Turning our living room into a pinhole camera

California was a great place to be for spectacular views of the annular solar eclipse yesterday. We transformed our living room into a giant pinhole camera so we could safely watch it indoors, though it was a beautiful day and at the height of the eclipse we went outside to enjoy the display of glimmering crescents playing upon the street and the side of our house.

In the house, we taped cardboard, poster board, and large sheets of paper (just whatever was readily available from our recycling and art supplies) to cover a window facing the sun, blocking out as much incoming light as we could. Through one piece of the poster board we made a single pinhole using a thumbtack. On the other side of the room, we held up a pad of white paper to the light shining through the pinhole. That’s it—really simple.

Sun shining through the holes formed by spaces in between the leaves of our cherry tree and redwoods also formed these cool patterns shaped like the eclipse itself on the street.

This eclipse maxed out at about 90% coverage of the sun, with a “ring of fire” visible around the perimeter of the moon. Because the moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, as is Earth’s around the sun, their distance from us and therefore their appearance in size varies. Annular eclipses happen when the sun and moon are precisely lined up, but the moon appears smaller than the sun. In a total eclipse, a larger-appearing moon completely obscures the sun.

The next annular eclipse is on May 10, 2013.