The moon will pass directly between the sun and the Earth on Monday, Aug. 21, causing a total solar eclipse. This will be the first total eclipse in 40 years to be visible from the continental U.S., and for the first time in 99 years, the path of totality — when the sun’s light is completely blocked by the moon — will travel across the length of the continent.
You may want to sneak a peek at the eclipse but you really don’t want to look at it directly because it can really do some damage to your eyes, even if most of its light is obscured by the moon. The sun’s rays can actually burn your retinas and because retinas have no pain receptors, you can permanently damage your vision without even feeling it happen. Don’t look at the sun during a solar eclipse!
The safest way to watch the eclipse is by viewing it indirectly. Here are a couple ways to do just that.
PAPER PLATE Method.
You’re at a picnic and BOOM! And eclipse starts what do you do? Whip out two paper plates and a pushpin and watch freely!
What You Need:
– Two plain white paper plates–or even two pieces of white cardstock
– a pin, needle, or pushpin
What You Do
- Use a pin or needle to make a TINY hole in the center of one plate.
- Stand with your back to the sun.
- Hold the plate with the hole in it up to the sun over your shoulder.
- Hold the non-hole plate in front of you.
- Adjust the whole thing until you see a small circle of sunlight on the plate in front of you.
What’s Going On?
The hole acts like a projector and the plate with no hole is the screen. You will see the shadow of the moon move across the sun. You will not need to focus the image. The farther apart the plates are, the larger the image of the Sun will be.
Box Head Method
Try making an eclipse viewing box out of a big box you can put right over your head.
Not only does this prevent you from being tempted to look at the sun, it’s a pretty good sunscreen!
What you need
- A big box
- White paper
- Tin foil
- A pin
- Exacto knife
What You do
- On the short side of the box near the bottom edge, have a grown-up help you make a small rectangle hole with an exacto knife.
- Tape a piece of foil over the hole.
- Make a tiny pin home in the center.
- On the opposite short side of the box—on the inside, tape a piece of white paper. This is your viewing screen.
- Put the box on your head.
- Aim the hole at the sun and watch the eclipse in your own portable viewing theater.
What’s Going On?
The inside of the box is much darker. Thus, the image of the Sun on the
paper will have greater contrast and be easier to see. You will see the shadow of the moon as it crosses the sun.