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
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 won’t even feel the damage being done. You might not know that you have damaged your vision until much later.