If you want to experience a solar eclipse safely, you’ll want to know how to make a solar eclipse viewing box. This event is a rare treat for anyone, taking place every few years in different parts of the world. It’s fascinated cultures and astronomers for thousands of generations often thought to be a sign from beyond. Today, the eclipse is an occurrence obscuring sunlight because of the Earth’s moon.
But, as incredible as this event is, it’s also dangerous too. Just like you don’t directly look at the sun, you don’t want to stare at the eclipse either. Serious and often permanent eye damage can occur. Once the moon transitions from totality, focused sunlight reappears and damages anything or anyone without protective viewing gear. Therefore, to help you view this event without problems, we’ll show you how to make your very own solar eclipse viewing box!
What You Need
The nice thing about viewing boxes is they’re inexpensive – you only need a few things from home. If you don’t have them, you’ll need sheets of paper and cardboard. You can even use stiff paper or paper dishes if you have those handy.
First, we’ll show you how to make a viewing projector.
You’ll need a needle, about the size of a thumbtack too. Any larger and your viewing experience may be impaired.
Once you have the objects together, do the following:
- Take your sheet of paper/viewing material and make a tiny pinhole in the center. It’s a good idea to test this before an eclipse.
- With the hole made, turn your back to the sun and hold the paper out so the light shines directly on the paper. Generally you’ll want to keep this above your shoulder.
- Now, get the second paper. This is how you’ll view the solar eclipse indirectly. Hold it in front of the first sheet, and what you should see is an image of the projected sun coming through the pin.
- Now you can “see” the eclipse without directly looking at it. You can even change the size by moving the first paper closer or farther from yourself.
Easy, right? But if you want to go a step further, let’s make a viewing box too.
If you want to make a box, you’ll need additional supplies. Foil, duct tape, a long box (or cardboard tube), scissors, something to make a pin sized hole, a knife, and stiff paper.
Follow our instructions carefully. Once you have everything together, go through each step:
- First, take your box and cut two rectangular holes at the end of each. If you have a tube you won’t have to cut anything.
- Next, cut the aluminum foil in a rectangular shape that fits around each hole.
- Poke pin holes in each foil side will taping them to the box (or tube) ends.
- Now, with your paper, tape it on the inside on one of the box sides.
Great! Now you’ve got a functional viewing box. You’ll treat this like you would with the paper projector: you’ll keep the box above you to allow sunlight to shine through, allowing a projection of the sun to appear inside it. This will give you a focused and safer view. Again, we recommend testing this before an eclipse so you can make sure it works properly.
Why do I need these?
While a solar eclipse is a spectacle for anyone, it’s dangerous to observe it directly. Sunlight can (and will) damage your eyes it exposed for too long, so it’s why special shades, lenses, and projector sheets/boxes like above are necessary.
During the totality of an eclipse, the temperature can drop and it will appear as though it’s night time. The sun will be blocked out with a white corona around it. However, as the eclipse fades and transitions, light returns. When this happens, light bypassing the eclipse edge is focused, meaning its intense and abrupt. Such sharpness can quickly harm the eye, which is why you should never directly observe the eclipse.
What else can I use?
For cost-effective results, a projector or box are the cheapest ways to view an eclipse – essentially free if you’ve got the supplies lying around. However, they’re not the only options, so if you want to to try something else, you can.
Those options are:
- Special solar eclipse glasses (often referred to as welders shades/glasses). NOT sunglasses. Sunglasses cannot protect your eyes sufficiently. You can even make your own solar eclipse glasses!
- Special lenses for cameras/recording devices. The lenses will mention of they are the correct type. Do not use smartphone cameras or unprotected recording devices as these are not fitted with the necessary solar filter sheets.
- Streaming or televised services. The remaining option if you can’t make it to an eclipse event!
- A solar telescope for up-close viewing.
There’s no wrong way to enjoy a solar eclipse, but, if you want to physically see the totality without risking your eyes, the above are what we recommend.
What happens during an eclipse?
Assuming the sky isn’t obscured by weather or pollution, there are several phases to a solar eclipse. The first is the partial or “penumbra,” where some of the sun is obscured. Then is the actual partial eclipse – at this time you’ll notice the sky darken. The temperate might even lower.
Then is the path of “totality,” where the solar eclipse occurs. For several minutes the sky will be like the night. Stars are visible for a brief period. This can last up to seven minutes but generally, it’s between 2-4. Afterward, the eclipse becomes partial until it returns to normal.
A solar eclipse is a great thing to witness, so it’s good to know how to make a solar eclipse viewing box. Hopefully, our quick guide has helped you. Viewing boxes and panels are easy to make and cost little (if anything). If you’re short on cash, try them instead.