DIY – My Quick Guide to Solar Eclipses, What is a Solar Eclipse? & how you can make a Solar Eclipse Cereal (or Brownie) Box Viewer to watch it!

hey there geeky beauts for comics

Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes

Okay everyone it’s time to get super geeky!

I’m not missing out on the 2017 Solar Eclipse, I’m mad excited for it! It’s a special event and for good reason too!

solar-eclipse-459078_1920 gbp

Why is this particular Solar Eclipse so special? 

Well…all eclipses are special but this one is special for those that live in the United States (we’re conceited like that). The last solar eclipse that was seen in the continental U.S was in 1979! I wasn’t even born yet!!! There have been other eclipses in the recent years, but they’ve been in the boondocks like over Antarctica…at least the penguins got some enjoyment out of that! 

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So yeah this is really special for us here especially considering the fact the next U.S solar eclipse will be in 7 years!?! That’ll be in the year 2024, so I kind of want to hop on this solar eclipse train now. [1]

What exactly is an eclipse though?

What is a solar eclipse? 

solar eclipse aligned gbp
Yes, I made this. Lol.

To put it simply, it’s when the Sun, Earth and Moon align and form a straight line. So from the Earth it will appear that the moon is “blocking” out the Sun even though the Moon is 400x’s smaller than the Sun [2]. But it’s really the distance between the the Sun and Moon that make them look like they’re the same size. Kinda like in that Nicholas Sparks movie, Dear John when both Amanda Seyfried’s and Channing Tatum’s characters would close one eye, hold up a thumb to “cover” the moon. Then they’d mention some “deep” quote about how no matter far apart they are they’ll always be looking at the same moon that’s never larger than each of their thumbs (even though it was cheesy, I somehow find myself blushing).

Anywho, it’s like that. The moon is obviously not the size of anyone’s thumbs unless you’re Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but it’s just a nice example of how distance can alter your perception of size. Now that you know what a solar eclipse is, what does it look like?

What does a solar eclipse look like?

The Moon will sit in front of the Sun and the yellow part or photosphere that we see on normal sunny days will be hidden. The only parts that will be visible are the outermost parts of the Sun’s atmosphere: the corona and the chromosphere. The corona is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere and when the Moon sits directly in front of it (which is called the point of totality) the corona will be a pearly white glow emitting from behind the moon. The chromosphere lies between the corona and the photosphere and looks like a neon orange-red color. This is ONLY visible when either the moon reaches the point of totality and completely blocks the Sun OR with fancy telescopes [3].

Here’s a pic!


corona and chromosphere solar eclipse gbp
Photo Credit: Luc Viator: [Photo from NASA] – click to view source

Where can you see the eclipse? 

It will be visible across the United States; however, only certain parts will be able to view a Total Eclipse, the peasants who fall outside of that totality line will have to settle for a partial eclipse (when the moon only blocks out some of the Sun). I, unfortunately will be one of those peasants!

But, here’s a map to make it easier on you!

total solar eclipse map.png
The blue line shows where a Total Eclipse will be visible. Anything outside of the blue line will be a partial eclipse [Photo from USA Today] – click to view source

Be Careful, Solar Eclipses are scary…for your eyes at least!

My mom and sister were searching frantically for Solar Eclipse viewing glasses but nothing came up! I guess everybody and their mama was looking for these too! The reason why YOU NEED some form of eye protection is because the Ultra-Violet and Infrared light from the Sun is going to be damaging to the eyes. The worst case scenario is blindness. If you go blind…who is going to read my future posts?!

But seriously, please please PLEASE protect your eyes for your own sake!

(Read here about how one man is cautioning folks who want to view the solar eclipse as he tells his story of how he went partially blind because of doing so without eye protection). 

DIY – How to make your own Solar Eclipse Box Viewer

So now moving away from that little astronomy and safety lesson, how can you actually go about make a box viewer to see it yourself if you don’t have Solar Eclipse glasses?

No fear Geeky Beauts! We have cereal boxes for that. I think that’s the real reason why we waste so many trees for boxes…someone somewhere knew people would be freaking out about trying to view an eclipse and was like: trust me, this will come in handy one day. Well you Sir or Madam were right!!!

After some digging we found how we can actually make one! We followed a PDF tutorial from NASA’s site here and a YouTube video here. The video was the most helpful though, so check it out!

box viewer 1 gbp
Materials: Kebab stick not shown here

Materials You Need:

  • Cereal box, or any type of box, I used a brownie box
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Marker or Pen
  • Glue or Tape
  • White Paper
  • Aluminum Foil
  • A pin or needle (We used a kebab stick)

⏰Time to assemble: Approximately 10 – 15 minutes 

Step 1: Sit the box upright on a piece of paper and take your permanent marker and trace the bottom of the box.

box viewer 2 gbp

Step 2: Once you have your tracing of the bottom of the box, cut along the lines.

Step 3: Take your cutout and stuff it inside the box and push it all the way to the bottom.

Step 4: Take your permanent marker and draw two lines about three inches apart on the top of your box.

box viewer gbp 7.jpg

Step 5: Cut along the lines. Then, cut off the two small side flaps. You should be left with two three inch flaps, one of each side of the box top.

Step 6: Tape those two flaps together. I wrapped the tape around the flap to really stick it into place. Now you’ll see two open square holes.

box viewer gbp 10.jpg

Step 7: Tape a piece of aluminum foil and fold it around to cover one of the square holes. Tape it to make sure it is secure.

Step 8: Take your pointy object (pen point, needle, pin, or kebab stick) to poke a small hole in the center of the aluminum foil.

Voila! Now your box viewer is ready!

box viewer final pic 2 gbp

How do you use the box viewer? 

When it’s time to view the solar eclipse, you will stand facing away from the Sun and look through the open square hole. This device acts like a projector– the light will slip through the pinhole you made and you’ll be able to see the reflection of the eclipse on the white piece of paper that you stuffed in the box. Nifty!

Below is an image of how a box viewer basically works! The isn’t exactly like the one we’re building here, but how it gets reflected will be the same technique for us!

solar eclipse box viewer gbp
USA Today Image [click to view source]

What time can you see the solar eclipse? 

The time you can view the eclipse is based on your location in the United States. Click on this link here and it will allow you to enter your U.S location and will show the time the eclipse will be visible in your area!

I live in Farmingville, NY so I live outside of the line of totality so I’ll be seeing a partial eclipse! Here’s what that will look like below!

solar eclipse farmingville gbp

So Geeky Beauts, I hope you found this information super useful! If you get the chance to view the eclipse let me know what you thought about it!!! Have fun being an astronomer for a day!

The end

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Information Sources:

  1. What’s a total solar eclipse and why is this one so unusual? 
  2. What is a solar eclipse?
  3. The Sun



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