The sun has a spot on it! I’ve seen it with my own eyes, viewed from the Bird Watcher’s Digest parking lot. Of course I’ve long known that there are sunspots, but—like black holes and supernovae—I thought a massive telescope with a special lens was required to see them.
Today, I stared at the sun through Celestron EclipSmart binoculars, giving both the 10×25 and 10×42 models a test, eagerly anticipating how that view will change on August 21. I assumed that I’d be watching the eclipse (86 percent visible here in Marietta, Ohio) through a pinhole. Rather, I expected to be staring at the ground, watching the shadow of the eclipse as it passes above the pinhole. Then these binoculars showed up. (Yet another perk of working for BWD.) I would so much rather be able to look at the sun and see the real McCoy than a shadow of the eclipse. I’ll be able to! Thanks, Celestron!
The 10×42 model is a Porro prism design. These binoculars are hefty in the hand, but not unmanageable. Eye relief is 12.7 mm, and I don’t see how field of view or close focus is relevant for sun watching. My eyes are super close-set, and folks with an even narrower nose bridge than mine might be looking through just one barrel of this binocular, but at the tightest adjustment, I could see the sun just fine through both barrels.
The 10×25 EclipSmart bins are tiny and light, a Roof prism design that folds into a near-Cyclops eye-width position. Eye relief is 10.5 mm, and both models have fold-down eyecups. Both models were a comfortable fit for my eyes, and open wide for folks with normal-sized nose bridges. Both sizes come with a carrying case, strap, cleaning cloth, and instructions.
Through both models, it was challenging to find the sun! When birding, I find the bird with my naked eyes, then fix on it as I quickly pull the binocular to my eyes. That technique doesn’t work when the object to be viewed is literally blinding. So, to use the EclipSmart bins, look at something at eye level, not the brilliant object of your desire or even at something in its general direction. Try to remember where in the sky the sun is, because everything is black as you look through these binoculars. I felt like a newbie birder—looking through those binoculars, tilted skyward, and panning left and right, up and down, and in circles. Everything was black—until I found what I was looking for. It’s harder to find the sun than it seems it should be! I’m confident it becomes easier with repetition.
Just as with normal binoculars, the EclipSmart bins have a diopter and a central focusing knob, so once on the sun I got a perfectly clear view, which was very cool—and enlightening! Do sunspots move around, I wonder?
The 10×42 EclipSmart binocular retails for $69.95, and the 10×25 model is $34.95—an amazing deal for 10x magnification, even for a binocular I won’t be using often. But I would use it again: On November 11, 2019, Mercury will pass in front of the sun, an event called a transit. That will be cool to watch live, too, but few people will get to see it. And in 2024, a total solar eclipse will be viewable from Marietta, Ohio.
If I didn’t have access to an EclipSmart binocular (thanks, BWD), I would be ordering one online today. Do an Internet search for EclipSmart. You’ll find them.
About the Author
Dawn Hewitt is the managing editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She has been watching birds since 1979, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald Times newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.