If you're thinking of buying a telescope or binoculars for use in observing the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse across America, 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 the total eclipse. Many experienced eclipse observers will tell you that nothing beats the naked-eye view of a totally eclipsed Sun, with the jet-black silhouette of the Moon ringed by the pearly white solar corona in a twilight-blue sky with sunset colors all around the horizon.
- If you're outside the path of totality and will experience only a partial eclipse, or during the partial phases within the path of totality, you still don't need a telescope. You can see the crescent Sun easily through special-purpose "eclipse glasses" or handheld viewers or by using pinhole projection.
- Binoculars will provide a spectacular view of the solar corona and are much easier to use than a telescope.
- Except during totality, when the Sun's bright face is completely blocked by the Moon, it is never safe to look directly at the Sun through a telescope or binoculars. During the partial phases of the eclipse, you must secure a special-purpose solar filter over the front of your optics before aiming at 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 store or online) who can help you select a quality instrument that is appropriate to your needs, skill level, and budget.
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)
Directories of Manufacturers & Dealers
The following links will take you to curated listings of reputable manufacturers and dealers of astronomical telescopes and binoculars. If you know of a similar listing that you think belongs here, please contact us.
- Advertiser Links (Astronomy)
- Astronomical Equipment Manufacturers, Suppliers & Specialty Dealers (Sky & Telescope)
- Astronomy Equipment Vendors & Manufacturers (Stargazing.net)
- Astronomy Shops All Over the World (Astronomy-Shops.com)
Special-Purpose Solar Binoculars & Telescopes
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 a 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
- Celestron EclipSmart 2x Power Viewer (built-in solar filters)
- Celestron EclipSmart 10 x 25 Binoculars (built-in solar filters; video)
- Celestron EclipSmart 10 x 42 Binoculars (built-in solar filters; video)
- Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 5 x 30 Binoculars (built-in solar filters)
- Lunt Solar Systems 6 x 30 Mini SUNoculars (built-in solar filters)
- Lunt Solar Systems 8 x 32 SUNoculars (built-in solar filters)
- Meade EclipseView 10 x 50 Binoculars (removable solar filters)
White-Light Solar Telescopes
- Celestron EclipSmart Travel Scope 50 (built-in solar filter)
- Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 50 (built-in solar filter)
- Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 70 (built-in solar filter)
- iOptron Solar Telescopes (removable solar filters)
- Meade EclipseView Telescopes (removable solar filters)