Wednesday, April 3, 2024

How to build your own observatory to watch the solar eclipse

Solar eclipse sunglasses are becoming a hot commodity as we get closer to August 21. If you are not able to find a pair of the special glasses, you can still watch the eclipse with your own eyes. How? Build your own solar observatory with a few household items. Plus, it is perfectly safe for your eyes!

Kids, ask your parents for help building this observatory!


  • Shoe box
  • 1 piece of white paper (can be a half sheet)
  • Utility knife or X-Acto blade
  • Tape
  • Pin or paperclip
  • Small piece of aluminum foil


1. Cut a square hole approximately 1″ by 1″ in the lower right small end of the shoe box using the utility knife.

Hint: If the shoe box has a cut-out in the lid, cut the 1″x1″ hole at the other end of the box.

2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is slightly larger than the 1″x1″ hole from step 1. Place the piece of aluminum foil over the hole and tape it to the box. Be sure to only place tape on the outside edges of the foil.

3. Use the pin or paper clip and gently make a pin hole in the center of the aluminum foil. The hole is where the sun will shine through.

Hint: If you are using a piece of thin aluminum foil, before taping the foil to the box place the it on a table top. Gently press the pin or paperclip against the foil until a small hole is made. Then tape it to the box. If the foil tears while poking a hole in it (similar to what you see in the picture), you can fix it by taking another piece of foil, put a small hole in it, then tape the second piece over the first piece making sure to line up the holes so light can shine through.

4. Tape the white paper to the inside of the box directly across from the square of aluminum foil with the pinhole. The piece of paper will act as a movie screen for your observer. This is where the sun’s image will appear.

5. Using the utility knife, cut another 1″x1″ hole in the lower right corner of the long side of the box. This will be the hole you look through. You will be able to see the white paper you taped to the inside of the box through this hole.

6. Stand with your back to the sun, close the lid and look through the open square on to the white paper. Adjust the box so you can see the sunlight through the pinhole and on the white paper.

You will see a small image of the sun projected on the white paper.