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How to Make a Pinhole Camera

How to Make a Pinhole Camera Create a pinhole camera to safely view the upcoming solar eclipse and transit of Venus, May 20 and June 5, 2012, respectively. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With a solar eclipse and a transit of Venus (which won't take place again for 105 years!) gracing the skies this summer, May 20 and June 5, respectively, a pinhole camera will be your greatest tool this summer. You should never look at the sun directly, even with binoculars or a telescope, because you could severely damage your eyes or even go blind! So stay safe and still enjoy the summer's stellar shows by creating your very own pinhole camera. It's easy! Here's how:

What you'll need:

Pinhole Camera Materials

2 pieces of white cardstock
Aluminum foil
Pin or paper clip

What to do:

Pinhole Camera Step 1

1. Cut a square hole into the middle of one of your pieces of cardstock

Pinhole Camera Step 2

2. Tape a piece of aluminum foil over the hole

Pinhole Camera Step 3

3. Use your pin or paper clip to poke a small hole in the aluminum foil

Pinhole Camera Step 4

4. Place your second piece of cardstock on the ground and hold the piece with aluminum foil above it (foil facing up). Stand with the sun behind you and view the projected image on the cardstock below! The farther away you hold it, the bigger your projected image will be. You can also try putting your bottom piece of cardstock in a shadowed area while you hold the other piece in the sunlight to make your projection a bit more defined.

Of course, pinhole cameras can get much fancier. In fact, you might want to try the first design on the Exploratorium website if you're planning to watch the transit of Venus through a pinhole camera, as you'll see more detail. Got ideas for other pinhole camera designs? Visit the JPL Education Facebook and Twitter pages to share your ideas. And remember, safety first!

Use your new pinhole camera during these upcoming stellar events:

Solar Eclipse, Sunday, May 20, 2012: A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, obscuring all or part of the sun. The May 20 eclipse is what's called an annular solar eclipse. This is when the moon's diameter appears slightly smaller than the sun's, so viewers on Earth see just a bright ring of light (called an annulus) where the sun's rays are peeking out from behind the cover of the moon. The annular phase of the May 20 eclipse will be visible in the western United States and Canada, as well as eastern Asia and the northern Pacific Ocean. Viewers in the western U.S. can view the eclipse between about 5 and 8 p.m. PST. Visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Facebook event page for more information.

Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012: The transit of Venus is a rare event that happens when Venus passes directly between Earth and the sun. After the June 6 transit, Earthlings won't see another one for 105 years! Astronomers throughout history used transits of Venus to measure the size of our solar system using a geometric calculation called triangulation. What you'll see during the June 5 transit depends on where you are. Viewers in the United States and Canada will see a portion of the transit on June 5 during sunset, whereas viewers in eastern Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia will see the transit during sunrise on June 6. Viewers in Japan, New Zealand and the eastern half of Australia, China and Russia will be the luckiest with the opportunity to view the entire transit. Visit for more information.