Coronado PST - Courtesy of OPT

Coronado PST – Personal H-Alpha Solar Telescope

29 Jul , 2008 by

[/caption]Are you interested in taking an in-depth look at our nearest star in a specific wavelength of light? H-alpha has a wavelength of 656.281 nanometers and is visible in the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum. A hydrogen-alpha filter is an optical filter designed to transmit a narrow bandwidth of light generally centered on the H-alpha wavelength. These special filters are great, but they are difficult to use because of temperature and f-ratio requirements… not to mention expense! If you’ve ever been curious as to whether or not a Coronado PST was worth the price, then follow along.

At around $500, the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope isn’t an investment you take lightly for such limited use. Because almost all telescopes and binoculars can be outfitted with a relatively inexpensive white light solar filter, it’s almost an extravagance to view in this manner – or is it? For those who are able to afford specific Ha filters to fit their existing refractor telescopes, the luxury provides an incredible wealth of details unseen in white light – but also opens up a world of over-heating and sensitive adjustments. It’s a scary thought to trust your permanent vision to a tiny piece of glass, but human curiosity is what it is. There are those of us who want and need more…

So enter the Coronado H-Alpha Personal Solar Telescope. For years I’ve wanted to get my hands on an h-alpha solar filter and the thought of having a dedicated solar telescope was simply too good to pass up. The refractor telescopes I own were meant for nighttime viewing and I knew this milled aluminum beauty was meant for only one thing – the Sun. But would this amazingly small little gold telescope give me everything that I had hoped for? All I needed was a sunny day…

Setting up a Coronado PST was everything it was promised to be. It is no more difficult to use than a spotting scope and the built-in “Sun Finder” is definitely a bit easier than using the shadow-aim method. Happy as a little clam, I draped a black towel over my head and bent to the eyepiece. I kept sliding the focus up and down, but was met with nothing but a rotten, blurry image. Where’s this great solar telescope, huh? Where’s the excitement? I was disapointed at first.

But it wasn’t the telescope’s fault… It was mine.

PST Image - Lorenzo Mezzimi

PST Image - Lorenzo Mezzimi

What I had forgotten about was using an h-alpha telescope wasn’t the same as using an astronomical refractor. Because solar features that are visible in h-alpha light are moving at high velocities, you “tune” rather than focus the image. Duh! Once I caught on to sensitive adjustments, a whole new world opened up right before my eyes. Where I had once seen the Sun with a crisp, razor sharp edge, I now saw the soft glow of the chromosphere. White light (depending on which filter I used) gave the Sun a blue-white or flat yellow appearance – but now it glows vibrant red and the chromosphere is like a network of fine lace that covers the entire surface! Tiny streamers of material would show here and there and the appearance of looking at something “living” was incomparable. There’s clouds of gas up there!

Over a period of several months, the Coronado PST and I have done a lot of exploring. I’ve learned to identify plages and fibrils. I’ve seen prominences and filaments. What sunspots there are have taken on a whole new dimension. The PST has awakened my curiosity to what can be observed with even more sophisticated equipment! Was it worth what it cost?

Every last cent…

Note to Readers: The Coronado Personal Solar Telescope used for this review was purchased at Oceanside Photo and Telescope – an exclusive Coronado dealer.


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gdjsky01
Member
gdjsky01
July 29, 2008 2:40 PM

With an H-alpha scope you can see the happenings on the most dynamic object you can view through a telescope. The Sun is different everyday. You can watch it change over minutes. And right now it’s relatively quiet. As for the price? You can use it every clear day. Think about it. Compared to nighttime observing, you get far more use (or potential use).

If you think the view is good through the PST, get hooked and look through a Maxscope 60 or my friend’s double stacked Maxscope 90 with a binoviewer!

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
July 29, 2008 6:21 PM
I think solar observing is an area that is really going to open up to amateurs soon. Up until the PST came out, it was an expensive preserve of the rich and/or obsessed. Now we have the PST, and other manufacturers out on the market such as Lunt, who are offering quite incredible prices on their scopes. Competition is always good in this business. The Coronado Solarmax scopes are even coming down in price. So I think the price of a solar instrument is starting to get to that tipping point where everyone (everyone who is astronomically inclined, that is) with a bit of spare cash will potentially be able to get into the game. And a great… Read more »
Andy Burns
Guest
Andy Burns
July 29, 2008 10:32 PM

What about the rust bug in the filters?
Good concept spoiled by production quality.

Ian O'Neill
Member
July 30, 2008 8:24 AM

I know it’s fun to see things for yourself, but at $500, I’m not sold on the “worth every last cent” statement. For $40 a month, you can get a fast internet connection which gives you near real time access to images of the Sun at the SOHO website:

http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime/eit_304/1024/latest.html

von Dawsons Express
Member
von Dawsons Express
July 30, 2008 1:10 PM

These are excellent, have looked through a few and want one, perhaps one day?

bob
Guest
bob
July 31, 2008 9:43 PM

I’ll become the owner of a 60mm Luntscope by fall and am really looking forward to viewing the sun at my own leisure with a Hydrogen alpha filter double stacked. Aside from the above postings’mentioned benefits is the ability to show off the sun’s features just about anywhere at convenient times for children in the neighborhood.

GrahamC
Member
GrahamC
August 1, 2008 5:01 AM

Reading Tammy’s reply above has made me wonder why they use an achromatic doublet at all; the light passed by the narrow-band filter is as near monochromatic as makes no difference.

Joe C
Guest
August 3, 2008 1:12 PM

The old versions of the PST had rust problems ( coating serperation). The new ones or the upgraded ones are fine.

Joe C
Guest
August 3, 2008 1:13 PM

The old versions of the PST had rust problems ( coating seperation). The new ones or the upgraded ones are fine.

gdjsky01
Member
gdjsky01
August 4, 2008 2:10 PM

Those of you financing the development of the Lunt Ha scopes, I hope you see something someday. I’ll wait for Lunt 2.0 thanks.

Ken
Guest
Ken
December 26, 2008 6:46 PM

Hey Jeff,
Why wait? I just got my hew Lunt LS60THa and it is wonderful. Absolute perfection in the construction. A true piece of engineering.
I’ve owned a PST for two years, which I’ve used a lot, and really enjoyed. For the money, Lunt has a real winner in the LS60THa.

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