You Don't Have Eclipse Glasses? Who Cares!

Catch the solar eclipse with a colander.

Catch the solar eclipse with a colander.

With the celestial event of the year only days away, the United States is in full out freak-out mode. A last minute cram to gear up for the day has commenced and makers of solar paper optics have propelled far into the black as excitement mounts for the Great American Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21st.

The solar eclipse will bring partial eclipse or total eclipse views to the entire United States. The last total eclipse to come to the USA was on March 7, 1970, with the last total solar eclipse to stretch across the USA happening on June 1, 1918. In Rhode Island, we will experience a 65-67% partial solar eclipse that will start at 1:27 p.m. and continue until 4:01 p.m. Though a fabulous experience, partial eclipses are not safe to observe at any time without eye protection. As such, there are dozens of safe methods available for viewing solar eclipses, including Eclipse Glasses, #14 welders glass, telescope filters, binocular filters, camera filters, and many indirect observing methods. Though Eclipse Glasses have become the new high demand product and may be severely over-hyped.

Over the last week, I have received dozens of phone calls and emails about availability of Eclipse Glasses. Yes, Eclipse Glasses will enable you to experience beautiful, direct observations of the eclipse, but they are not as critical as they have been hyped up to be. If you do not have Eclipse Glasses and/or are staying home for the eclipse, you have many viewing options available to you:

1: Make a pinhole camera out of an index card or a couple pieces of paper. If using an index card, punch a hole in the center with a thumb tack or large safety pin. Then using the index card and a piece of white paper, hold the index card about 1-3 feet away from the paper with the Sun on the opposite side of the index card. From the side, look at the sunlight cast onto the paper as it shines through the pinhole and it will be the shape of the eclipse. If you don’t have index cards, you can use a piece of paper instead and cut out a small square in the middle, tape aluminum foil over that area and make a pin hole in the center of the foil.

2: Colander eclipse! Show off your geek cred by grabbing a colander (spaghetti strainer) with small holes in it. Orientate your colander so the bowl side is facing the Sun and hold it about 2-4 feet away from the ground or a surface. Dozens of little eclipses will be cast through the holes onto the surface.

3: Have an old cardboard box from that last Amazon Prime shipment? Well make a camera obscura.

4: Experience an arboreal view! Stand underneath a tree and look at the shadow of the leaves cast onto the ground. In between the shadows will be hundreds of little eclipses.

5: 100% waste free and requires nothing but your fingers! Put your back to the Sun. Slightly spread out your fingers on both hands. Overlap your hands so your open fingers form right angles. Look at the shadow of your fingers on the ground or a surface, little eclipses will be in between the shadows of your fingers.

Though Eclipse Glasses will be a great item to have, they certainly are not necessary for observing the eclipse. Additionally, Eclipse Glasses will only show you part of the fabulous natural experience of a partial eclipse, which to me is not the best part. Viewing eclipses on the ground under a tree blows the doors off Eclipse Glasses and reminds me of how amazing our little planet is and why we should respect and cherish the only home we’ve ever known. So don’t freak out if you didn’t grab the latest, hottest, coolest, most amazing pair of Eclipse Glasses, because you really didn’t need them in the first place.


Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Aug 18, 2017
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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