DIY Eclipse-Viewers

For the sake of nostalgia, we’re building box eclipse-viewers.  I also didn’t love the idea of my kids looking directly at the sun, hoping paper glasses would sufficiently cover their eyes.  The box viewers will be used in addition to other fun ways of experimenting with the reflected image of the eclipsed sun.  Here’s what we’ve found while building a box viewer.

We started by covering cracks to block out light.  Then, we cut a hole to later cover with foil to prick a pinhole aperture in, and then cut a hole elsewhere on the box as a viewfinder.  The pinhole is pointed directly at the sun in order to see its reflected image on the inside of the box.

Putting the viewfinder on a different side of the box than the aperture makes it more difficult to view the reflected image, as you struggle to hold the box at just the right angle to get an image, and strain your eye to see the image at 90º.  You also won’t be able to take a picture of what you see with your camera.  This method was suggested in order to prevent light from coming in through the viewfinder, but we haven’t had any problems with having the viewfinder on the same side as the aperture.  I thought my head would get in the way of the aperture, but it totally didn’t.  Haha!

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We started with a removable lid so we could try white, then black paper on the screen/viewing side of the box.

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While some tutorials tell you to make your “screen” white, a black surface gives a much more crisp image.  This is important because the image will be small.  I remember when I was younger, it was hard to notice a partial eclipse in a non-crisp image.  Since we will only see a partial eclipse tomorrow, we need to make sure it isn’t so blurry it just looks like a round dot.  These aren’t very good photos, mostly because I was trying to photograph through the 90º viewer.  The first is with the image on a white screen and had edges with flare/halo, while the second is on a black screen, and has crisp edges.

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Longer boxes provide a larger image.  Attaching a paper towel roll, and putting the aperture on the end of that would be cool.  We didn’t get around to that.

We experimented with larger-than-pinhole sized apertures, and found we can get a much bigger image, though it is faded and less crisp.  It may be fun to start with a pinhole and slowly enlarge it to see how it looks.  It will also make a nice pinhole camera demonstration later.

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All of our viewers work great!  We will also experiment with using a colander and trees to see many images of the eclipse on the ground.  We plan to use the mirror to try to reflect the eclipse on a wall.  We’ll use the magnifying glasses to play with the projected images.  We will also do the traditional pinhole in card stock.  My six-year-old plans to watch and see if the temperature drops.  It’ll be fun!

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