fb-pixel Skip to main content

Want to view the annular eclipse safely? Grab a box and get crafty

Ki Siadatan and his son Cyrus viewed the solar eclipse through a pinhole camera that Cyrus created, at NASA Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, Calif., Aug. 21, 2017.
Ki Siadatan and his son Cyrus viewed the solar eclipse through a pinhole camera that Cyrus created, at NASA Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, Calif., Aug. 21, 2017.JIM WILSON/NYT/file

It’s not safe to look directly at an annular eclipse without proper eye protection, even when a large swath of the sun will be obscured by the moon, as it will be at its peak in New England Thursday morning.

Looking at the eclipse without protective glasses can permanently damage eyes. And not just any glasses will do. The proper lenses should meet what’s called “ISO 12312-2” (sometimes written as “ISO 12312-2:2015”) international safety standards, according to the nonprofit American Astronomical Society. Accredited manufacturers print a logo bearing this identifying mark on their products and packaging.

But those may be hard to come by before 5 a.m. Thursday. So here are a couple of safe viewing alternatives:

Advertisement



Try the pinhole method

According to NASA officials, you don’t need a pair of safety glasses to get the most out of the eclipse.

With just a few simple supplies, according to the space organization, you can make what’s called a “pinhole camera” to view the event both safely and easily.

First, grab a box that you can hold in your hands. Cut a large hole in the bottom left-hand corner of the box. Next, cover that hole with a piece of aluminum foil, and then poke a small pinhole in the middle of it.

Lastly, cut a peephole on the same side of the box that the foil is on, but in the opposite corner.

When the eclipse begins, put your eye up to the second hole, while holding the box so that the sun is shining into the pinhole in the aluminum foil. The eclipse image will be projected inside the box.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has a video on YouTube that offers step-by-step instructions on how to make the viewer.

Make your own projector

Advertisement



If staring into a hole in a box isn’t your thing, you can always slap together a makeshift projector.

According to NASA’s website, all you need is two pieces of white “card stock” paper, scissors, tape, aluminum foil, and a pin.

To get started, take one piece of paper and cut a square in the middle of it. From there, tape a piece of aluminum foil over that hole. Using the pin, poke a tiny hole through the foil.

Voila — you’ve got a projector.

When the eclipse begins, place the second piece of paper on the ground, and then hold your homemade projector — tinfoil side up — directly over it.

The sun will shine through the small hole in the tinfoil and will be projected on the paper below. As the moon moves between the sun and earth, a “reflection” of the eclipse will be visible on the paper.

Take it all in from your computer screen

The annular eclipse will reach its peak in the Boston area at 5:33 a.m. Thursday, which may be a tad early to get to a prime viewing location. But there’s always the option of viewing it online. Aside from perusing social media, where photos of the action will probably be posted with reckless abandon, websites will be hosting the event live, via video.

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.