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Thinking about getting a Solar Scope

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#1 DaveC2042

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 06:31 PM

Hi all

 

First up, apologies if this is the wrong thread, but it seemed the only place for a solar question.  Second, apologies if I'm duplicating a recent discussion, but I did search and couldn't see one that really addressed my question.

 

With that out of the way:

 

I'm thinking about getting a solar scope, purely for visual - no imaging.

 

While I've seen some discussion about first solar scopes, it tends to be cost-driven and revolve around the basic Coronado.  That sounds like a perfectly good scope, but my situation is that while I wouldn't say money is no object, I can spend up if I feel it is justified.

 

I'm interested in the views of the experienced about moving up the scale, and what you get for it.  Image quality, build quality, things I wouldn't notice immediately, but will become annoying once I get into it, traps for young players.  How much does brand matter?  How much does aperture mattter?  Etc.

 

By way of background, I have a 12" Lightbridge, which I am fairly active with (only visual), doing dark sky most new moons except in summer when the Australian heat makes camping intolerable.

 

Thanks in advance for any advice.



#2 MalVeauX

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 06:44 PM

Heya,

 

Aperture is where your resolution comes from, as you know. Seeing is worse in the day time, so it's not as easy to use large apertures unless your seeing supports it commonly. That said, the sun is close compared to other stars, and it's simply amazing what you can resolve on our star with a mere 60mm aperture. More aperture will give you more resolution. But, larger aperture comes with massive price increases. 40mm to 60mm seems to be fairly affordable. But going to 80mm is a huge step in cost. And going larger than that is a massive, massive increase in cost. Worth it? Well, that's a personal thing. I've had the pleasure of viewing at 40mm and 150mm apertures in HA and the views from the larger aperture under good seeing is simply amazing. There's no substitute for aperture. If your budget allows, I would definitely target the 80~90mm aperture range, if it's an option. It will be price. But if this is an option it will be well worth it if you want to watch 8 minute old light that moves before your very eyes.

 

Quality build is important, and details are important, such as a good focuser and the ability to upgrade parts and/or add a double-stack option.

 

There are options that are modular that you simply add to a current scope you already have, such as front and/or rear mounted etalons and blocking filters. There are dedicated solar scopes and there are modular accessories that turn an existing scope into a HA scope. So there are several options.

 

So depending on your budget, I would point you towards the Solarmax III series, either the 70mm double stack or the 90mm double stack, if it's within budget. Good blocking filters, good focusers, and great apertures with a double stacked etalon, ready to go. Well made scopes. Alternatively, a Lunt 80mm if you can afford it, with a double-stack module if able, and go for the larger blocking filters (10mm~15mm). Alternatively if you can find Solarmax 90mm front mounted etalons you can put one on an existing scope. And then there are options like Daystar Quantum series or Solar Spectrum Observer series for rear mounted etalons on an existing scope.

 

It would help to know what your top budget is.

 

And really, I would suggest you find a way to look through a HA scope soon so you can get an idea of what it's like and see what your expectations vs reality are.

 

That said, when I view through my 150mm aperture solar scope with my binoviewers, the view is very much like the images I made, and I can see crazy amounts of detail and structures in high resolution. It's truly fantastic and blows night-sky viewing away (at least for me) seeing a living star in such resolution with unique 8 minute old light, all day every day.

 

Right now we're approaching the peak of the solar minimum of cycle 24, so there's not a lot of crazy activity going on (huge spots, flares, big features daily, etc). So I find full disc viewing isn't particularly breath taking (though still amazing to see and I like to view it as a full disc every day I can for a moment at least just to scan the surface and limb for structures to look at with my bigger scope). I much prefer simply looking at a specific large structure at high resolution, such as a huge prominence or an active region, etc with a large aperture and a pair of binoviewers, it's just nuts what you see.

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX, 28 January 2019 - 06:49 PM.

