Observatories, libraries and museums are buzzing this week, with would-be astronomers like Anne and Joel Bayou stopping by to find eclipse glasses before they all run out.
“My mom wanted two, and my sister wanted two, and I have a friend who couldn’t find them anywhere,” Anne Bayou said.
And that’s the bad news: stores everywhere are running out of the official NASA-approved glasses. With the eclipse just around the corner on Monday, Aug. 21, many people are feeling stressed.
Old fashioned alternative to glasses
Nationally known astronomer Dean Regas, host of the PBS show “Star Gazers,” understands the frustration of many people right now who are finding store shelves sold out.
So he suggests alternative ways of watching, such as an old fashioned pinhole projector, the way millions of schoolchildren watched the last solar eclipse back in 1979.
Regas says anyone can make a safe, pinhole projector with a cardboard box, or even just two pieces of cardboard.
“What you do is put a pinhole in a piece of paper or a box, let the light come through the hole to the ground, and watch the image on the ground,” Regas explained. “If done correctly, it should make a picture of the eclipse, and you can watch the sun get smaller and smaller in real time.”
We don't have #solareclipse eyewear, but are trying out our #pinholeprojector. Three will be available for checkout next Monday! (USCL faculty, staff, students, or community users with a valid USCL Community Library Card). Want to make one? Search "pinhole projector nasa" on your favorite search engine. #eclipse #eclipse2017 #sun #astronomy #star #moon
However, Regas says you need to resist the urge to turn around and look at the sun while doing this.
The smartphone alternative
Regas says he is hearing from many people who plan to record the eclipse on their smartphone, perhaps to post on Facebook.
But experts say pointing your phone at the sun for several minutes might not be the best idea.
“If you have your camera phone pointed at the sun for long periods of time, it could damage the electronics inside of it,” Regas said.
NASA says it’s OK to snap a few quick photos of the eclipse. Apple has said there is no issue taking photos of the sun with iPhones.
But if you are shooting the sun for more than a few seconds, NASA suggests placing a darkening filter or eclipse glasses over your phone’s camera to prevent any possible sun “burn in,” that could leave a white dot on future photos.
“Hold that filter in front of the camera and that will help out a lot,” Regas said.
If you're afraid to point your camera at the sun…build a pinhole projector viewing box. See my Facebook post at FotoForumAZ on eclipse photography. . . . #eclipse #eclipse2017 #greatamericaneclipse #eclipsephotography #idontneednostinkinsolarfilter #pinholecameras #pinholeprojector #pinholephotograph #pinholeart #pinholecamera #pinholeproject #fotofotumaz
If you don’t have any way of filtering the sun, tech blogs suggest you lower the amount of light your phone allows in.
On an iPhone, look for a picture of the sun next to the yellow focus square. With your finger, drag the sun down the screen, which will darken the picture and let less light in.
The concerns may be overblown. But when it comes to an $800 phone, Regas says better safe than sorry.
And remember: You shouldn’t look at the sun, even though your camera is pointed there, so you don’t damage your eyes.