DIY solar eclipse viewer
August 21, 2017 will be the first solar eclipse to cross the entire US in many of our lifetimes. It's the third solar eclipse our 102 year old G.G. (our girls' great grandmother) will experience, but for many of us, it's a first. We are gearing up with ideas for how to safely explore this awesome astronomical phenomenon that occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun.
I've been researching the best ways to view the eclipse, and have been hesitant to purchase the solar eclipse glasses. There have been a flood of fake glasses hitting the market which don't actually offer the protection our eyes need to not permanently damage the retina. I'm not taking any chances with my family. We won't be looking directly at the eclipse this year, but we are still going to experience it, and have fun while learning in the days ahead.
If you did purchase solar eclipse glasses, check the NASA list of approved manufacturers to ensure they are safe. It's not worth risking your families eyesight. Additionally, local libraries all across the country are distributing free NASA approved glasses, so check with yours while supplies last!
So, what did we land on for our viewing party? Pinhole projection boxes! We have a full weekend of fun ahead of us as we talk about space, and the relationship between the sun, the moon and our Earth.
How to make a Pinhole Projection Box
- 1 cereal box
- 1 sheet white copy paper
- 3 sheets of craft paper
- Glue or tape
Your box is like a movie theater. Essentially, you are trying to create a dark place for the solar eclipse show to take place. The projector is at the back, shining through a small window, the room is dark, and the screen is up front.
With that vision in mind, cut a piece of white paper to fit the inside bottom of your box. You are going to tape or glue this in place, to essentially make your movie screen.
Next, cut the top box flaps off on either end, leaving the center fastening section. Tape the center closed to leave one square hole on either side. This is your viewing hole, and where the foil "projector" will go.
Cut a piece of aluminum foil (bonus, it sharpens your scissors while doing this) to completely cover one of the holes. Use extra heavy duty foil, or double it over to make sure it's not easily torn. Secure the foil to the box with tape. Poke a small hole in the center of the foil over the hole in the box. This where the sun will shine through to create the projection inside your box.
Lastly, cover the outside of your box with craft paper, and decorate for the Solar Eclipse premier at your house!
- It may take a minute to successfully position your projection box
- You will face away from the sun and hold the projector up to your eyes
- The foil needs to be facing the sun to capture the image, and project it inside the box
- Move the box slightly until you can successfully view the entire eclipse in your own little theater
Here is a representation of how it will work inside your viewer. Note, this is just a reflection of a light.
When you go outside, remember, don't look directly at the sun. If you are in an area of the country that is experiencing a total solar eclipse (the sun isn't peeking out around the edges), it's safe to look at it with unprotected eyes ONLY when the sun is fully hidden and it's dark outside. For most of us, it will not be safe to do so. The light from the sun, even when obscured by the eclipse will damage your eyes if you look directly at it.
For more fun with astronomy, browse our collection of science and astronomy toys and projects.
Dress your little hero up as an Astronaut for Halloween and continue the conversation about science!