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#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 07:02 PM

Yeah, it's aperture, bandwidth and quality

 

>more aperture = better resolution
>narrower bandwidth = better H-alpha discrimination and contrast
>quality = better, reliable performance

 

Coronado and Lunt have provided the most affordable high-end Ha scopes for a decade +
DayStar has been around forever, first with professional-grade etalons, and now several competitive amateur scopes

 

I don't want to critique too much, which might be unfair.

 

I've had good luck with Lunt, before they got bought-out. Assuming they are still good. I'm guessing that all three of those brands are good, and competitive.

 

The one I'm happily using is a Lunt 80mm with double-stacked pressure-tuned etalons. Visual and imagery. If you haven't done solar H-alpha yet... it's distinctly different and really very nice! Able to do astronomy from the back yard on any clear day. PS: You will want an equivalent white-light scope to use in parallel... and maybe even a Calcium K etalon!    Tom


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#4 DaveC2042

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:43 PM

Heya,

 

Aperture is where your resolution comes from, as you know. Seeing is worse in the day time, so it's not as easy to use large apertures unless your seeing supports it commonly. That said, the sun is close compared to other stars, and it's simply amazing what you can resolve on our star with a mere 60mm aperture. More aperture will give you more resolution. But, larger aperture comes with massive price increases. 40mm to 60mm seems to be fairly affordable. But going to 80mm is a huge step in cost. And going larger than that is a massive, massive increase in cost. Worth it? Well, that's a personal thing. I've had the pleasure of viewing at 40mm and 150mm apertures in HA and the views from the larger aperture under good seeing is simply amazing. There's no substitute for aperture. If your budget allows, I would definitely target the 80~90mm aperture range, if it's an option. It will be price. But if this is an option it will be well worth it if you want to watch 8 minute old light that moves before your very eyes.

 

Quality build is important, and details are important, such as a good focuser and the ability to upgrade parts and/or add a double-stack option.

 

There are options that are modular that you simply add to a current scope you already have, such as front and/or rear mounted etalons and blocking filters. There are dedicated solar scopes and there are modular accessories that turn an existing scope into a HA scope. So there are several options.

 

So depending on your budget, I would point you towards the Solarmax III series, either the 70mm double stack or the 90mm double stack, if it's within budget. Good blocking filters, good focusers, and great apertures with a double stacked etalon, ready to go. Well made scopes. Alternatively, a Lunt 80mm if you can afford it, with a double-stack module if able, and go for the larger blocking filters (10mm~15mm). Alternatively if you can find Solarmax 90mm front mounted etalons you can put one on an existing scope. And then there are options like Daystar Quantum series or Solar Spectrum Observer series for rear mounted etalons on an existing scope.

 

It would help to know what your top budget is.

 

And really, I would suggest you find a way to look through a HA scope soon so you can get an idea of what it's like and see what your expectations vs reality are.

 

That said, when I view through my 150mm aperture solar scope with my binoviewers, the view is very much like the images I made, and I can see crazy amounts of detail and structures in high resolution. It's truly fantastic and blows night-sky viewing away (at least for me) seeing a living star in such resolution with unique 8 minute old light, all day every day.

 

Right now we're approaching the peak of the solar minimum of cycle 24, so there's not a lot of crazy activity going on (huge spots, flares, big features daily, etc). So I find full disc viewing isn't particularly breath taking (though still amazing to see and I like to view it as a full disc every day I can for a moment at least just to scan the surface and limb for structures to look at with my bigger scope). I much prefer simply looking at a specific large structure at high resolution, such as a huge prominence or an active region, etc with a large aperture and a pair of binoviewers, it's just nuts what you see.

 

Very best,

Thanks - really helpful.

 

I have looked through the Corona PST and liked it, so I think my expectations are realistic.  If that was what was available then great, but of course some is good - more is better.  Moreover I've been observing at night for many years, so I know about the difference between mine and the Hubble.

 

Top budget - I don't really know.  There isn't a hard upper limit.  It is more about what's value and what else I then would feel morally obliged to be cheap about.  And what I can explain to the SO - though she is the easiest element of the problem, being a very reasonable person.

