is 300mm, the focal ratio is f/3.7, and it uses a 26mm and 9mm eyepiece for low and high magnification levels.
A removable solar filter is used when viewing the sun. It uses a 360-degree swivel mount which can be placed on the ground or on a table. A Barlow lens is also included with the product which can be popped on to give a quick extra 2x magnification.
We recommend you use this telescope if you want something with a little more versatility. If your goal is purely to view the Sun, the EclipSmart 50mm scope(which is also our first choice) is cheaper and works just as well. But if you wanted to have a telescope good for viewing regular planets and stars, this is the instrument for you.
VERDICT: The EclipseView 82mm is the ultimate grab-and-go sun telescope which combines portability and excellent value. It’s safe for use during daytime or nighttime.
3. Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 70mm
The next item on our list comes courtesy of Explore Scientific, which has created a stylish and sleek-looking solar telescope of its own – the 70mm Sun Catcher. This scope has an aesthetic look that is pleasing to the eye and looks clean.
Not only that, it’s even cheaper than the Celestron EclipSmart! Let’s see if its features are good enough to match its low cost.
The Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 70mm is 100% safe for solar eclipse viewing and sun observation and a special filter is already built-in for use when looking directly at the sun. The aperture of its lens is 70mm and it has a focal length of 350mm along with a focal ratio of f/5. Two eyepieces are included to provide 18x and 28.8x magnification.
Additionally, the Sun Catcher comes with an aluminum tripod which isn’t too sturdy but isn’t too weak either. Although the telescope as a whole doesn’t have that many features, it does what it was made to do at a low cost and that’s what’s good about this product.
VERDICT: The Explore Scientific Sun Catcher has a very low price and is good for either a novice that wants to try their hand at solar observation or an experienced astronomer that perhaps wants a separate scope for sun observations and doesn’t want to spend too much.
4. Meade Coronado SolarMax II 60mm Solar Telescope
Further down the line, we have the Coronado SolarMax II which is a high-end sunspotter scope made by Meade. This telescope is used by professional astronomers as well as research facilities around the world for observation of the Sun’s surface.
Researchers also use it to assist with viewing surface details on the Sun in HA (hydrogen-alpha) light. It’s widely lauded as a feature rich solar telescope on the market.
The aperture of this instrument is 60mm in diameter and it uses sub-0.7-angstrom bandwidth filtering. It features a 400mm focal length and f/6.6 focal ratio.
This telescope has only one purpose – to provide amazing dedicated visuals of the Sun and any other solar phenomena like sunspots. Its power is only matched by its portability – weighing only about 11-lbs which makes it easier to carry around.
The Coronado SolarMax II uses revolutionary new technology in the form of its RichView tuning assembly which allows direct tuning of the primary filter etalon. The level of power that this system utilizes cannot be seen in any other commercially available telescope.
In simple terms, what this means for you is that you’ll be able to tune for the highest possible contrast when scanning for details on the solar surface.
As if that wasn’t enough, the scope also comes with mounting rings and a 10mm blocking filter. The main downside to the purchase is the lack of a tripod and you’ll need to buy one separately if you’re planning on observing for an extended period of time.
VERDICT: You may have to reach deep into your pockets to afford the Meade Coronado SolarMax II but having the chance to have your own personal solar observatory is more than worth it.
5. Meade Coronado Personal Solar Telescope
Meade also built a toned-down version of their Coronado SolarMax II which resulted in the creation of the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope. This dedicated hydrogen-alpha telescope is a small portable device for use while camping, hiking, or traveling.
To give you a better idea of how small this thing is, its dimensions are 11 x 8 x 20 inches and it only weighs 2-lbs! The lens has a 40mm aperture with a 30mm internal etalon. The maximum focal length reaches to 400mm with the use of a 20mm Kellner eyepiece.
This handheld version of Meade’s revolutionary invention, in a similar fashion, is designed exclusively for solar viewing and will allow you to see solar phenomena, sunspots, flares, filaments, and other beautiful details on the star’s surface. It uses the same type of hydrogen-alpha optical system as the SolarMax II to provide excellent solar viewing power.
If you want something a little more stable for extended viewing sessions, you’ll need to purchase your own mount and tripod separately. The PST can be hooked up to any type of standard EQ or alt-azimuth mount.
VERDICT: For a handheld version of the SolarMax II for roughly half the price, solar observation for travelers simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Buyer’s Guide for Solar Telescopes
Before buying your first solar scope, some thought needs to be put into what the best one is. You don’t want to buy a scope with a filter that bursts into flames the first time you point it at the sun, nor do you want to purchase an overpriced one that provides features you don’t need.
Worst, if a sun scope isn’t well-made or compliant to safety standards, your eyes could become damaged while using it!
First off, it’s worth noting that if you had already bought a regular telescope and want to use it for solar observations, it’s better to buy an attachable filter instead of buying a whole new device. If, however, you think that viewing sun is something that you want to do long-term, feel free to choose from the ones that we reviewed. Here are a few tips for choosing the right one:
- If you’re buying a sun telescope for a child, invest in a high-quality one. Children have sensitive eyes and you want to make sure that there isn’t even the slightest chance of an accident happening. If you’re allowing young children to operate the telescope by themselves, it’s best to use one with a built-in solar filter so that there’s no possibility of them removing it.
- Perhaps you’d like a it for the whole family to enjoy. If that’s the case, invest in a computerized telescope mount with a controller. This makes it easier to search for a celestial body and track it automatically as it moves.
- If you’re buying one for astrophotography purposes, a better resolution will be attained with a DSLR camera. Additionally, the larger the aperture of your scope, the greater the light-gathering power.
- Jot down a list of your needs and choose a telescope that strikes a good balance between costs and features.
- Start with a less-costly sun telescope and try it out first before committing to a larger, more expensive one.