USA 2017

Why you need binoculars for the Total Solar Eclipse

It’s safe to view Totality with the naked eye, but some magnification is irresistible

What most websites don’t tell you about the Total Solar Eclipse in the USA on August 21, 2017 is that the event – however amazing, coincidental and entrancing – is very, very small.

The Moon and Sun only occupy about a half of a degree in the sky. They appear to be the same size us on Earth because the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times greater than the Moon, but also around 400 times farther away.

When the Solar Corona appears at Totality, it’s sometimes possible to see prominences – explosions or Solar Mass Ejections (SMEs) on the Sun’s surface – but only if you can get a close-up. “The best advice is to use whatever you can comfortably handle,” says Eddie Mahoney, the only Nasa Ambassador, and Director of Astronomy and host of Tour of the Stars at ‘world’s top hotel for stargazing’, the Hyatt Regency Maui. “I have a nice pair of 15×70 binoculars that weigh about 5lbs, and I put them on a tripod that easily takes their weight, and makes them easy to handle.”

Another option is to find some smaller binoculars that are easy to hand-hold – 10×50 work really well – or some image stabilising binoculars like the Canon 10×42 L IS WP binoculars.

However, Mahoney also had some safety advice for “You absolutely must have solar filters than fit that particular model of binoculars for viewing before or after Totality,” he says.

Mahoney will be attending a special Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

Never look at the Sun through binoculars, even while wearing your safety glasses. Period. You’ll fry your eyes. However, with filters in place you can take a souvenir photo through them with a smartphone or compact camera. To make things easier, binoculars mounts are now becoming available for smartphones, such as the Carson HookUpz 2.0.

Photo credit: Jamie Carter