An epic cosmic coincidence will play out on Aug. 21. And, by now, you’ve surely heard you’ll need a pair of special glasses to witness the eclipse. In fact, these eclipse glasses are pretty much the ticket you’ll need to watch what’s being billed as the “Great American Eclipse.”
Eye protection is absolutely necessary to prevent the sun from damaging your retinas, and without the protection you won’t be able to see much anyways. That’s because the glasses and other DIY contraptions (we’ll get to those in a second) filter out most of the sunlight. (Here’s what you need to know about protecting your eyes during the eclipse.)
Alas, the eclipse glasses—which can protect your peepers from permanent damage and blind spots—have been selling like crazy and are becoming super difficult to track down.
Even worse, vendors are selling fake eclipse glasses. Shady, right?
So, if you can’t get your hands on any eclipse glasses, don’t worry. You don’t have to let this eclipse pass you by.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a few options. Remember, sunglasses won’t cut it.
Use your hands
The easiest, no-frills way to spot the eclipse is by using your hands, according to the American Astronomical Society. Essentially, you position yourself so the sun is at your back, you get out of the way of the sun and then cross your fingers to make a waffle pattern. The holes between your fingers will project celestial patterns. Start watching the video below at 3:03 to better understand this technique.
Pinhole projector with a cereal box
Ready to DIY your own eclipse viewer? NASA has a nifty tutorial on how to convert a cereal box into a viewer. For this quick project, you just need an empty cereal box, a piece of paper, scissors, tape and some alumnium foil. Follow along with the instructions here to make your own pinhole camera.
Make a pinhole projector with a box
Similar to the cereal box tutorial, NBC News put together a video on how you can make an eclipse viewer with a box. You’ll need an empty box, tape, scissors, a piece of paper, a thumbtack and alumnimum foil to make the viewer.
Build a Sun Funnel
Fair warning, this is a pretty in-depth project. We’re talking first prize at a science fair project. But, if you’re totally geeking out on the eclipse, NASA has put together a tutorial for how to build a sun funnel to watch the eclipse. The advantage of this DIY funnel is it makes eclipse watching a group event.
You’ll need a funnel from your local hardware or auto parts store, a large hose clamp, a small hose clamp, projection film and an all metal-and-glass telescope eyepiece. Plus, you’ll need some tools: a flat-head screwdriver, small hacksaw, medium to fine grit sandpaper and a 12-inch ruler.
Here’s the full tutorial for the sun funnel.
Use Your Smartphone
But experts say pointing your phone at the sun for several minutes might not be the best idea.
“If you have your camera phone pointed at the sun for long periods of time, it could damage the electronics inside of it,” Dean Regas says, host of the PBS show, “Star Gazers.”
NASA says it’s OK to snap a few quick photos of the eclipse. Apple has said there is no issue taking photos of the sun with iPhones.
But if you are shooting the sun for more than a few seconds, NASA suggests placing a darkening filter or eclipse glasses over your phone’s camera to prevent any possible sun “burn in,” that could leave a white dot on future photos.
“Hold that filter in front of the camera and that will help out a lot,” Regas said.
If you don’t have any way of filtering the sun, tech blogs suggest you lower the amount of light your phone allows in.
On an iPhone, look for a picture of the sun next to the yellow focus square. With your finger, drag the sun down the screen, which will darken the picture and let less light in.
And remember: You shouldn’t look at the sun, even though your camera is pointed there, so you don’t damage your eyes.
Arc Welding Mask
Yep, finding one of these at your local hardware or home store might be easier than tracking down the eclipse glasses. Make sure the glass is rated No. 14 or it won’t do the job, NPR advises.
One more thing: If you’re tempted to take a photo during the eclipse, it’s best to just leave the photography to the experts and live in the moment. But, if you can’t resist, here’s what you need to know about photographing the eclipse.
And, hey, if you miss out on this eclipse, don’t fret. The next total solar eclipse that’ll be visible from the U.S. is scheduled for April 8, 2024. It will be visible from Texas to Maine.