We were having Sunday night dinner in the dining room and we suddenly noticed that the house had gone eerily hazy. It appeared as though we’d put that darkening film over all of our windows. Was an earthquake on the way? The end of the world? My observant husband remarked, “An eclipse?”
Immediately I remembered an article I had read in the paper the other day. It had detailed the phenomenal event that would occur on Sunday night right around dinnertime. The moon would be moving directly in front of the sun creating what scientists call a “Ring of Fire” eclipse. And even cooler – it would only be viewable from China, Japan and parts of the U.S. West Coast.
Unfortunately, I had totally forgotten to run up to the local planetarium to pick up my twelve-thousand dollar sun-viewing equipment so we did the next best thing… for free. Hello, homemade pinhole viewer!
It’s too bad we didn’t figure out what the celestial gods were up to until after the peak of the eclipse, but we were still able to give the kids a pretty awesome science lesson right out on the front sidewalk.
Just to prove to you it worked, I did my best to capture our pinhole player about halfway through. It’s obviously Lilliputian, but you can see the crescent shape of the sun where it’s being blocked off by the moon (well, and the crescent whites of my husband’s thumbnail). Without the eclipse, you’d see a perfectly round, white circle.
Then, because I like a good diagram now and again (I *am* an instructional designer), I sketched one for you so that you don’t have to go deciphering some verbal garble on a science site that might bring back haunting memories of your high school astronomy lessons.
Poke that pin through one piece of card stock (yes, and then remove the pin and place it somewhere safe where the kids or the dog or the neighborhood squirrels can’t reach it), hold that sheet a few inches in front of your back layer of card stock (so that it creates a shadow) and, voila! Watch your eclipse appear!
I hope you won’t have to wait too long to see another solar show so you can try this at home!
For those of you geek enough to want a full-color story on the “Ring of Fire” eclipse (don’t be ashamed, I was), check out National Geographic.