How to build a solar eclipse pinhole viewer & view the eclipse safely

By now you’ve probably heard that we’ve got this kinda cool thing happening today. It’s called a solar eclipse, in which the moon will completely block out the sun. Now, the area of “totality” (meaning that the moon will block out 100% of the sun’s surface, is only about a 70-mile wide band. However, even outside that 70-mile range, you can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in the US. The sun will still have a sliver remaining. Near Atlanta, we can expect about 97% totality.

It’s not every day that a total eclipse happens right above our heads. It’s going to be something to see! But there are some safety precautions to keep in mind before you head out to watch the eclipse. You might have heard some fuss about special eclipse viewing glasses that will protect your eyes. It’s never a good idea to look directly at the sun with unprotected eyes, so to look up and see the progress of the moon against the sky you need to make sure to protect your eyeballs. You can cause serious eye damage if you don’t.

One way to protect your eyes is with the special solar eclipse glasses we mentioned (regular sunglasses do NOT provide enough protection.) But if you didn’t have a chance to get some glasses (they went like hotcakes) or if you’re worried that the pair you did get isn’t legit, we’ve got another way for you to watch the eclipse safely. And that’s with a pinhole viewing. You can make your very own eclipse viewer out of a cereal box, some white printer paper, and some aluminum foil.  


  • Cardboard box, shoebox, toilet paper roll, etc. – Any kind of box or tube works here
  • Aluminum foil
  • pushpin or nail
  • tape
  • index card or white printer paper
  • scissors

Here’s how the magic happens:

Step 1:

Cut a rectangle out of the white index card (printer paper works fine too) that’s the size of the bottom of the box. Tape it to the bottom of the box.

Step 2:

Tape the top of the cereal box closed. Cut hole in the corner of the top of the box.

cereal box eclipse viewer

Step 3:

Cover the hole securely with a piece of aluminum foil. Tape the foil in place. Cut a hole in the other side of the top of the box. 

Step 4:

Poke pin hole in the aluminum foil.

Step 7:

Enjoy the eclipse! The eclipse will be projected on the inside of the box, so when you hold the cereal box up to your eye you’ll see the shadow of the eclipse. And it’s safe since you’re not actually looking at the sun!

Okay, now that we know how to make a super cool pinhole viewer, here are some other eclipse safety tips to keep in mind.

1. Always wear your eclipse glasses or filters.

2. Put your glasses/filters on while looking down, then look up at the sun. Don’t look up and then put the glasses on. Same thing for when you look away – look down first, then take the glasses off.

3. Don’t look at the sun through a telescope, camera, binoculars, or another device (including smart phones.) Even if you’re wearing your eclipse glasses, the concentrated sun rays can damage the filter and your eyes.

4. If you normally wear glasses, you can keep them on. Just wear your solar eclipse glasses over them or hold your handheld viewer over them.

5. Don’t use eclipse glasses that are scratched, torn, have holes in them, or are otherwise damaged. And always follow the instructions and guidelines that come with your glasses.

6. If you don’t have glasses and you can’t make a pinhole viewer of your own, you can watch the shadow of the solar eclipse by slightly spreading the fingers of your hands and placing them over each other – think waffles. Then, turn around so that your back is to the sun. If you raise up your hands, you should be able to see the eclipse in the shadow of your hands. Cool, huh?

The solar eclipse is unique and exciting, and it’s great that we’ll be able to see it! But make sure that you’re being safe when you go out to see the sun disappear. Your eyeballs will thank you.