 

I think I want a dedicated scope - sticking filters on my dob makes me very nervous from a safety point of view.

 

Double-stack seems to be important to get the best image.  I think that sounds like a must-have.



#5 BYoesle

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:49 PM

Check out "Best of Solar Threads" (I know, they are poorly described).

 

Generally you get what you pay for.

 

In order of contrast performance for a given filter bandpass and "finesse:"

 

1. Front (objective) mounted etalons; most expensive - 'limited' aperture up to 100 mm, best contrast uniformity for full disc and medium power viewing. Easy to double stack.

 

2. Internal etalons (collimator systems), wide variety of apertures up to 152 mm, good contrast, general all-around use. Easy to double stack.

 

3. Rear etalons (telecentric systems), best with larger apertures upto whatever you can get, generally not as good for full disc viewing, needs a f30 or greater focal ratio via a true telecentric system for optimum performance, these single filter systems harder configure and double stack.

 

Aperture is for resolution, double stacking is for best contrast. Your budget is the limit. It's usually a balance of aperture and contrast performance, and taking into consideration your local daytime seeing conditions needs to be considered. The larger the aperture, the more limited your daytime observing becomes unless you have really good daytime seeing.

 

 

>narrower bandwidth = better H-alpha discrimination and contrast

This only applies to rear solid spaced etalons, as most air spaced external and internal filters are ~ 0.7 Angstroms nominal. Solid spaced etalon bandpasses differences are more subtle until you get below 0.4 Angstroms because these are still single filter systems. For the air spaced etalons in series ('double stacking') will have a 0.5 Angstrom bandpass, but these filters contrast performance generally surpasses a 0.2 Angstrom bandpass single filter.

 

See: https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry7989577

 

and the links therein.

 

Given how you describe yourself, you should give the Lunt LS100THa with a B1800 or B3400 blocking filter with a feather touch focuser, double stacked with the front LS100FHa filter serious consideration. After that the Coronado SM90 III double stack. And if the sky's the limit, check out the Solarscope DSF100 system - a mere $32,000 USD at OPT, and you might need to add the Baader 110 mm DERF with a filter cell for better thermal stability.

 

For even more aperture you'll only have the Lunt 152 scope, or the DayStar or Solar Spectrum rear etalons systems configured with a true telecentric system at f30 +. The latter systems will generally require you to also have a smaller front or internal filtered scope for better full-disc and medium power views.

 

And the larger the scope, the beefier the mount will have to be and this leads to how much set up work you will have, unless you have a permanent observatory set up. And if you haven't eaten Wheaties in awhile you'll probably want to keep things at about 80 to 100 mm of aperture on a reasonably sized tracking mount.


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#6 DaveC2042

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:51 PM

Yeah, it's aperture, bandwidth and quality

 

>more aperture = better resolution
>narrower bandwidth = better H-alpha discrimination and contrast
>quality = better, reliable performance

 

Coronado and Lunt have provided the most affordable high-end Ha scopes for a decade +
DayStar has been around forever, first with professional-grade etalons, and now several competitive amateur scopes

 

I don't want to critique too much, which might be unfair.

 

I've had good luck with Lunt, before they got bought-out. Assuming they are still good. I'm guessing that all three of those brands are good, and competitive.

 

The one I'm happily using is a Lunt 80mm with double-stacked pressure-tuned etalons. Visual and imagery. If you haven't done solar H-alpha yet... it's distinctly different and really very nice! Able to do astronomy from the back yard on any clear day. PS: You will want an equivalent white-light scope to use in parallel... and maybe even a Calcium K etalon!    Tom

Thanks

 

I was thinking about Lunt - they seemed to have the reputation, not to disparage Coronado.  Daystar wasn't on my radar - will check them out.

 

No surprise the advice about aperture.  I may need to take a plunge on that.

 

I hadn't thought about the white light - I'd just assumed HA was the real deal.  Why would you want both?



#7 DaveC2042

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:59 PM

Check out "Best of Solar Threads" (I know, they are poorly described).

 

Generally you get what you pay for.

