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Animation of this week's lunar eclipse. Image by Tomruen via earthsky.org

This week’s eclipse, anim. by Tomruen / earthsky.org

Looking for pointers to protect your pupils before the partial solar eclipse? Read on.

The lunar eclipse Wednesday morning kicks off a series of blood moons, just in time to get in the Halloween spirit. Set your alarm clocks: you have to get up before the crack of dawn to witness this extraterrestrial marvel.

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But then…. when the Moon swings around to the other side of the Earth in a little less than two weeks, most of the United States (and Mexico) get a peek at a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, October 23rd! (Sorry, New England! Looks like you’ll miss it.)

I have such fond memories of the last partial solar eclipse in my region, which peaked as we packed up at the end of Maker Faire Bay Area 2012. The sun snuck behind the moon, and the scene dimmed and was infused with the magic of this rare moment. Through every tiny hole, spooky crescent projections appeared. Thousands of natural apertures made by overlapping leaves created especially delightful shadows, as on the outer walls of Paleotool’s Vardo caravan trailer, pictured below.

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LRgogglesThose final few moments of the event coincided with a partial solar eclipse viewable in San Mateo. Joy of joys, fabulous Maker Club Love & Rockets, far more prepared for this great coincidence of Makers and sunworshippers than I was, handed me a pair of paperboard and plastic solar viewing glasses that I continue to cherish and share with others. Love & Rockets’ Natalie van Valkenberg took a great picture of the eclipse through her pair of glasses, right. You can buy five-packs of these to get your whole neighborhood looking up at the sky with you on October 23rd.

LReclipse52012I pulled these glasses out for the Transit of Venus a short while after Maker Faire, and I brought them to my sons’ preschool so they could see the event too. I figured four-year-olds aren’t so good at holding them without accidentally taking them off and looking at the sun. (Natalie’s daughter, left, knows what she’s doing.)

So, worried that the silly kiddos wouldn’t pay heed to the instructions, I built something of a welding helmet made out of a box and the glasses. I made a hole in a box and taped the glasses inside the box. The kids put the box around their heads. Below, you’ll find a quick step-by-step of my eclipse glasses box, but now that I think about it it would probably work just as well by just attaching them in the middle of a much larger piece of cardboard. Little kids just have such a hard time keeping their fragile eyes covered since those viewing glasses are so small. I’d be eager to see others’ ideas!

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I also brought along a pair of binoculars to use NOT to look at the sun directly but to use to project an image of the venutian eclipse onto a large white paper (which worked quite well, even if the preschool teacher mistook the image of the sun as Venus itself, rather than understanding the dot was the faraway planet. Sigh. Just think of the kids‘ misconceptions I fostered that day!)

LRwillseclipse52012You can use welding goggles to view an eclipse as long as you are certain they are rated 15 or higher.

But you don’t need to use fancy equipment to play with and witness this beautiful moment. All you need is a tiny hole. Take a piece of opaque board or foil to project the image of the obscured sun, pinhole-style, onto a flat, white surface the right distance away. Forget your hole at home? You can even make a tiny aperture with a curled finger or fist (as Will of Maker Club Love & Rockets showed us, right), or criss-cross your hands to create a matrix of moonshadows, as our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories demonstrated in 2012, below.

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These four sites offer some excellent tips for packing your sun-viewing gear. Click around to start your plan for constructing your tools for seeing this phenomenon (without looking at the sun–so tricky!)

We’ve given you fair warning to build your gear! In exchange for this cosmic courtesy, we ask you to please take photos and video of what you make and how you make it and how it worked so that we can populate Make: with lots of great tips for ecliptical apparati ahead of the next solar eclipses. (I’m “totally” making my plans for a visit to Kentucky/Tennessee in August 2017 right now!)

Add links to your favorite eclipse-viewing tools and your own project write-ups in the comments below.