What's the best way to magnify an eclipse? With two viewers?
August 22, 2017 2:43 PM   Subscribe

So the eclipse was amazing, and an acquaintance watched it with binoculars and managed to see a solar flare rise up and curve back into the sun at the last second of totality. That sounds amazing and so I want to see awesome(r) things in 2024. What good options do I have for looking at a magnified image of the corona during the totality?

I'll be watching with my wife in 2024 and it would be cool if we were able to see the same stuff (there's something a little isolating about staring into a telescope, even if we had two telescopes, though if that's our best bet, then so be it). I'd also rather not stare at an LCD screen; seems like that would kind of feel like watching a video of an eclipse while one is happening up above. Also it's important that the image quality is super during totality, so that I can really see stuff going on in the corona.
posted by sirion to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Where is the area on the eclipse path most likely to have good weather that has an astronomy dept? Start asking them if you can be present.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on August 22, 2017

So the real answer to your question is "through a digital solar telescope". With the added benefit you can watch a recording over and over again, in multiple spectra. But that's no fun. Perhaps to narrow down your search you should have a criterion like "actual photos from the sun striking my retina". Live image, not electric video.

I wonder if a giant pinhole camera is the best answer. Essentially a camera obscura. We have one in San Francisco that shows images of the outside world projected on a matte white surface and it is phenomenal. I don't see why you couldn't make a giant one. Basically like one of the shoebox pinholes kids make for the eclipse, but building-sized. As a bonus you could charge admission for visitors, at least for the two minutes.
posted by Nelson at 4:08 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out a Sunspotter folded-Keplerian telescope.

I'll bet a few will show up on Ebay soon.
posted by Marky at 5:05 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

side by side bino's mounted on a tripod is probably what you are after. totality is so short and there are so many things to experience, banking it all on one detail that might not even occur means you shouldn't be too locked into the way you are doing it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2017

I came in to suggest the Sunspotter that Marky mentioned above. I used one yesterday, and liked it better than the glasses. It made the eclipse the size of my hand! It was also easy to co-view with about 3 other people. Any more than that, and it was crowded. Did I mention the hand-sized eclipse projection? (I'm still in awe of it...)
posted by Guess What at 6:25 PM on August 22, 2017

Solarscope is quite a bit cheaper than sunspotter but according to some reviews even better.

You could also make something similar to either pretty easily and probably for a lot less, if so inclined. Example.

However, during totality these items won't be much use. Typical suggestion is to use unfiltered binoculars to look at the corona. OBVIOUSLY do this only during totality - the same period when you can look at the sun with your unprotected eyes and no solar glasses. Eclipse2017 staff answer about this issue. Mr. Eclipse comments.

FYI during this last eclipse we used an app that pre-announced things like when you could remove your glasses and when you needed to put them on again. The 2024 American eclipse will be more like 4 minutes long so you could plan to use binoculars to examine the corona during say the 1st minute of totality and do other things the last 3 minutes. Whatever you do, just be sure you're not trying to catch that last millisecond of view--find some way to give yourself a little buffer of time at the end. But experienced eclipse observers routinely watch the sun through a telescope with a solar filter during the partial phase, then remove the solar filter from the telescope during totality, then put the solar filter back on the telescope just before totality ends.

FYI we observed the partial phases through a telescope with a solar filter during the recent eclipse and that is definitely well worth doing. The detail observable is remarkable and well above what you can see with any other method.

Just for example, sunspots being covered & uncovered by the moon were easily visible and looked pretty cool. Also, we could make out various mountains and other small irregularities along the limb of the moon silhouetted against the sun, that are not really visible any other way.

We didn't try to take off the solar filter & observe with the telescope during totality, however. We figured there was plenty more to look at and do in a very short time period this time around and wanted to spend more time just looking around with our naked eyes and experiencing the whole situation. But maybe next time . . .
posted by flug at 2:33 AM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are some ideas here.

If have any interest in a DIY approach, there are ways to improve on the pinhole camera. I would try using a convex lens instead of a pinhole. With the right lens and correct dimensions, you should be able to do much better than a pinhole and cereal box.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2017

Just chiming in to make sure anyone reading this knows to put the solar filter on the front end of the telescope/binoculars rather than on the eyepiece. And make sure it won't come off accidentally.
posted by tracer at 7:22 AM on August 24, 2017

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