How To Make Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses
As you may know, tomorrow there will be a partial solar eclipse visible in the UK (if the weather allows it – sorry Leeds). The next partial eclipse won’t happen until 2026 so this is a great time to see a rare natural event.
What Is A Partial Eclipse?
A partial eclipse is when the moon moves, so that it is in between the sun and the earth, however because it isn’t in a perfectly straight alignment the moon only partially covers the sun.
Although it’s only ‘partial’ most of us in the UK will still experience some time tomorrow morning when the sky will go dark. This is at the ‘maximum eclipse’ stage, and is when the moon looks like it has taken a big bite out of the sun!
How Do I View It?
It goes without saying, you can’t simply stroll outside and stare directly at the sun, doing this burns the retinas in the backs of your eyes and can cause blindness, hardly worth the hour you’ll spend watching it.
You can view the eclipse with specially designed viewing glasses, however these can be pricey and as far as we know are all sold out! It must be strange business to be in, selling solar glasses, only being busy every 20 years or so…
The alternative of course is to use a pinhole projector, which effectively projects the eclipse image on to a piece of paper so that you can view it safely. What’s more, it’s easy and cheap to make – all you need is a postal tube, some foil, paper and a knife.
Here’s what to do:
- Get a long postal tube; our 1250mm X 152mm is ideal
- Remove the plastic cap at one end and tape a piece of foil over the hole
- Poke a small hole in the foil with a pin
- Cut a viewing hole in the side, near the other end of the tube
- Put a piece of white paper inside the end of the box near the viewing hole and replace with plastic cap – so that the paper sits inside the tube
- Point the end of the box with the pinhole at the sun, look through the viewing portal to the piece of paper and you’ll see a projected image of the eclipse on the paper ‘screen’
- Do not, we repeat do not, look through the pinhole at the sun - look only at the image on the paper
And you’re done! You can also do a similar thing with two large white pieces of paper. Simply put a pin through one piece, stand with your back to the sun and hold the paper above your shoulder, hold the other piece of paper at a distance in front of it and the image will be projected through the pinhole.
We’re bias but packaging really can be used for everything and anything!
When Can I See It?
Now you have your glasses, you need to know what time to be outside tomorrow to witness the partial eclipse in full glory.
The eclipse moves across the earth at different points (obviously), and therefore will start at around 08:20am in some areas, to 08:40am in others. Astronomy Now give a great diagram on their website.
The ‘maximum partial eclipse’ will happen between 09:22am and 09:41am depending where you are. Residents in the Scottish Highlands and North of England will experience the most darkness with around 93 – 98% coverage, whereas folks in the South such as Bournemouth and Portsmouth will experience around 86-89% coverage.
It’s all over by 10:45am which suits us – just in time for a tea break!
Enjoy the view, and remember to stay safe.