Make Your Own "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

Using a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

Whether you are hoping to view a Solar Eclipse or just generally want to observe the Sun, you don't necessarily need specialized equipment to do so. These instructions will help you, using materials found in a typical home, to make a "Pinhole Camera" viewing device that will allow for easy, inexpensive, and safe solar observing.

A total solar eclipse, like the one occurring on August 21, 2017, is an amazing astronomical event that many people will be excited to see. However, it’s important to remember that staring directly at the sun is extremely dangerous. At any time during a solar eclipse, any uncovered, exposed, or visible portion of the sun is still bright enough to permanently damage your eyes. Only during totality, when the moon’s disk completely covers the sun, it is safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye. However, it is essential to take proper precautions and view the eclipse using a specially designed filter at any other time. Learn more.

Materials

Materials for making a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device
  • 2 Pieces of Heavy Paper
  • 1 Small Piece of Aluminum Foil (Approximately 3" x 3" square)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Push Pin or Paper Clip

Step 1: Cut a hole in one of the pieces of paper

Making a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

Using the scissors, cut a small hole into the center of one of your pieces of heavy paper. This hole should be slightly smaller than your piece of aluminum foil.

Step 2: Tape the foil over the hole

Making a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

Using your tape (most kinds of tape are fine), affix your small piece of aluminum foil to the heavy paper. Make sure the foil is secured all the way around the hole.

Step 3: Poke a small hole into the aluminum foil

Making a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

Using the push pin, paper clip or anything capable of poking a small precise hole, make a puncture in the foil. This hole is the "pinhole" of the viewing device.

Step 4: Try it out

Using a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

With your back to the Sun, hold the piece of heavy paper to which you added the aluminum foil in front of the other piece of paper until a small circular image can be seen on the second piece of paper.

Step 5: Observe the Sun

Image of the Sun through a "Pinhole Camera" Solar Viewing Device

When you have properly lined up the pieces of paper with the Sun, you will see a small image appear on the paper, this image is showing the sun itself. If you see dark spots on your image of the sun, you may be looking at some sizable sunspots. Remember, this method of safely viewing the Sun won't work if the sun is blocked by clouds or if it is nighttime.