Make Your own Solar Eclipse Viewer!

August 16, 2017
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As we near the end of summer, we begin to look forward to the new school year! For some of us, the school year begins a bit early, and for others, it starts the very last Monday of August.

If you are looking for an end of summer celebration or a fun activity to kick off your school year, the solar eclipse is the way to go! On August 21st, the Moon will cross in front of the Sun blocking some of the sun’s light. For parts of the United States, the Moon completely blocks the entire sun for over 2 and a half minutes creating a total solar eclipse. In Houston, we won’t see a total solar eclipse, but we do have the chance to see a partial solar eclipse where the Moon only blocks part of the sun.  As you may know, it is dangerous to stare at the sun with your naked eye, and even sunglasses won’t provide you the protection you need to see the partial eclipse in Houston. Instead, you can create a simple pinhole projector to project the partial eclipse onto a backdrop to safely view the eclipse in action. Follow these simple steps to create your very own eclipse viewer!

Supplies (figure 1):

Figure 1.

  • Paper towel tube
  • Cardstock (preferably white)
  • Tape
  • Foil
  • Push pin
  • Scissors
  • Markers (optional)


To begin, you will need a paper towel tube and a pair of scissors.

Take the paper towel tube and cut out a small rectangle at the bottom of the tube. One snip about an inch long on one end of the tube, then about an inch away snip another inch long snip. Fold back the flap, and cut it off. (figure 2)

Figure 2.

Grab your cardstock and cut out a small circle that is roughly the same size as the end of your paper towel tube. (figure 3)

Figure 3.

Use a few pieces of tape to secure the cardstock circle onto the cut end of our paper towel tube. (figure 4)

Figure 4.

Cut out a piece of foil that is approximately 3” by 3”. (figure 5)

Figure 5.

Place your foil square on the opposite end of the paper towel tube (the side without the cardstock). Tape the foil in place so it does not fall off. (figure 6)

Figure 6.

With your push pin, carefully poke a hole in the center of the foil. Try to keep it as close to the center as possible. (figure 7)

Figure 7.

Decorate and enjoy! (figure 8)

Figure 8.

Note: I like to write instructions on my viewer to help me remember what to do while I am watching the eclipse. Consider adding direction arrows to remind you where to point the pinhole and where to look to see the solar eclipse projection.

To use your viewer:

Go outside on a sunny day with your pinhole projector. Put your back to the sun and face the foil end towards the sun. With the foil end facing the sun, look through the window that you cut at the end of your tube at the white cardstock to see the projection. It may take some practice to get the sun lined up perfectly. Right now if we went outside into the sun and projected the sun’s image, we would see a round dot of light. On the day of the eclipse, you will notice a shadow appear and change the appearance of the sun in your projection. This is the partial eclipse taking shape!

And Don’t forget to check out our website to see all of the cool Eclipse events we have scheduled for the 21st!

Authored By Kelsey Friedemann

Kelsey started working at the Museum through Xplorations summer camp, and this fall she started working as a programs facilitator. She is a presenter for several outreach programs, assists with overnight programs, and assists with education collections during summer camp. Her favorite dinosaur is a Triceratops found at HMNS Sugar Land. The Triceratops is also named "Kelsey."

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