Introduction: Eclipse Viewer With Cellphone Camera

Picture of Eclipse Viewer With Cellphone Camera

No eclipse glasses? No problem! Create your own viewer with your smart phone, a large cereal box, razor blade, scissors, and maybe some tape, and you can look "directly" at the sun!

Step 1: This Doesn't Work

Picture of This Doesn't Work

You're still facing the sun and the screen brightness on your phone cannot compete. I thought of using the selfie camera so I could turn my back on the sun and shoot the camera over my shoulder, but I tested it and found that a bright sunny day made the screen unreadable.

Step 2: This Does

Picture of This Does

Block out the sun and use your phone camera to make a splendid real-time viewer. Follow these steps to create your own.

Step 3: Cut Slit for Phone

Picture of Cut Slit for Phone

  1. Find large cereal box or other appropriately sized box. I would think some shipping boxes would work well.
  2. Cut slit in bottom of box, about half inch, just enough so your phone can squeeze through.

Step 4: Push Phone Through Opening From the Inside

Picture of Push Phone Through Opening From the Inside

  1. Put phone inside box
  2. Gently force out of slit so camera is outside box facing down.

It doesn't have to fit perfectly. My phone is a little wider than the box bottom; it still works. Remove phone for now.

Step 5: Reinforce Box Bottom

Picture of Reinforce Box Bottom

Reinforce box bottom with tape. This is non-essential, but recommended. You don't want your viewer falling apart at the critical moment. Silver tape is what I had handy. Duct tape, black tape, etc. would work as well or better.

Step 6: Cut V-shaped Opening

Picture of Cut V-shaped Opening

  1. Cut V-shaped opening in box top.
  2. Place over face and test it to see if it fits properly and blocks light.

Step 7: Load Camera in Box

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  1. Activate camera view screen.
  2. Carefully insert phone through opening so camera faces forward.
  3. Squeeze box open and fit over head.
  4. Hold phone in place with left hand, or flip if you prefer using your right hand.

Step 8: Test It

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Here is a view of sun on cell phone screen. Test it in full sun.

  1. First, look directly at sun without viewer. You can't. That's as it should be.
  2. Now place viewer over face and view image of sun on your phone screen

Step 9: View Eclipse!

Picture of View Eclipse!

Now, go view the eclipse!

Note: pointing your camera at the sun will not hurt the camera. Don't take my word for it; look it up.

However, if you're concerned about it or just tired of looking up, switch the camera to selfie mode and look down with camera shooting over your shoulder.

Step 10: Enhancement: Use Toothpick or Skewer to Secure the Phone

Picture of Enhancement: Use Toothpick or Skewer to Secure the Phone

A friend had the clever idea to use an over-sized toothpick to hold phone in place. I had bamboo skewers on hand.

  1. Put phone in place for measurement.
  2. From inside box, use point of knife to poke holes at appropriate height or at least mark the spot.
  3. Secure skewer in place with rubberband.
  4. Clip off excess wood.

You can also cut a thumb hole in bottom to snap pics.

Comments

PeterB326 (author)2017-08-21

Well, that didn't work that well, did it? Seems a cellphone camera is no match for the sun's glare, even during an eclipse. Did anyone find a way to make it work? At least it was cheap!

dekenned (author)PeterB3262017-08-21

The glare I got was elliptical which I thought was kinda cool. I even tried using (borrowed) solar eclipse glasses over the lens and lowering the brightness. I thought I was a genius for a few seconds. Slight improvement but no fabled cresent. Nothing wrong with hopeful lofty aspirations right? Ecliptic optimism?
Maybe there will be a app for viewing such celestial celebrations in the future?
Thanks for sharing, it was fun to try!

PeterB326 (author)dekenned2017-08-22

I agree. The eclipse did show as a distortion. Plus, for viewers who couldn't resist looking directly at the sun, this was a safe way to do it.

MattBoston (author)2017-08-19

Cool setup, but do not point your camera, phone, telescope or binoculars at an eclipse without a solar filter in front of the lense.

PeterB326 (author)MattBoston2017-08-20

Not quite.


Binoculars, telescopes and certain cameras transfer the sun's energy directly to the eye, which would be dangerous. Your eyes would immediately notify you of this by way of a pain sensation and you would reflexively turn away.

With the phone, however, the intensity of the picture that you view is only as strong as the light your phone screen emits, which is not dangerous. It will be no brighter than if you were to view a phone screen displaying a full white display, the brightest display your phone can manage. This might cause you to squint, but will not injure the eye. It's the same as though you were watching the eclipse on television.

Also, according to my web research, you will not damage your phone's camera by pointing it at the sun. Consider how on any regular sunny day, a phone sitting idly on an outside table regularly has its camera pointing up at the sky for long periods with no evident damage to the camera. The sun is no brighter during the eclipse than it would be on any sunny day, so your camera is no more at risk during the eclipse than it would be on any other day.

A filter can be a benefit by reducing glare to help clarify the passing of the moon in front of the sun. This is helpful but not essential.

JoshuaH192 (author)PeterB3262017-08-21

Thank you for your insights. I plan to use the front facing camera on my smartphone and look down at it with the phone facing the sky.

Regarding the strength of the sun, the intensity of the sun is actually increased when part of the disc is obscured. Light bends to pass around objects and when the sun is only partially covered, the more of it's energy is concentrated into a smaller area. The principles at work here are the same ones behind a laser.

PeterB326 (author)2017-08-20

If you're concerned about damaging your camera or just tired of looking up, switch camera to selfie mode and face down, shooting sky over your shoulder.

MattBoston (author)2017-08-20

NASA says it's not recommended to use a camera without a lens. I would trust NASA before I would trust people who are not experts.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/originals/ct-bsi-eclipse-photography-20170818-story.html

PeterB326 (author)MattBoston2017-08-20

Thanks for the article, Matt. I read it. The second paragraph begins:

"is there danger of burning out your smartphone’s camera sensor?
NASA says probably not"

So I concede that it might be possible to damage your phone.
Furthermore, use the viewer incorrectly and it might be possible to damage your eyes.

But all articles I've read about people who damaged their eyes looking at the eclipse tell how they continued to look despite the discomfort. That's when the damage happens.

Use common sense. If your eyes feel uncomfortable, look away.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2017-08-19

That is really clever. This would be really good for kids.