On May 20th, 2012 (today, as I write this), there will be a Solar Eclipse. I live in San Diego, CA and there is supposed to be some prime viewing for it in Southern California. As you know though, looking directly at the sun (even when eclipsed) is a bad idea. Yesterday, I started looking for ways to view the solar eclipse and other than getting some special glasses or lenses, the most common solution is a pinhole “projector”.
I made a quick version using an old tissue box, but being a nerd, I couldn’t just leave it at that. My next revision actually uses a LifeCam webcam in a box. I won’t describe it in detail here, but if you understand the instructions for the phone version, you should be able to easily modify it to use a webcam instead.
My final version uses a Windows Phone as the viewer. This gives me the benefit of being able to use all the great features of the windows phone for photo / video sharing, and I can share my images live! Here is the basic idea:
Here are the supplies I used. I happened to have some 3M picture hanging strips that don’t leave a residue behind when they are removed. I used these to attach the phone to the box so I didn’t have to worry about gumming up my phone. I also attached them to my phone case so that I wasn’t attaching sticky stuff directly to the phone.
- Cardboard box
- Sheet of white paper
- Poster strips (or blue tack, or just tape to attach the phone to the box)
- Pin (or needle) for making the pinhole
- Craft blade or something to make the holes in the box with
- A roll of duct tape. No project is complete without the duct tape
- Scotch tape (I actually used spray mount) for attaching the paper to back of the box (inside)
- Tin Foil, this will have the pinhole in it. Use paper if you prefer.
- A Windows Phone and a case with a hole for the camera in it
First cut the paper to fit the end of the box and tape it inside the box on one end:
Make sure to remember which end has the paper on it. You want the pinhole and phone to be on the opposite end. The paper will act as the “screen” that the image will be projected on.
Next completely tape up the box. I used duct tape to seal all the edges and ensure no light got in:
On the end OPPOSITE from the paper, layout the holes that you will cut for the foil to cover and for the phone’s camera to “see” through. I tried to center the hole for the foil to cover at the center, and the I used the phone case to line up the hole for the camera:
Cut the holes:
The cover the square hole with a piece of foil and tape around the edges of the foil to keep out extra light. Then use the pin or needle to make a small round hole in the center of the foil.
Use whatever adhesive you chose to mount the phone case to the box. The 3M Poster Strips I used work well because I could surround the camera lens with them to help block out any extra light:
With the phone in the case, mount the phone to the box. Take special care to make sure the camera lens is directly over the hole you made for it in the box.
You are ready to go! Take your phone outside, and point the pinhole at the sun. The image of the sun should be projected on the back wall of the box with the paper on it. Use the phone’s camera to view the image.
The image of the sun is pretty small. You might experiment with a longer box, or a larger pin hole or ? to adjust it. Here is a closer up picture of the image on the phone. The image is the white dot in the middle of the phone screen.
You can take pictures of the sun now, or even video. I recommend TURNING OFF YOUR FLASH. Share your images online as you watch the eclipse using Windows Phone’s integrated Messaging, Twitter and Facebook features! Here is an actual photo from my phone:
Of course, making a version with a LifeCam web cam instead is just the same, just make a hole for the LifeCam to fit through. Then connect the LifeCam to your computer and watch the eclipse from The LifeCam software. Take stills or even capture video, and post it!.