Viewing an eclipse or other solar event is great fun, and an excellent way to involve kids in learning about science. I'm writing this on the evening of May 20, 2012, just after a great annular (ring) solar eclipse, and in anticipation of of the June 5/6 transit of Venus. My daughter and I watched the eclipse, and we're planning on watching the transit in a couple of weeks. Don't let yourself or your kids miss that Venus transit, there won't be another one for 105 years!
If you live in North America like me, you're going to have to wait awhile for the next eclipse--we won't see one until 2017. There are several around the world between now and then though, click here for a list of solar eclipses up to 2020.
Besides eclipses and transits, we are currently headed into a solar maximum, a time of greater sunspot activity. Using this method, you can view the sunspots as the move and change across the face of the sun.
To start, here's a quick summary video:
Step 1: WARNING!
Whatever you do, don't look through the eyepiece at the sun! Just staring at the sun unaided can damage your vision, looking at it through a magnifier like this can burn your eye!
In fact, have caution around the eyepiece at all times, you run the risk of burning your skin or even setting something on fire!
Step 2: Gather Materials
There are other methods to do this, but I find this setup gives you the clearest, brightest, and largest projected image.
You will need:
- A tripod
- Box knife
- 2 sheets of white foam board
- Masking tape
- Duct tape
- Binocular tripod mount (or string, rope, more duct tape, etc)