Here’s how to make simple solar viewers to indirectly view an eclipse.
NEVER look directly at the sun, since you can permanently damage your retinas (the light sensors on the back of your eyeballs.)
You can safety view the sun (and therefore a solar eclipse) using a shoe box by standing with the sun BEHIND you. All you need is a shoe box without a lid, a piece of white paper, aluminum foil, a pin and tape. It’s perfect for viewing a solar eclipse, like the one coming up this afternoon. It will be visible from around 4:30 CST until 6:00 PM CST here in Minnesota!
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun from view.Go to this eclipse calculator to see when and where you can best view the eclipse with your viewer! Here in Minnesota, we’ll see a partial eclipse.
First, tape white paper over one end of the shoe box (on the inside.) This is your viewing screen.
Then, cut a big notch out of the other end of the shoe box and tape aluminum foil over it.
Use a pin to poke a hole in the center of the foil. If you mess up, you can always put new foil on and try again. The smaller the hole, the better the focus, but we made ours a little bigger than the actual size of the pin.
Now, stand with the sun BEHIND you. (See photo at top of post. The sun is behind the girls, high in the sky.) NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH THE PINHOLE ITSELF.
Hold the box upside down so the pinhole is pointed at the sun behind you. The foil should be behind your line of sight so it’s not reflecting the sun in your eyes. Light rays from the sun will shine through the pinhole and project an (upside down) image on the white paper.
Practice on a sunny day (or when the sun peeks out between the clouds) so that you know what to do when it’s time for the eclipse. Small children should be supervised so they don’t try to look directly at the sun.
You can do the same thing using two white index card, poking a hole in one you hold nearest to you and projecting the image on the one you hold away from you (with the sun behind you.)
Or, if you’d rather order “eclipse glasses”, here’s a link for where to buy AAS-approved and tested solar viewers.
Enjoy! Watching an eclipse in the 70s after my dad came to school and helped us all make these boxes is one of my earliest “science” memories!