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12: Safely Observing the Sun

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    NEVER look directly at the Sun! Not with sunglasses, not through a camera, definitely not with a telescope or a binocular, not even through a welder’s mask. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY!

    These warnings sometimes make people (especially teachers!) shy away from solar observation activities – please don’t let this be you! Observing the Sun is fun and wondrous and can show students many interesting things, especially if you have the opportunity to observe a full or partial solar eclipse! Don’t let this terrific opportunity pass you by!

    More than 40,000 students observed the Great American Eclipse in 2017 using the activities and curriculum from this book – and more importantly, everyone observed the Sun safely! You and your students can observe the Sun in perfect safety, too!

    How can we observe the Sun safely? The trick is to project an image of the Sun onto paper, and look at that image instead of looking directly at the Sun itself. There are three easy ways to do this, we will look at the low-cost version first, then the high-tech version, then the no-cost version!

    • 12.1: The Pinhole Camera
      The pinhole camera used to be a more popular activity in the past when cameras were expensive and relatively rare. Miniaturized digital cameras are now on phones, and appear in the most unlikely places, taking away some of the awe and mystery of the camera. Even so, few people understand how a camera actually works, so making one of your own is a profound experience.
    • 12.2: The Binocular Projector
      The binocular projector is easier to use, there is no construction needed and it becomes very easy to draw or photograph the image which we have seen. The increased brightness makes it more difficult to make out subtle features like sunspots on the solar disk, the glare of the intense image tends to obscure them. For eclipse viewing however, this is an excellent method requiring almost no setup time.
    • 12.3: The Tree Projector
      Yet another method to project an image of the Sun safely during a solar eclipse. My students were able to observe and photograph the images of the Sun in eclipse using this method during the Great American Eclipse of 2017. Some were even able to use a kitchen colander to project multiple images of the Sun and photograph them!

    This page titled 12: Safely Observing the Sun is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel E. Barth via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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