The Procrastinator’s Guide to Safe Eclipse Viewing

Science Space
The Procrastinator’s Guide to Safe Eclipse Viewing

If you are anything like me, then you have been waiting your entire life for another solar eclipse on your home turf. And also if you are anything like me, you of course procrastinated until the last minute on a safe way to view it. Luckily for the both of us, I remembered this week that it’s frowned upon to look directly at the sun when you rely on your eyes for work. I’m here to tell you that you still have time to 3D print and order supplies on Amazon Prime!

Pinhole Viewer

A young girl holds out a 3D printed pinhole viewer in the shape of the USA, and her shadow shows the eclipse.
Photo by NASA

My favorite comes by way of NASA, who made 3D printable pinhole viewer files for every state in the union, as well as many of the US territories and Native American nations. The eclipse will appear through the pinhole projected onto the ground or wall, making your shadow into the perfect image to photograph as a keepsake selfie. Be sure to use the hashtag #EclipseSelfie when you post on social media!

Photo Capture

A telephoto lens on a camera in a grassy field has a cardboard and solar film filter constructed on top of it.
Photo by acoens

If you can get your hands on some solar film, Instructables user acoens has a roundup of several builds that use cardboard and a hot glue gun, including a telephoto lens filter build that will allow you to capture an image of the eclipse without needing to shoot with an insanely high shutter speed. Focusing this may prove difficult though, so try to manually focus to get close and then use consecutive shots to dial it in. Review your images on the LCD and zoom in for detail, before making any last minute adjustments manually. Knowing the direction of focus in your lens will help you here.

Dark Glass

A 3D rendered solar eclipse viewer is detailed on a print bed.
Rendered by Inkleminkle

If you have a piece of eclipse viewing dark glass, or access to solar film, 3D print this glass holding viewer that was designed by TinkerCAD user Inkleminkle. This sturdy 3D printed structure will last and keep the film in place, even among young kids who may not be careful enough to guard against light leaks.

Pinhole Projection with a Telescope

A DIY pinhole projector attached to a telescope in a grassy field.
Photo by Nightwise

Do you have access to a telescope? The Nightwise Sun Funnel is an ingenious build designed to add a pinhole projector to any telescope by using supplies that are commonly found at any hardware store. You will need the correct eyepiece to make this build work, but you still have time to overnight ship one.

Cereal Box Viewer

A diagram showing how to construct a pinhole viewer from a cereal box.
Photo by NASA

No time to 3D print or order supplies? No worries! Have a bowl of cereal, and then use the box to make a Cereal Box Viewer. This is the first school project I ever remember doing, back when I was in kindergarden, and we were preparing for the May 1980 eclipse. It’s still a solid method for viewing.

Eclipse Hands

A young girl facing a fence looks at her shadow and the shadow of a tree where all the light holes are eclipse shaped.
Photo by David~O.

My all-time favorite method for viewing the eclipse is to use your own body and surroundings as an impromptu pinhole viewer. Tiny apertures in the leaves of trees, bushes, grasses, and other shadow making structures will throw little eclipse shadows everywhere. Use your fingers to make eclipse hands and have a friend snap a shot!

Featured Photo by Flickr user motjetom.

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Light cutter, fashion trend hunter, urbex artist, and space enthusiast.

Staff Photographer and Photo Editor at Make.

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