2017 total eclipse
The path of the Aug. 21, 2017, total eclipse will begin in Oregon and work its way toward South Carolina. NASA

If you waited until just a few days before the eclipse to get protective glasses or a filter, your chances of tracking them down now are pretty slim. Instead of frantically trying to find an ISO compliant vendor online and paying for rush shipping you might want to consider making your own viewer. But remember anything you make at home will not be suitable for looking directly at the eclipse or the sun, ever. Homemade products will instead let you see a projection of the moon eclipsing the sun.

The option of a pinhole projector means you can experience the eclipse without looking at the sun with glasses or a filter. This can be good for children viewing the eclipse who may try to remove their glasses before totality is reached or who might not get their glasses back on by the time the sun peaks back out. Looking at the eclipse without protection can cause eye damage, sometimes permanent. Just like you would never look directly at the sun on a normal day, don’t try to during the eclipse either.

How to make a projector for solar eclipse viewing:

There are a few ways you can make a pinhole projectors and you can even try using some household items you have instead of getting crafty for your eclipse day.

The classic pinhole projection is a good method to use and you only need a few items to make it, NASA has a video on it’s site that gives good directions for this. First you’ll need a cardboard box, a cereal box is perfect. Cut a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the box and tape it inside the box on the bottom, the part that is flat on a surface when the box is standing up. Then seal the top of the box and cut rectangular squares out of each top corner then cover one of these rectangles with aluminum foil and put one hole in the center of the foil. When viewing the eclipse turn your back to it and have the aluminum foil face it so that the sunlight can get through the hole you poked. Look through the empty rectangle you made on the other side of the top to watch the light get eclipsed by the moon. This type of projector is good because there’s no outside light for your eyes to take in.

Other methods include putting a single hole in a piece of flat cardboard and holding it over a white piece of paper or surface during the eclipse, this will have a similar end result as the pinhole projector made from a box but allows multiple people to view at once.

You can even use a pasta colander, one that has holes in it not made of metal mesh, and just hold that above a surface in direct sunlight during the eclipse.

There are a few retail stores NASA recommends that carry eclipse glasses and filters, but by now they might be sold out, especially if you don’t live in the path of totality. Those stores include 7-Eleven, KMart and Hobby Town. You can check a full list of retailers on NASA’s website.

If you won’t be in line with the total solar eclipse or you can’t get outside for the event, there will be plenty of live streams available. NASA will be live streaming the eclipse from a variety of view on and off the ground to a number of social media and streaming sites. This is another safe option for small children who might be finicky and try to steal a look at the sun.