The Total Solar Eclipse on August 21 is going to be one of the most anticipated and participated astronomical events in the last 50 years. And the good news is that you don’t have to have any special equipment to actively participate in the Eclipse. With basic household items or perhaps an extra trip down to the UPS store you can build your own solar viewing tool.
Please remember you should never look at the Sun directly without equipment that’s specifically designed for looking at the sun. Even using binoculars or a telescope, you could severely damage your eyes or even go blind.
Simple solar viewing projects are perfect for elementary/middle schools, families or anyone who wants to actively enjoy the eclipse. They provide the added benefit of helping kids concentrate on looking at their project and not looking at the Sun. And it is perfect way for group observing.
Most DYI eclipse viewing projects are centered around projecting the Sun’s image to a surface. The key to many projecting projects is to provide a shaded screen so that the image of the Sun is visible and protected from indirect light. This is the base of simple “Shoebox” pinhole style solar viewers.
This technique has been around for a long time and is called “Camera obscura,” which is Latin to describe a darkened enclosure with an opening through which light enters to form an image on the opposite surface. This process has been used as far back as the 5th century BC!
NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
With just a few simple supplies, you can make a pinhole camera that will let you watch a solar eclipse safely and easily. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab demonstrates this simple DYI project that can be made with white cardstock, foil, tape and a paper clip. To read click here.
Building a Solar Viewer with Small Binoculars
San Francisco’s Exploratorium offers an exploration of science, art and human perception. In this video, they demonstrate how to create a solar viewer using an inexpensive binocular and a tripod. To view click here.
UPS Box Solar Viewer
The team at the Exploratorium supersizes a Solar Viewer with UPS Boxes! The project uses two UPS boxes, aluminum foil, a paper clip, a sheet of white cardstock and a box cutter type utility knife. To read click here.
Whatever project you choose, be sure to practice using your finished project on a sunny day a few days prior to the Great Eclipse to make sure it is working properly. Practice around the same time of the eclipse in your area to make sure there are no trees, buildings, etc. in the way.
The Astronomy Technology Today editorial staff would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the availability of our Solar eclipse equipment guide – The Definitive Equipment Guide to the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Our goal with the 40 page publication is to provide an easy-to-consume introduction to the technological options for viewing and imaging the Great Solar Eclipse. We cover the gamut of options available including building your own solar viewer, solar glasses, smart phones, DSLR cameras, using astronomy telescopes, solar telescopes, using binoculars, solar filters (including a DYI filter option), CCD astro cameras, astro video cameras, webcams and much more. You can view the guide on our website here – its free and there is no requirement to sign up to read the guide.