Extreme Science: Solar Eclipse Viewer - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Extreme Science: Solar Eclipse Viewer

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What you will need:

  • Foam board or cardboard
  • Binoculars (preferably a set that you are allowed to disassemble without getting in trouble)
  • Razor knife (adult use only)
  • Square or straight edge
  • Tape measure
  • Black spray paint
  • Hot glue gun
  • Camera (I used my GoPro since it is small and can be connected to my phone)
  • Adult supervision

Optional:

  • Tripod
  • 1/4" MDF or plywood approx. 7"x14" (if using tripod)
  • Mounting hardware to clip into tripod
  • Drill with drill bits (if using tripod)
  • Hex nut (if using tripod)

Procedure:

NOTE:  I found that it was easiest, for the binoculars that I had, to take them apart for this project. You may modify your eclipse viewer as needed if you prefer not to disassemble your binoculars. 
 

1. Disassemble, or separate your binoculars so that you have two separate “monoculars” as shown: Please note that you will have to determine the best method of disassembling your binoculars based on the model that you have.

2. You will want to use the half of your binoculars that have the focus adjustment dial for you eclipse viewer. Adjust the dial so that it is near the center of the focus range. Now, take this half outside and hold it out next to you so that you can see its shadow on the ground near you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN, ESPECIALLY THROUGH YOUR BINOCULARS. DOING SO WILL CAUSE SEVERE DAMAGE TO YOUR EYES.

 

3. Looking at the shadow of your monocular on the ground turn it so that the large lens is directed towards the sun and the small lens is pointing towards the ground. Rotate it so that the shadow is as small as possible. In doing so, you will notice that you now have the image of the sun on the ground in the center of this small shadow once everything is lined up just right.


 

4. Move your monocular closer or further from the ground to bring the image of the sun into focus. Once you have found the correct distance, measure it so that you will know how long to make your viewing box.


 

5. Determine how wide your viewing box needs to be based on the width of your monocular and whatever camera you plan on using. I used my GoPro 4 which is quite small and takes very little space. Based on the dimensions of my monocular, with my GoPro, and my focal point, my box needed to be 7” wide by 7”deep and 20” in length.
Note: The front piece (where your monocular goes) should be cut about ¼” shorter (this measurement should be the same as the thickness of your foam board) in height than the sides or back end piece. This will allow you to slide open the top piece to insert your camera and adjust the focus.

 

6. I found that, in my opinion, it was best to paint the inside of the box with a flat black paint. This is optional as it will work with the inside being white but I like the contrast that the black provided as well as eliminating glare and reflection seen inside of the box. If you want to paint your box, it is best to do so before you add your monocular.
 

7.Have a responsible adult help you cut your side, front and rear panels of your box from your foam board using a straight edge and razor knife.
 

8. Determine the best location for your monocular on the front panel making sure to allow room for your camera. Also remember to position your monocular so that you will have access to the focus adjustment dial once it is mounted in your box along with your camera.
 

9. Mark this location and cut a hole in the front panel so that your monocular fits snug and does not allow light to shine through. 
 

10. Insert your monocular through the hole. I used small scraps of the foam board to hold my monocular in place as shown in the example below.  Yes, I used hot glue to glue this in knowing that I will have to clean it all off if I decide to take this apart and put my binoculars back together.


 

11. Use the foam board to build a small box that will hold your camera in place and mount it near the eyepiece of your monocular as shown.


 

12. Now, use your hot glue gun to add the sides, bottom and the end of your viewing box as shown.


 

13. Cut two strips at least one inch wide and the length of your box. 
 

14. Glue these two strips on the inside of your box on each side piece as shown. They should be placed so that the top edge of this piece is down approximately ¼” from the top of the side piece (this should be the same as the thickness of your foam board).


 

15. Cut and glue one more one inch wide strip to go along the inside of the back piece.

16. Cut two strips of foam board form your scraps that are ½” wide and the length of your box.
 

17. Glue these two strips on the top of your box as shown. These will help hold the lid in place and prevent any light from shining through the corner joint.


 

18. Cut one more strip ½” wide that will go along the top edge of the back piece (as shown) between the two strips you just put on.


 

19. Measure your box and cut a piece of foam board for the lid. The lid should slide in between all of the strips that you just glued in place on the sides and back. This will allow you to adjust the focus as well as insert and retrieve your camera. I made my lid a couple of inches longer than the box so that it could easily be removed. I also added a small strip of foam board underneath the lid so that it fit snugly up against the front end of the box when the lid was closed to block out any light from getting in at this joint. See diagram below.


 

20. Insert your camera and close the lid on your box. Now hold it at approximately the correct angle that it will need to be during the eclipse and find its’ center of gravity (balance point). Mark this spot on the bottom of your box.


 

21. You will need to cut a piece of thin MDF board that will fit onto the bottom of your box. It does NOT need to cover the entire bottom. This piece of wood will be used to strengthen the bottom of your box and support the hardware that locks into your tripod. My box was 7 ¼” x 20” so I cut my piece of MDF at 7”x14”.
 

22. Drill holes necessary to mount your tripod clip to the piece of MDF so that it will be located where your center of gravity mark is on the bottom of your box. Mount hardware.


 

23. Using your hot glue gun, glue the MDF board to the bottom of your box so that the hardware is located at your center of gravity mark as shown.

24. Now you are ready to mount your Eclipse viewer onto your tripod. Once you have it secured onto your tripod, take it outside and point it in the direction of the sun. Remove the top so that you can see when the sun is projected onto the inside (back end) of your box. Again, the best way to do this is to watch the shadow that is being created and turn the box to make the shadow as small as possible just as you did in step 3.

25. Adjust the focus dial to bring the image into focus.

26. Turn on and connect your camera to your phone. Again, I used my Go Pro which can be connected and controlled by my phone.

27. Place your camera into the holder that you made earlier.

28. Close the lid. Now you can safely watch and record the eclipse with your phone. Please remember that you will need to adjust your viewing box to follow the sun as it moves along its path. If you are using a GoPro camera, you may capture still images, set it to take continuous images or video. Have fun and BE SAFE!

*** I would love to see some of the images you capture. Please share them on my Extreme Science Facebook page or tag me in your photos that you share on your page.

Radical Rick
Extreme Science
www.ExtremeScienceFun.com
509-892-7621

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