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I'm hoping to see the April 2024 total eclipse (which would be my first), and am considering buying equipment to improve the view. Of course I'll have generic solar filter glasses, but I'm wondering if magnification would be helpful. (I'm not going to spend time on photography, as I don't want to be distracted from the experience, and there will be plenty of photos posted that are better than what I could produce.)

So, for those who have seen total eclipses: would binoculars give me a better view of totality? If so, what field width would cover the most interesting part of the corona?

Edit: I'm considering getting a pair of very-wide-angle binoculars, e.g. the Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide Angle Binoculars. Would that help with viewing the corona?

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    $\begingroup$ 600-800mm focal length for a full frame camera leaves enough room for view of the corona. No binoculars would be anywhere near that, so pretty much any would do. There would not be much extra detail to view, as the corona is kinda fuzzy to begin with. Also, it would be a very serious issue if totality ended while you were looking through them. So I don't think they'd be a worthwhile use. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ Lots of info & diagrams from Fred Espenak for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 Apr 08 eclipsewise.com/solar/SEprime/2001-2100/SE2024Apr08Tprime.html $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 1:29

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Speaking from my experience of the 1999 eclipse visible from southern England, no. Use your naked eyes and commit the experience to memory.

I was lucky to see a gap in the clouds that day, many weren't.

Don't get hung up on optical aids, as you suggest, they can distract you from the experience.

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Well, the Great American Eclipse of 2024 is done, and I wanted to answer my own question with my experience.

Here's the equipment I brought.

  • Fujinon 14x40 stabilized binoculars:

Fujinon 14x40 stabilized binoculars, front view

  • 4" x 4" Thousand Oaks Optical SolarLite Solar Filter Film:

Thousand Oaks Optical SolarLite Solar Filter Film

  • Cardboard filter mount, lovingly crafted from two layers of cardboard to be a friction-fit onto the front of the Fujinons. Back of filter mount, showing aperture and white targeting pin (described below):

Back of filter mount

Front of filter mount, showing filter film taped on:

Front of filter mount

Filter mount in use:

Solar filter mount on Fujinon binoculars

  • Kasai Trading 2.3x40 Wide Field Binoculars:

enter image description here

There were high, thin clouds, which cut the brightness of the Sun perhaps 10%. In the runup to totality, the Fujinon/filter combo was great, giving very clear views of the partially-occulted disc. (I was able to see the moon starting to bite into the sun only a few seconds after theoretical first contact.)

It was a bit hard to find the Sun with the Fujinon/filter, so I added a small pin (actually a tine from a disposable fork) at the top center of the filter, casting a shadow on the user's forehead. When the pin shadow was about 1/2" above the eyebrows, and centered, the Sun was visible through the binocs. (No help when you're the one using the binocs, but it makes it very easy to help someone else find the Sun.)

When we hit totality, and the corona was visible, the Kasai wide-angle binocs were nice, but with the thin clouds the corona wasn't visible all that far away from the sun, so most of the wide angle view was wasted. The 14x40s (without filter) were again great; we saw wonderful prominences arcing past the edge of the Moon, and the (I think) chromosphere was visible near the beginning and end of totality.

In hindsight, had there been near-perfect viewing conditions, the enormous visible area of corona would have justified the Kasai wide-angle binocs. But, with the clouds present, my 7x40 binoculars (which I hadn't brought) would have shown almost all the visible corona, and with much larger features and better details than the Kasai. In both cases, the stabilized 14x40s were excellent, and showed amazing detail throughout the eclipse (with and without the filter).

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    $\begingroup$ Great self-answer. I hope you enjoyed the whole experience! $\endgroup$
    – Jim421616
    Commented Apr 9 at 3:02
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For the 2017 Solar Eclipse, I used a package of 10x35mm binoculars with mounted aluminized Mylar filters I got from Meade. Useful for following the partial stages of the eclipse, and then you pop off the filters for totality, which helped me see the solar prominences on the lunar limb and details in the inner corona. Make sure to devote most of your time to observing with the naked eye, though, (the full span of the corona is big) and be careful not to be looking through the binos when totality ends.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that binoculars are ideal for viewing totality, the corona, etc. The thing you want to see with unaided eyes is the rest of the sky far from the eclipse. $\endgroup$
    – JohnHoltz
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm considering getting a pair of low-magnification binoculars, e.g. the Orion 2x54 Ultra Wide Angle Binoculars, for viewing the corona. Any thoughts? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 15:12
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I found 15x power excellent for viewing the corona without a filter.

Too late for this eclipse…. But for the next:

For the 2017 eclipse I used 15x70 binoculars with a tripod. Any binoculars would provide a good view. The 15 power gave a nice balance of magnification and field, but made a tripod mandatory.

An aiming device is very handy. Many binoculars have a ¼”x20 threaded hole in the pivot (under a little plastic cap). I screwed a 8”piece of redi-rod into the hole with a 2” white disk at the pivot end. I adjusted the binocular alignment until there was no shadow on the white disk.

Before and after totality, I used ASBF 70 filters. During totality, take the filters off so you can observe the solar corona with bare eyeballs. I know it sounds nuts to look at the sun, unprotected, through binoculars. But you don’t need filters if the sun’s disk is occluded by the moon. Re-install filters before the end of totality.

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