Wondering how to view a solar eclipse without glasses? Experts suggest observing the shadowsWondering how to view a solar eclipse without glasses? Experts suggest observing the shadows — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / Jaiyin Wang

Most of us know to never look directly at the sun. Yet, when a solar eclipse occurs, all eyes want to be on the sun. With the 2024 total solar eclipse traveling across the United States on April 8, many of us want to know how to experience this incredible phenomenon without risking our (or our children’s) vision.

We asked experts at science museums and institutions across the country for their eclipse-viewing tips.

First, even if you have a pair of eclipse glasses, you still need to exercise caution.

“Even when wearing eclipse glasses, you shouldn’t look at the sun for longer than three minutes at a time,” says Sommer Murphy, an early learner specialist at Little Rock’s Museum of Discovery.

Also, experts suggest that you opt for eclipse glasses approved by NASA and/or the American Astronomical Society.

Get a filter for your smartphone camera too

In addition to wearing eclipse glasses, get a solar filter for your smartphone. If you’ve ever tried to photograph a sunset or sunrise, you know it typically results in a glare that doesn’t capture the moment. A solar filter will help resolve this problem. (It’s basically eclipse glasses for your phone’s camera.)

However, getting a great shot isn’t the only reason to use a solar filter. According to NASA, attempting to photograph or record the solar eclipse can potentially cause internal damage to your phone because it magnifies the light.

Filters are also available for telescopes and binoculars as well. These are a must for anyone who wants to observe the sun and moon up close without causing damage to their optical instruments or eyes.

How to view the eclipse without glasses

But what about those who don’t have glasses? Dan Schneiderman, eclipse partnerships coordinator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in New York, says just about “anything with a hole that allows you to observe the shadow” — even a Ritz cracker! — can be used to project the eclipse onto surfaces so you can observe its progress. The most common suggestion from our experts is to use a colander to project images of the eclipse onto the ground.

“With your back to the sun, you can hold the colander toward the ground so that the sunlight passes through the holes,” explains Don Riefler, science programs manager at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indiana. “Each hole will show the sun’s disc in miniature on the ground, including the moon’s shadow, so you can track how close to totality you are.”

Make a pinhole viewer

Pinhole viewers are another popular DIY method for viewing solar eclipses safely. By poking a hole in a piece of card stock (with a pin or toothpick), you can construct a device that allows you to view the projections of the eclipse.

LeKeisha Harding, director of equitable evaluation and impact at Thinkery children’s museum in Austin, Texas, suggests checking out Thinkery’s 2024 Solar Eclipse Joyful Learning Guide, created in partnership with The Joyful Learning Collaborative. The guide includes instructions for making pinhole viewers, along with several solar eclipse activities perfect for those with young kids.

Observe the solar eclipse’s impact on objects around you

Watch the progress of a solar eclipse through the shadows of your favorite shade treeWatch the progress of a solar eclipse through the shadows of your favorite shade tree — Photo courtesy of Lisa Shepard

Angela Speck, co-chair of the American Astronomical Society Solar Eclipse Taskforce, suggests observing the shadows that trees make for a different viewing experience. The space between the leaves will act like the holes of the colander or a pinhole viewer and project the image of the solar eclipse onto the ground.

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