Can’t find eclipse glasses anywhere? Make these DIY pinhole cameras, projectors instead

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Can’t find eclipse glasses anywhere? Make these DIY pinhole cameras, projectors instead

If you’re having trouble finding NASA-approved eclipse glasses online or around town, you’re not alone.

Local retailers are running out of stock ahead of the much-anticipated Great American Eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, and with hundreds flocking to library events to snag a pair of free solar glasses, several have returned home empty-handed and disappointed.

At Gwinnett County Library’s Hamilton Mill branch,  the building was shut down after it reached full capacity at a recent safety session where attendees earned free solar eclipse glasses.

And at the DeKalb County Library’s Decatur branch, more than 100 people showed up for free glasses at a 10 a.m. weekend eclipse seminar.

According to the official state parks website, Georgia state parks will be selling eclipse glasses at their respective gift shops Monday, too. But if waiting until then makes you a little nervous, don’t panic.

You don’t actually need to have fancy eclipse glasses to experience the celestial spectacle.

In fact, according to NASA, you can make your very own pinhole camera or pinhole projector to safely and easily watch the eclipse without looking directly at the sun and risking eye damage.

Here are the best ways to make a pinhole camera or projector:

Pinhole cameras

A DIY-pinhole camera basically involves a light-proof box with a sort of film (usually aluminum foil), a sheet of paper and a tiny pinhole.

Note: The longer the box, the larger the projected image you see.

Cut a rectangular hole at one end of the box and then cut out a piece of aluminum foil bigger than the rectangular hole.

Tape the foil over the rectangular hole and use a pin (or needle) to poke a hole in the middle of the foil.

Then, tape the sheet of paper you have on the inside of the box at the opposite end of the rectangular hole.

HOW TO USE SAFELY: During the partial phases of the eclipse, make sure your back is toward the sun. Do not look at the sun through the pinhole. You’ll want to place the box over your head with the pinhole facing the sun and adjust your sance until you see an inverted image or projection of the eclipsed sun on the paper inside the box.

Use a cereal box as a pinhole camera

All you’ll need is a cereal box (without the cereal), aluminum foil, tape and a pin, needle or toothpick to poke the pinhole.

Watch the NASA video below for a step-by-step tutorial:

This NASA video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12638. Music credit: Apple of My Eye by Frederik Wiedmann

Pinhole projectors

These projectors are similar to pinhole camera projectors, but require even fewer materials. 

NASA-JPL

To make a pinhole projector, you really just need something with a pinhole in it and something that will project an image. You could use two sheets of printer paper, card stock or even paper plates.

Just poke a pinhole in one with a pin and hold it up to the sun, letting the sunlight shine through.

Use your second paper (or plate) or a wall as a screen to see the partially obscured sun safely, without damaging your eyes.

HOW TO USE SAFELY: While viewing the eclipse through the pinhole projector, your back will be to the sun. You do not look at the sun through the pinhole. Instead, you look at the image created by the sunlight shining through the pinhole projector.

Print out one of NASA’s 2D/3D printable pinhole projectors

Whether you have access to a 3D printer or not, NASA has both 3D and 2D downloadable projectors in the shape of America (or your state) that you can print and cut out using paper or card stock.

Get creative with your pinhole projectors

You can put your own spin on your pinhole projector by punching several holes in a sheet of paper in the shape of essentially anything − a pattern, animal, number, word etc.

During the eclipse, those several pinholes will show multiple inverted crescents.

Use your hands to create a pinhole projector

Exploratorium

If you’re just not the crafty type, you can essentially just use your hands to catch the eclipse and its phases.

Hold up both of your hands and overlap your fingers at right angles. The small holes between your fingers will act as pinholes as you watch the projected image on a wall or paper as a screen. Make sure your back is still facing the sun.

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