 

In order of contrast performance for a given filter bandpass and "finesse:"

 

1. Front (objective) mounted etalons; most expensive - 'limited' aperture up to 100 mm, best contrast uniformity for full disc and medium power viewing. Easy to double stack.

 

2. Internal etalons (collimator systems), wide variety of apertures up to 152 mm, good contrast, general all-around use. Easy to double stack.

 

3. Rear etalons (telecentric systems), best with larger apertures upto whatever you can get, generally not as good for full disc viewing, needs a f30 or greater focal ratio via a true telecentric system for optimum performance, these single filter systems harder configure and double stack.

 

Aperture is for resolution, double stacking is for best contrast. Your budget is the limit. It's usually a balance of aperture and contrast performance, and taking into consideration your local daytime seeing conditions needs to be considered. The larger the aperture, the more limited your daytime observing becomes unless you have really good daytime seeing.

 

This only applies to rear solid spaced etalons, as most air spaced external and internal filters are ~ 0.7 Angstroms nominal. Solid spaced etalon bandpasses differences are more subtle until you get below 0.4 Angstroms because these are still single filter systems. For the air spaced etalons in series ('double stacking') will have a 0.5 Angstrom bandpass, but these filters contrast performance generally surpasses a 0.2 Angstrom bandpass single filter.

 

See: https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry7989577

 

and the links therein.

 

Given how you describe yourself, you should give the Lunt LS100THa with a B1800 or B3400 blocking filter with a feather touch focuser, double stacked with the front LS100FHa filter serious consideration. After that the Coronado SM90 III double stack. And if the sky's the limit, check out the Solarscope DSF100 system - a mere $32,000 USD at OPT, and you might need to add the Baader 110 mm DERF with a filter cell for better thermal stability.

 

For even more aperture you'll only have the Lunt 152 scope, or the DayStar or Solar Spectrum rear etalons systems configured with a true telecentric system at f30 +. The latter systems will generally require you to also have a smaller front or internal filtered scope for better full-disc and medium power views.

 

And the larger the scope, the beefier the mount will have to be and this leads to how much set up work you will have, unless you have a permanent observatory set up. And if you haven't eaten Wheaties in awhile you'll probably want to keep things at about 80 to 100 mm of aperture on a reasonably sized tracking mount.

Thanks - the excellent advice keeps coming.

 

Your Lunt suggestion is starting to sound a good approach.  USD32k (~AUD40K) is a bridge too far at the moment - that's more than my piano would cost today.

 

Good point about the mount.  I'd kind of parked that issue to one side.



#8 BYoesle

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 09:12 PM

H alpha is the real deal - but shows the chromosphere preferentially. "White Light" aka continuum, shows the photosphere, where sunspots live (if they are present!).

 

Continuum (photosphere), Calcium K (lower chromosphere - imaging only), and H alpha (mid to upper chromosphere) make for a nice compare and contrast.

 

wl-cak-ha-compare-crp-cmp_orig.jpg

 

friends-of-goldendale-observatory-bob-yoesle-4_orig.jpg


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#9 DaveC2042

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 12:30 AM

H alpha is the real deal - but shows the chromosphere preferentially. "White Light" aka continuum, shows the photosphere, where sunspots live (if they are present!).

 

Continuum (photosphere), Calcium K (lower chromosphere - imaging only), and H alpha (mid to upper chromosphere) make for a nice compare and contrast.

 

attachicon.gif wl-cak-ha-compare-crp-cmp_orig.jpg

 

attachicon.gif friends-of-goldendale-observatory-bob-yoesle-4_orig.jpg

I see.  Makes perfect sense.



#10 Eagle Butte Observatory

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 06:36 PM

Thanks to everyone adding to this topic. I too have been thinking of a solar scope and narrowed it down to Solarmax 3 70mm or 90mm.  The jump in price truly is making me lean toward  70mm but really need to know if I will regret not taking the time to save for the 90mm scope?  Or go with the 90mm scope and regret not going smaller due to seeing conditions...



