2 Simple Ways to DIY Your Own Solar Eclipse Projector

posted: 08/21/17
by: Blythe Copeland

If you're planning to watch the 2017 solar eclipse -- the first total eclipse visible in the US in more than two decades -- on Monday, August 21, you'll need the proper gear: Eclipse glasses or a projector. Missed your chance to buy glasses? Try a DIY projector: These low-tech must-haves, made with paper or cardboard, any small, sharp point, and aluminum foil, will allow you to view the rare natural phenomenon safely (remember that sunglasses, binoculars, and telescopes do not protect you from the harm of looking directly at the sun).

Pinhole camera
A pinhole paper projector is the easiest way to watch a solar eclipse without glasses -- and the materials are so simple that you can make one just minutes before the eclipse begins. NASA offers up this how-to, which requires two pieces of cardstock, a square of aluminum foil, a paper clip, and tape: Cut a square in the middle of one sheet of paper and tape the aluminum foil over it. Then poke a hole in the foil with a paper clip (a thumbtack or safety pin will work, too). Stand with your back to the sun and the second piece of cardstock on the ground in front of you; then hold the paper with the foil out in front of you so that the sun shines through the hole and projects a dot of light onto the solid cardstock. As the eclipse occurs, you'll see it in miniature on the solid piece of paper. Here are the directions as explained by NASA.

1. Cut a square hole

Cut a square hole into the middle of one of your pieces of card stock.

2. Tape foil over the hole

Tape a piece of aluminum foil over the hole.

3. Poke a hole in the foil

Use your pin or paper clip to poke a small hole in the aluminum foil.

4. Try it out

Place your second piece of card stock on the ground and hold the piece with aluminum foil above it (foil facing up). Stand with the sun behind you and view the projected image on the card stock below! The farther away you hold your camera, the bigger your projected image will be.

To make your projection a bit more defined, try putting the bottom piece of card stock in a shadowed area while you hold the other piece in the sunlight.

5. Get creative

For extra fun, try poking multiple holes in your foil, making shapes, patterns and other designs. Each hole you create will turn into its own projection of the eclipse, making for some neat effects. Grab a helper to take photos of your designs for a stellar art project you can enjoy even after the eclipse has ended.

A box projector is more elaborate but works in the same way: You're projecting an image of the sun inside the box to watch the eclipse without looking at the sky. Start with a cardboard box -- these instructions from NASA use a cereal box, but you can DIY your own by taping larger pieces of cardboard together. Cut off the ends of the opening flap at the top of the box to create two square holes, and cover one hole with aluminum foil. Create a small hole in the foil with a thumbtack, safety pin, or paperclip. Opposite the foil (on the inside bottom of the box) attach a piece of white paper. Stand with your back to the sun and look through the larger remaining opening in the top of the box to see an image reflected through the foil onto the paper inside.