Yan Cornil, president of Light Tec Optical Instruments, of Hyeres, France, noted millions of special glasses were sold in 1999 to view a total eclipse of the sun, but they were largely discarded after the event.
Cornil created the more permanent Solarscope, inspired by the classic do-it-yourself box using a pinhole camera to project a solar image onto a sheet of white paper.
The Solarscope aligns the sun with an orange tube that resembles a flashlight, and the solar light filters into a chamber where it bounces off a lens, creating a spherical image on a white screen, the New York Times reported Sunday.
An early version of the Solarscope was released in Europe in 2003, but a revamped version made it into European hobby stores -- and has sold around 50,000 units in Europe, according to Cornil. A subsidiary has sold about 1,800 Solarscopes in the United States.