Solar binoculars are somehow similar to normal binoculars but the front glass elements are acting as solar filters or have a solar filter attached, therefore, those binoculars can be used only and only for solar observations; to buy or not to buy solar binoculars, this is the question.
Should I buy solar binoculars? If you are about to view a solar eclipse or any other solar astronomical events, the solar binoculars are the best and safest choice to observe the sun, and it is more price-friendly compared to buying a pair normal of binoculars and solar filter separately.
To observe the sun safely you need a solar filter either attached or part of binoculars or a telescope, wherever you are observing it during a solar eclipse or any time around the year. Further in this post, I will try to cover everything is to know about solar binoculars and their role.
What is a solar filter? A solar filter is a special-made piece of glass or polymer which blocks most of the sunlight to avoid damage to your eyes. In general, a solar filter allows only 0.00001% of the light to pass through.
Should I buy solar binoculars?
In the years to come, there will be many solar eclipses around the globe, either partial, total eclipses or some other solar events. The solar binoculars are relatively inexpensive compared to other gear used for solar observations.
Never watch towards the sun with binoculars if the binoculars are not equipped with a certified solar filter. You can permanently damage your eyes if you look towards the sun with binoculars and without any solar filters.
When observing the sun either during an eclipse or other astronomical events, safety comes first. If you are going to buy a pair of solar binoculars, ensure that the binoculars are certified and safe to use for solar observations, as you may find on the market some cheap uncertified solar binoculars at a very inexpensive price.
How to ensure that your solar binoculars are certified? When you are going to buy them online, the manufacturer should mention on the website that the binoculars are certified, either with a solar safe certificate sign or any other similar signs. If you are going to buy the binoculars from a shop, ensure those certificates are on the binoculars box.
You cannot use solar binoculars for any other types of observations due to the solar filter, but some solar binoculars may allow you to remove the filter while some other binoculars may have the filter permanently attached as a front lens element.
The safest way to observe the sun with any solar binoculars is not to watch directly towards the sun with them but watch towards the ground and lift the binoculars up towards the sun to observe it. By doing this, when taking your binoculars on and off your eyes, you avoid to observe the sun with your naked eyes which can affect the visibility through the binoculars due to the light shock your eyes may encounter.
Solar binoculars vs normal binoculars with a solar filter
The safest way to observe the sun would be with solar binoculars and not normal binoculars with a solar filter. But why?
When you buy your normal binoculars with a solar filter, the filters have to be attached to the front lens element. There is always a risk for the filter either not to be attached properly nor the filter cup to hold or the filter quality to be poor or scratched. Any of these represent a risk in special if the filter can fall from the front element, you can get your eyes directly exposed to the sun!
My honest recommendation is that if you want to do solar observations of any kind, buy a pair of solar binoculars and forget about anything else which may not be safe to use.
The composition of the solar binoculars
The solar binoculars are no different from a normal pair of binoculars except that on the front element is (permanently) attached a solar filter for safe observations. You may be able to find solar binoculars with a magnification as normal binoculars, and as an instance from Celestron (Amazon Affiliate Link), with a magnification of 10x and an objective lens diameter of 42mm.
For any other models of solar binoculars, the filter may be removable and the binoculars can be used as normal binoculars to observe anything else but the sun without the filters.
How much can I observe with solar binoculars?
With the solar binoculars, you can observe not only an eclipse but a variety of other things such as.
Sunspots: The sunspots are temporary phenomena on the sun surface where darker spots may appear on the sun’s surface, either individual sunspots or group of sunspots. Those are some unique things to observe on the sun with binoculars and you are able to observe them even on a 10x magnification without any issues.
Planetary conjunctions: Venus or Mercury may get from time to time in eclipse conjunction with the sun. With a pair of solar binoculars, you can observe the planets passing in front of the sun.
Unfortunately, you are not able to observe solar flares with any solar binoculars.
The solar telescope as an alternative?
A solar telescope can be either a normal telescope with a solar filter attached on the front element on a special solar telescope with a hydrogen-alpha complete filter system.
With a solar telescope with H-alpha filter, you can observe the sun on great magnifications and not only the sunspots but solar flares as well and the prominent activities on the sun’s surface.
But as an idea, a telescope with an H-alpha filter can be at least ten times more expensive than a pair of solar binoculars, therefore, only for eclipse observations those are not really recommended to invest into, but if you are passionate about the sun surface and want to observe more than anything else can offer, those telescopes are a good choice of investment.
If there’s any solar eclipse upcoming by the time you read this blog, my recommendation for you is to buy a pair of solar binoculars above anything else. They are relatively cheap and with an approximate of 10x magnification, you can see an eclipse as nothing before.
A simple solar filter may not show the beauty of the sun during an eclipse and a telescope may have “too high magnification” to observe the sun as a whole.
Furthermore, for anything else non-eclipse related, a pair of solar binoculars may have a better usage than a normal pair of binoculars with a solar filter. For the price investing into separate solar filters and a normal pair of binoculars, you may be able to achieve both a solar and non-solar binoculars to cover all types of observations.
But if you are aiming to observe a lot more than eclipse or sunspots, an H-alpha telescope would probably be the best choice as you are able to study the sun’s surface from your own backyard.
For now, I will say goodbye and thank you for staying up to the end of this post. Take care and I hope to see you around!. You can check our binoculars buying guide if you are interested.