#11 BYoesle

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 07:45 PM

Go with the 90, you won't regret it.



#12 bigdob24

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 07:52 PM

“Or go with the 90mm scope and regret not going smaller due to seeing conditions...”
 

If you go with the larger aperture , it will be there for you when those great seeing conditions happen.
If seeing is poor just stop down the aperture and your good.

Ive got a Lunt 100 and use a 75mm aperture stop occasionally .

Cant use it if ya don’t have it

Good luck with your choice

BD 



#13 George9

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Posted 13 January 2020 - 06:12 PM

If you can get your hands on a white-light scope, for example some $50 Baader film on an existing scope, then you can see your daytime seeing for yourself. If the edge of the Sun is always boiling like a pot of soup then sure go smaller. But if the edge is fairly sharp some of the time, then you will benefit from the larger scope.

 

I observe mainly from northern Connecticut, southern New York, central Pennsylvania, and some Colorado, and also did some Wyoming for the eclipse. Seeing is usually good enough for 90mm to outperform 70mm in those regions.

 

Remember that in H-alpha, because of the longer wavelength you need a 25% larger aperture for the same resolution as green, and also you are not looking for 0.5A seeing like planetary viewing. If you can get to 2A, you can see neat things in the 90mm where the 70mm will have sufficient theoretical resolution but the view will be too dim in H-alpha at the higher powers.

 

That being said, the 70mm should also be great, and I started on a 60mm and never regretted it. Now I mainly go back and forth between an 80mm and 155mm, and starting to use a 280mm.

 

The only mistake is believing that you will buy one scope and that will be it. If you fall in love with it, you will be saving up and buying and selling.

 

George



#14 lkahn1

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 04:45 PM

190713 Griffith 1.jpg

 

190713 Griffith 1.jpg

 

I have a coronado 90 Solarmax II double stack along side a Televue 102 with a glass solarfilter.  Works very well for public astronomy.  I had a Coronado Ca-K for a while but really couldn't see anything.  I recently purchased the Daystar Quark Calcium H module - it works well and the image is very clear and bright.  Calcium H line is much closer to visible than K line. 

 

also, The Coronado 90 Double stack Solarmax IIs are on sale all over the place for around $3300.       


Edited by lkahn1, 14 January 2020 - 04:46 PM.

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#15 dhkaiser

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 04:55 PM

attachicon.gif190713 Griffith 1.jpg

 

attachicon.gif190713 Griffith 1.jpg

 

I have a coronado 90 Solarmax II double stack along side a Televue 102 with a glass solarfilter.  Works very well for public astronomy.  I had a Coronado Ca-K for a while but really couldn't see anything.  I recently purchased the Daystar Quark Calcium H module - it works well and the image is very clear and bright.  Calcium H line is much closer to visible than K line. 

 

also, The Coronado 90 Double stack Solarmax IIs are on sale all over the place for around $3300.       

Very nice setup.  What mount is that?



#16 lkahn1

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 06:20 PM

Orion Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount



#17 dhkaiser

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 06:24 PM

Orion Atlas Pro AZ/EQ-G Computerized GoTo Telescope Mount

Very nice, thanks.



#18 dscarpa

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 12:56 PM

 I've had a single tilt etalon Lunt 60 BF1200 since 2009 and a sale bought SM 90 III DS BF1500 since the first week in June.   The Lunt 60 shows a lot with very good prom performance and good for surface with a sweet spot of 80% of the FOV. I've used the Lunt at 160X. The SM 90 III was money well spent as it shows a lot more with no sweet spot. The SM 90 III has better surface contrast with one etalon than the Lunt 60 but that may be due to size.  I've used the SM 90 III at 280X with one etalon. I haven't used the SM 90 IIIs DS etalon much as there's not much going on the surface since I got it. I really don't think you need  DS to enjoy solar and it can be added later. The SM 70 III has 60mm etalons.  As it does at night for L&P a bigger  scope cuts though thin clouds and haze a lot better. David


Edited by dscarpa, 15 January 2020 - 01:11 PM.



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