If you're thinking of buying a telescope or binoculars for use in observing the October 14, 2023, and/or April 8, 2024, solar eclipses, the links on this page will point you in the right direction. First, though, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- You don't need a telescope or binoculars to see a total solar eclipse. Many experienced eclipse observers will tell you that nothing beats the naked-eye view of the totally eclipsed Sun, with the jet-black silhouette of the Moon ringed by the pearly white solar corona in a twilight-blue sky with bright planets and stars shining and sunset colors all around the horizon.
- That said, magnification does enhance the view, enabling you to see sunspots on the parts of the Sun not obscured by the Moon and fine detail in the solar corona and prominences during the total phase of a total solar eclipse (which you'll experience only if you're within the path of totality).
- Except during totality, when the Sun's bright face is completely blocked by the Moon, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars. During the partial phases of any solar eclipse, and at all times during an annular eclipse, you must secure a special-purpose solar filter over the front of your optics before aiming at the Sun.
- Binoculars are much easier to use than a telescope, because they show a wider field of view and don't turn the image upside-down or backwards.
- If you're outside the path of annularity or totality and will experience only a partial solar eclipse, or during the partial phases within the path of totality, or at any time during an annular eclipse, you still don't need a telescope or binoculars. You can see the crescent Sun (or ring-shaped Sun during the annular phase of an annular eclipse) easily through special-purpose "eclipse glasses" or handheld viewers or indirectly by using pinhole projection with your back to the Sun.
Here's another important point: You should generally steer clear of any telescope you might find in a department store, drug store, or toy store, especially one that promises high-power (high-magnification) views. Such telescopes often have poor-quality optics and shaky mounts. Instead, if you're going to buy a telescope, you should buy from a knowledgeable dealer (either in a specialty store or online) who can help you select a quality instrument that is appropriate to your needs, skill level, and budget.
If you already own a telescope or binoculars, see our Solar Filters for Optics: Telescopes, Binoculars & Cameras page for information on buying and using special-purpose solar filters to go over the front of your optics.
Thanks to the growing popularity of solar observing among amateur astronomers, some manufacturers now produce telescopes and/or binoculars already equipped with safe solar filters, sometimes built right into the optics. These are very nice for viewing the partial phases of any solar eclipse and the annular phase of an annular solar eclipse, but unless the filters are removable (most aren't), these devices are useless during totality and useless for observing celestial objects at night. Some solar telescopes show a normal "white light" view of the Sun's photosphere, or visible surface, whereas others show only the red "hydrogen-alpha" light emitted by hotter gas in the chromosphere, a thin layer of the Sun's atmosphere just above the photosphere.
White-Light Solar Binoculars
Binocular specifications are written "M x D," where M = magnification ("power") and D = the diameter of the front lenses in millimeters (mm). Bigger lenses collect more light but are heavier. Many people find binoculars that magnify 10 times or higher quite difficult to hold steady; high-magnification binoculars generally require a tripod or other type of mount.
- Celestron EclipSmart 2x Power Viewer (built-in solar filters)
- Celestron EclipSmart Solar Binoculars: 10 x 25, 10 x 42, 12 x 50, 20 x 50 (built-in solar filters)
- Lunt Solar Systems SUNoculars: 6 x 32 Mini, 8 x 32 (built-in solar filters)
- Orion Binocular Eclipse Plus Kits: 7 x 50, 10 x 50, 15 x 70, 20 x 80, 25 x 100 (removable solar filters)
White-Light Solar Telescopes
- Celestron EclipSmart Travel Scope 50 (built-in solar filter)
- iOptron 80-mm White Light Solar Telescope (removable solar filter)
Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescopes
- Coronado/Meade PST and SolarMax (built-in solar filters)
- DayStar Solar Scout (built-in solar filters)
- Lunt Solar Systems (built-in solar filters)
The following links will take you to well-written, well-illustrated buyer's guides (some including videos) that will help you understand the various types of telescopes and binoculars currently available and how to choose an instrument that's right for you. If you know of a buyer's guide that you think belongs here, please contact us.
- Buying Guides to Telescopes, Binoculars, Mounts & More (Orion Telescopes & Binoculars)
- Choosing Your Equipment — A Guide for Astronomers (Sky & Telescope)
- How to Buy Your First Telescope (Celestron)
- Telescopes 101: Fifteen Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Telescope (Astronomy)