the Sun Safely
Safe Viewing | Observing
the Sun | The Sun today |
When most people think of astronomers observing the sky, they picture
it at night. Many astronomers, both professional and amateur, also turn
their telescopes to the Sun. While this should only be attempted under
the safest of circumstances, solar observing can be quite rewarding. By
practicing safe viewing techniques, one can even see sunspots on the Sun
- dark, cool areas often several times the size of the Earth!
It is extremely dangerous to look at the sun through
unprotected binoculars, telescope or even with the naked eye. Doing so
can lead to permanent damage of the eyes, and perhaps even blindness.
Here are some guidelines for observing the Sun safely:
|1. Pinhole Projection Method
||1. Naked eyes
|2. Solar Filters
||2. Standard or polarized sunglasses
|3. Welder's Glass (No. 14)
||3. Improperly filtered binoculars or telescope
Students using a solar filter to
safely view the Sun and draw sunspots.
One alternative available to teachers
is to project an image of the sun from binoculars or telescope onto
a screen or a piece of white bristol board. When attempting this,
only use a refracting telescope, and not
a reflecting telescope, as a reflecting telescope will
heat up too quickly.
Another method especially suitable for teachers
is the "pinhole-mirror projection." Using a small pocket
mirror, cover up the entire mirror with masking tape except for
a small (say, 6mm by 6mm) square.
Position the mirror against a wall or ledge, and turn it so that it can
reflect incoming sunlight onto a viewing screen, a wall or the ceiling.
The larger the distance from the mirror to the viewing screen, the larger
the image of the sun, but the dimmer the image will be.
eclipses, especially, can be viewed in complete safety by a class
of students in a darkened room. BE CAREFUL, however,
to NOT shine the reflected sunlight into anyone's
Some stores which specialize in selling telescopes
and accessories, also carry solar viewing glasses. These are often
a less expensive alternative, at less than $5.00 per pair. Visit
your local telescope supplier for more details.
Solar viewing glasses
are often a less expensive option.
For more details on how to observe the Sun safely,
visit the following websites:
If you do not have the resources available to observe
the sun directly, it can be observed online:
Looking for activities involving the Sun?
created by the
CASCA education Webteam, (2009)