View the solar eclipse… without looking at the sun!

Next week, a total solar eclipse will occur all across the United States, and while our state (Texas) is not in the path of totality, we should still see a good partial eclipse.  But did I order the right viewing glasses?  Um, no… And now, there are none to be found unless one is willing to pay a hefty price!  If you’re like me and procrastinated, here’s a fun DIY project for safely viewing the eclipse.  It may not be an impressive as viewing the sun directly, but at least the materials can be found around the house, and it takes only a few minutes to assemble.

There is more than one way to make a pin hole viewer, but we found this cardboard tube method to be simple and easy to use.

Thanks to Thrifty Fun for this idea!

To make one, you will need:

  • A wrapping paper tube, or some cardboard rolls from paper towels – we used 3
  • Tape
  • White paper
  • Scissors
  • Foil
  • A toothpick

The process is simple.  Cover one end of your cardboard tube with foil.  Use the toothpick to make a small, neat hole in the foil.

Tape a piece of white paper or poster board to the other end of the tube.  Cut a section out of the cardboard tube so that you can view the image more easily.

Aidan cut a slit in each cardboard tube so that he could fold it over slightly and stick it inside the next tube.  Then he taped the sections together.

To use the viewer, position the cardboard tube so that it does not make any shadow other than the round circle of its diameter. The angle you need will depend on the current height of the sun in the sky. This is an easy way to tell that you have it lined up correctly.

We found it easy to focus the light on the screen of the viewer!

Notes:

  • The longer you make the tube, the larger the image will be.  In fact, we will try making a viewer with four cardboard tubes and will test it out before the day of the eclipse.
  • Do test your pinhole viewer before the day of the eclipse so that you can get used to using it.
  • The image that you see will be upside-down compared to reality (as with all pinhole cameras).
  • The image that you see will not be crystal clear, but you should be able to see an outline of the sun.  As the eclipse progresses, you should be able to see the crescent shape of the sun.
  • We were not able to try this out ahead of time, as the eclipse has not happened yet!  We’ll be trying it out on eclipse day.  Since the materials cost almost nothing, I would totally recommend giving this a try.  If you make one, let us know if it worked for you!

For more information about the eclipse, check out NASA’s website here.

5 Comments

Post a Comment
  1. Nina Aug 20, 2017

    What should be the dimensions of the
    cutout area at the end, approximately?

    Reply
    1. Rachel C. Aug 21, 2017

      Personally I used a round mailing tube from the stationary store. 36" long, approx. 3 1/8" in diametre (from side to side of the tube). I put a hole in the one end about 1/2" in diametre. The viewing port I cut out was 1 1/4" high. The section of tube I cut out was clean enough to reinsert into the tube part way and use as an awning of sorts to block out more light. Worked like a dream :D

      Reply
    2. Christel from Renton, WA Aug 21, 2017

      It's working!!

      Reply
      1. Holly Aug 21, 2017

        It totally worked. Thanks for the great tutorial!

        Reply
        1. Amber Aug 21, 2017

          Made one with my daughter last night, worked wonderfully today. Thanks so much for the posting!!

          Reply
          1. Pertling Jul 6, 2018

            Ouch!
            Great screen at bargain prices! Was easy to install and there was no problem retracting the screen as many have mentioned. The packaging was extraordinary! I was really impressed. I am not an expert in video technology, but this screen is pretty good for my needs.
            Appreciate it!

            Reply

            Post a Comment