How to View the Sun

Our Sun is a brilliant star, glowing bright. And it should never be directly looked at because this can permanently damage your eyesight. There are ways to view the Sun without risk though, as outlined in this article.


  1. Image titled View the Sun Step 1
    Be aware of the methods that should never be used for viewing the Sun. Also be prepared to inform any other people you're responsible for to ensure their safety. Never look at the Sun through binoculars, telescopes, any type of glasses, sunglasses, smoked glass, space blankets, CDs, polarizing filters, or exposed color film – none of these methods are strong enough to protect your eyes. Although the light wavelengths visible to the human eye are blocked by these objects, it is the non-visible light that causes damage to the eye; the ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths still get through, and cause just as much damage as the visible light.
  2. Image titled View the Sun Step 2
    Use a solar filter. If you choose to look at the Sun with your eyes (rather than by projecting the Sun onto something else), then you must always have a solar filter between you and the Sun. Even the briefest flash of sunlight can damage your eyesight. Solar filters are available for all viewing equipment (camera, binoculars, and telescope).
    • When selecting a solar filter for a telescope or binoculars, it is absolutely vital that you choose a filter made for your exact model and brand. If the filter does not fit properly, or is used incorrectly, permanent eye damage can occur.
  3. Image titled View the Sun Step 3
    Make a Sun viewer or a pinhole projector. A homemade Sun viewer or pinhole viewer is very simply done and, generally speaking, it is the most easy and safe way to view the Sun for almost no cost, just the price poster paper. Its drawback is the very small image it produces but this one is ideal for children and young teens who will enjoy the process of preparing the pinhole projector and then using it.
    • Find a large piece of poster paper or card-stock. Cut a 2" (5cm) square in the center of it.
    • Cover the square hole with a piece of aluminum foil. Pierce a small hole in the center of this foil cover (use a pin or the sharp end of a pencil). (You can punch multiple holes, if you'd like, and view multiple eclipses at once.)
    • Find a good location for viewing. A smooth, light surface is what you are looking for; cement is best. If you cannot find a place like that, just buy another piece of poster paper/card and lay it down on the ground or hold it. Having a second card is a good idea because if you change the distances between the two pieces of card, you can change the size and brightness of the Sun's image falling on to the second card.
    • Stand with your back to the Sun. Hold up the card a few feet above the ground. Make sure it's above your shoulder or to your side, but that your head is not covering up the hole. It should be held in the direction of the Sun.
    • You should now see a perfect circle on the ground or on your other piece of card. Move the card closer or further away from the ground if the circle is fuzzy, until it is sharp. The best distance for holding the card away from you is about 3 feet/one meter.[1]
    • You can also use a pinhole camera – see How to make a pinhole camera for instructions.
  4. Image titled View the Sun Step 4
    Use equipment projection. Projection of the Sun image through binoculars or telescope is another safe method to view the eclipse indirectly. However, it is only safe if you use it for projection not for looking through – do not ever look through the binoculars or telescope doing the projecting! Here is how to use equipment projection for binoculars:[2][3]
    • Cover the front objective lens of one side of the binoculars with a piece of card or a lens cap.
    • Turn your back to the Sun. Holding the binoculars with one hand, aim the binoculars at the Sun so that the uncovered lens picks up the Sun. Use the shadow of the binoculars to help you align the binoculars.
    • See the image projected back onto a screen, wall, or large piece of white paper that you're holding in your free hand. It should be situated about one foot/30 centimeter (11.8 in) from the binoculars' eyepiece. Just move the binoculars around until the Sun's image appears on the card, screen, or wall. The further you hold the card away from the eyepiece, the larger the image will be.
    • When you get used to using this method, try fixing the binoculars to something like a tripod or propping them up against a chair or table. The image will benefit from the increased steadiness.
    • If you're using this method to observe the Sun during a non-eclipse time, shift the binoculars away from the Sun every minute to prevent overheating of the equipment. Give the optical equipment a rest for a minute or so before trying again.
  5. Image titled View the Sun Step 5
    Use welder's glass. Shade number 14 welder's glass is one of the most affordable and widely available filters you can use to observe the Sun with unaided eyes.[4] The glass must completely cover your eyes at all times of observation. Such a filter can also be added to the front of your binocular objectives. [5] Again, both the lenses must be covered and if the filter can only cover one lens, cap the other one.
  6. Image titled View the Sun Step 6
    Use mounted filters. At this point, things start getting quite expensive and tend to be in the realm of the dedicated amateur astronomer or similar hobbyist prepared to outlay money for expensive equipment. There are telescopes and binoculars that come with built-in solar filters for a price; you're only likely to want one of these if you're a permanent amateur astronomer. And there are also filters that can be purchased for mounting on existing telescopes and binoculars; solar filters are actually the best choice for large telescopes because as well as protecting your eyes, they protect the lens of the telescope (see "Warnings" below). There are several important warnings here; the first is that you must be absolutely sure that the filter is a proper solar filter, as ordinary photographic filters will not filter the dangerous rays. Second, the filter must fit your brand and type of equipment perfectly. Always buy the filter from a reputable dealer; if you have any concerns about the safety of the filter, do not use it and if you need advice, take it to your local planetarium or astronomy club for expert advice. And if money is no object, the top of the line solar filter that will guarantee great detail and the ability to see prominences on the Sun itself is an H-alpha (hydrogen alpha) filter, costing at least US$1,000 up. [6] Some things to bear in mind when mounting the special solar filters:
    • Check for surface damage prior to mounting. Mylar is easy to puncture or rip and if that has happened, the filter cannot be used.[7]
    • Be sure that the filter is secure once on; if you need to tape it as well as mount it to ensure that it won't come off or loosen, then do so.
    • Although there are filters that screw into the eyepiece end of the filter, do not use such filters on the eyepiece end of binoculars or telescopes. The focused light can burn through or crack the filter at this end owing to the intense heat of the Sun being concentrated; just the tiniest crack or separation in the filter can permanently damage your eyes.


  • Watching the Sun may damage your eyesight. It's much worse if you do it with a telescope: it's like having an eye as big as the lens.

Things You'll Need

  • Solar filters
  • Pinhole projector materials
  • Other suitable viewers as outlined.

Sources and Citations

  1. CSIRO,
  2. CSIRO,
  3. Stephen James O'Meara, Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars, p. 6, (2010), ISBN 978-0-521-74128-6
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Categories: Astronomy