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Solar Eclipse — August 21, 2017

We invited a small group of friends and neighbors to view the eclipse with us. Though we had eclipse glasses, I thought it desirable to display the progress of the eclipse in a way that everyone could view the Sun without craning their necks.

The solution was to use a small telescope to project an image of the Sun onto a viewing screen. To that end, I devised the simple setup shown below.

The viewing method described here uses a telescope to project an unfiltered image of the Sun onto a viewing screen. Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to look at the unfiltered Sun through the telescope's eyepiece. The result will be instantaneous and likely irreversable eye damage. The telescope must not be left unattended at any time. You must keep an especially close watch on small children, who may want to look through the telescope. This must not be allowed to happen!

Eclipse viewing setup
A small refractor, a tripod, and a viewing screen allowed our group to view the eclipse.

The telescope is a cheap 80mm refractor that I had not used in years. It has a standard ¼-20 mounting hole that allowed for easy attachment to a lightweight camera tripod. To make the image of the Sun easier to see, I added an 18-inch square shade made of extruded foam to the front of the telescope. The viewing screen is a piece of white cardboard on a tilting stand meant to hold a computer tablet.

The mount is not motorized, so I manually adjusted the azimuth and elevation every few minutes throughout the eclipse, a minor inconvenience. The image on the viewing screen was bright and easy for everyone in the group to see.

The photos on the previous page were made with a Nikon D5100 DSLR camera by simply photographing the viewing screen. The inexpensive telescope produced images with a bit of chromatic aberration (false color fringes) around the Sun. I used Corel PaintShop Pro to remove the false color.

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