Many of us have a set of binoculars. And told not NEVER, EVER use them to look at the Sun!”
That’s right, of course, but you CAN USE binoculars to PROJECT an image of the Sun in order to safely see sunspots, a solar eclipse, and planetary transits like the Transit of Venus.
All you need are a few household items:
• a pair of binoculars, of course
• a tripod or stack of books,
• duct tape
• two pieces of cardboard
Remember: It's extremely dangerous to look at the Sun directly. You can badly burn your retina, causing permanent vision loss. It's even worse to look at the Sun through any kind of magnifying lens.
You can even burn your hand with binoculars by focusing sunlight onto them.
So, with this setup, we only want to project an image of the Sun. We're never going to look through the binoculars or put hands or other body parts in the path of the light.
Here’s how to do it:
Trace around your binoculars on your piece of cardboard and cut-out the circles.
Next attach our binoculars to a tripod. If your binoculars don’t have a mounting point for a tripod, use duct tape to attach them.
And if you don’t have a tripod, just lean binoculars up against a stack of books or other solid, stable object.
Angle them so that the large lenses point up toward the Sun.
Look at their shadow on the ground or wall or any other flat surface.
Move the binoculars around until their shadow is as little as possible.
The smaller the shadow the more directly aligned they are to the Sun.
Now, replace your cardboard cut-out around the binoculars. This will give you a nice shadowed observing area.
Next, cover one of the large lenses, so that your image of the sun isn't doubled.
Now, when you hold up your 2nd piece of paper about a foot behind the binoculars, you can see an image of the Sun.
Focus the binoculars until the Sun's edge sharpens.
During a solar eclipse, you'll see the shadow of the Moon as it passes directly between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the sun's light.
And during a planetary transit, such as the transit of Venus, you'll see the tiny bead of the planet slowly cross the bright solar sphere.
A few more safety tip: Don't leave the binoculars focused on the sun for more than a few minutes because the eyepiece can become overheated.
And don’t leave this set-up unattended; the beam could ignite the paper target … or someone could come along and badly injure themselves.
So stick around! And, if you want to look at the Sun for a long period, just remember to give the binoculars a cooling break now and then.
I’m Natalie Wolchover for Life’s Little Mysteries.
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DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY! Here’s how to turn a pair of binoculars into a projector to safely observe the Sun. You’ll need a tripod (or a stack of books), duct tape, a boxer cutter or scissors and two pieces of white cardboard.