Total solar eclipse viewer using cereal box: How to build your own

A total solar eclipse will sweep across a large swath of the United States on April 8, 2024, briefly turning daytime into night. 

But, according to eye doctors and experts, staring at the total solar eclipse before it reaches totality (the period when the moon completely obscures the sun’s face) can cause permanent damage to the eyes, even if someone stares for only a few seconds.

Outside of the path of totality, you can still enjoy the partial phase of the solar eclipse, but you need to use eye protection or an eclipse-viewing device for indirect viewing. 

For those who can't get their hands on a pair of eclipse glasses, there is an alternative to the fancy specs: a DIY projection box.


Child looks through a pinhole made from a cereal box to view the solar eclipse along the waterfront near the Children's Museum in Boston, Aug. 21, 2017. (Credit: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Here is how you can make your own (and trust us, it’s simple). 

Solar eclipse projection box supplies

  • Empty cereal box
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Marker
  • Piece of white paper

How to build cereal box solar eclipse viewer

  • Trace the bottom of the cereal box on a white piece of paper.
  • Cut out the traced rectangle.
  • Put the cut-out flat against the bottom of the cereal box.
  • On the box top, cut out a square on each side of the box top, leaving the center intact.
  • You should now have two openings on either side of the box top.
  • Cover the left opening with aluminum foil, securing it with tape.
  • Use scissors to punch a half-inch hole into the center of the foil.

During the eclipse, turn your back to the sun and look through the opening on the right side of the box top. A reflection of the eclipse will play out on the paper inside the box.

What kind of glasses do I need to watch a solar eclipse?

If you’re not interested in making your own viewing box, it is only safe to look directly at the sun while wearing special-purpose solar filter glasses. These glasses need to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for direct sun viewing, according to the American Astronomical Society

Regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing any partial or annular eclipse because sunglasses allow more sunlight than is safe for your eyes. 

When is the total solar eclipse 2024?

The total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024 at around 1:27 p.m. CDT time and end around 3:35 p.m. EDT time.

What is the path for total solar eclipse?

The path of totality, where the moon will completely block out the sun, will be 115 miles wide and cut diagonally across the country.

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The moon’s shadow will move across Mexico, then enter the United States west of San Antonio at around 1:27 p.m. local time, crossing Austin and Dallas. From there, it cuts northeast through parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, then the northern portions of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also see a total solar eclipse.

What will I see during total solar eclipse?

If you are in that path of totality: The moon will appear to completely block the sun for as long as seven and a half minutes. Daytime will turn into near night during that time and the sun’s corona – the outer rays – may be visible.

If you are not far from the path of totality: The moon will appear to block most of the sun. It will still become noticeably darker; daylight will become more like twilight.

If you are well outside the path of totality: You’ll notice a chunk of the sun is being blocked. The farther away you are, the smaller the moon’s bite will appear to be. In Seattle and Portland, Oregon, about as far away as you can get in the continental U.S., one-third of the sun will be swallowed.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.