Price: $5077with rack-and-pinion focuser
With the upcoming April 2024 North America Eclipse approaching, I thought it would be interesting to pique the interest of astronomy enthusiasts in solar observing before the big event by reviewing a solar telescope. Quality telescopes can be a bit pricey, and telescopes made specifically for solar observing are no exception. The Lunt Solar 80mm f/7 modular telescope is a solar telescope that is designed for solar observation and imaging, but its modular design also allows for nighttime use.
Although Lunt makes solar telescopes in a variety of sizes, this version has an ample 80 mm aperture. The focal length of 560 mm makes this a f/7 focal ratio scope. The modular design allows for a quick change between solar and nighttime viewing or photographing. This telescope is compatible with many observing and photography accessories. Precise focusing is achieved with a focuser type that comes in various options. Mounting this scope is possible with a Vixen-style dovetail plate. The carrying handle and light weight makes this telescope relatively portable.
Since this is primarily a solar telescope, it naturally must have an appropriate filter to block most of the sun’s light except for a small portion. Different features of the solar disk are best highlighted with differing specific wavelengths. The Lunt 80mm scope uses an Etalon filter with pressure tuning, which allows for changing the specific wavelength of light passing through the filter depending on the pressure between parallel glass plates. An observer can change the pressure on the fly in order to highlight different features of the sun.
This telescope would be ideal to observe or photograph the partial phases of a solar eclipse. Theoretically, removal of the filter would allow observation of the sun ONLY during the total phase of the eclipse. I don’t think it would be worth the time or risk to attempt to change the configuration during the precious few minutes of a total solar eclipse. The main advantage of this type of scope is to have a versatile all-in-one telescope without having to buy both.
- Excellent visual image quality
- High-quality optics
- Modular design for daytime or nighttime use
- Internal pressure tuning allows bringing out different features of the sun’s disk
- Not the best optics for nighttime use
Overall, the Lunt Solar 80mm f/7 modular telescope is a versatile, high-quality solar telescope that can also be used for nighttime viewing or photographing. Its design makes it ideal for permanent observatories or portable on-the-go use. The best feature is that users can get good use during days when the light of the full or near-full moon interferes with nighttime possible uses. I recommend pairing this scope with the Sky-Watcher Solar Quest automatic sun locator and tracker.