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How to Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

On Aug. 21, the sun will go dark in one of nature’s greatest spectacles: a total solar eclipse. This phenomenon happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking out the sun for several minutes.

The path of the total eclipse will cross Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. The rest of North America will see a partial eclipse.

Not near one of those states? You can watch NASA’s live stream at nasa.gov/eclipselive.

If you are watching the eclipse, you can safely view it with this shoebox solar viewer. This type of viewer is also known as a pinhole projection because the image of the eclipse is projected through the pinhole onto a viewing surface.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • Small box with a lid (A shoebox is perfect.)
  • Small square of aluminum foil
  • Small square of white paper
  • Utility knife or hobby knife
  • Tape
  • Pin

WHAT YOU’LL DO

1. Cut a 1″ square hole in the lower right corner of the small end of the box.

2. Tape the aluminum foil over the cut out square and poke a pinhole in the center of the foil. The pinhole is where the sun will shine through.

3. Tape the white paper on the inside of the box directly across from the square of aluminum foil with the pinhole. This is where the sun’s image will appear.

4. Cut another 1″ square hole in the lower right corner of the long side of the box. This square hole is the viewing hole. You will be able to see the white paper through this hole.

5. Stand with your back to the sun, close the lid and look through the open square onto the white paper. Focus the sunlight through the pinhole and on the white square of paper.

This type of viewer is also known as a pinhole projection because the image of the eclipse is projected through the pinhole onto the viewing surface. You will be looking at a projection of the eclipse instead of looking directly at the sun.


WARNING: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN

Looking directly at the sun is like using a magnifying glass to burn a piece of paper. The sunlight is focused onto the back of your eye. The film in the back of your eye is called the retina, and it can easily be damaged without your knowledge. The retina of your eye does not have pain receptors, so you wonโ€™t even feel the damage being done. You might not know that you have damaged your vision until much later.


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25 Comments on How to Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer

  1. ROB – no, #5 says to stand with your back to the sun. Although you are looking thru the side hole, you are not spinning the box around or your back. Try putting your back to the sun, resting the box on your shoulder with pin hole also facing the sun. and the viewing hole will be close to the side of your face so you can glance into the viewing hole. There’s a video link too, it shows back to the sun.

  2. It was very easy to make I hope it works

  3. No Nick Name // August 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm // Reply

    Thanks for sharing this easy to make at home project to safely
    Be able to view the eclipse without having the glasses which may or may not be the correct glasses to use. It is hard to believe that prople would manufacture unfit glasses to view the eclipse knowingly ruining thousands of peoples eyes, young and old. This project is easy and we know it will not be harming anyone’s eyes. Thank you for your post.

  4. Thanks. Glasses were sold out last week. I’ll make this instead.

  5. Unfortunately Scouts here in Indiana will be locked down in school with the shades drawn, and will not be able to earn an Eclipse reward. They say its for their ” safety ” .

  6. Mr.V Troop 62 // August 20, 2017 at 9:52 am // Reply

    I don’t understand this: if my back is to the sun and I’m looking into the side of the box, then wouldn’t the pinhole be orthogonal to the sun? Also, if I’m looking into the side of the box, then I’d see the inside of the other side of the box, which is not where the projected image of the sun is supposed to be.

  7. It was very easy to make! Hope it works!

  8. George from Riga // August 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    Instead of cutting a hole in the side of the box, I wonder if one uses tracing paper in liu of the white paper and cut a hole where the white paper was to go. This should create a rear screen image of the sun from the pin hole in the foil.

  9. Box already has a hole :) // August 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm // Reply

    Does it matter if it’s the lower right or lower left for the square with the foil as long as I put the white paper on the opposite side and viewing square on the same side?

  10. Is it safe to take the lid off the shoe top and look through there? I remember being young when there was a partial eclipse and we made viewers like this in school. And I thought we removed the lid.

    • If you remove the lid, then you will flood the box with outside light. You will be unable to see the Solar Eclipse if you remove the lid. I recommend not removing the lid. Have a nice weekend, and I hope this helps.

    • TROTTER – It does not matter which side… i am putting all holes and papers on the left instead of right because my box already has a 1 inch hole on the lower left of box. It’s just a pinhole and image.

  11. Thank you!! I was not able to find the glasses.

    • It’s okay to do so. You may have a better image with lid on less outside light inerference. Only look at the projection sheet of course.

    • its safe however the light coming in from the top of the box will make it harder to see the image of the sun

  12. Shoeboxes cause cancer.

  13. Texas Math Teacher // August 17, 2017 at 7:32 pm // Reply

    Thanks for the instructions. We will be taking our high school students or on the first day of school to see the partial e eclipse and now I can actually view it.

  14. Rebelrose67 // August 17, 2017 at 7:24 pm // Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait ’til the 21st to try it out!

  15. Just made two. Checked it with lamp. Very easy. Thanks for the info

  16. Thank you– getting ton’s of people wanting to use the “glasses”– still not sure I’d trust my kid’s vision to them. Glad to have this low-tech answer

  17. According to these instructions it seems you need to stand with the sun at your side not at your back. Hmmmm….

  18. I am unable to go see the eclipse, so I appreciate the instructions on the eclipse viewer. Much nicer than the “pinhole in the paper” from years ago!๐Ÿ˜€ my grandson is in troop 945๐Ÿ˜‰ thank you!
    Graworth

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