On Aug. 21, the world will go dark. No, it’s not some kind of apocalyptic nightmare, and you don’t have to pull out your tinfoil hat. We’re getting ready for a total solar eclipse—something that hasn’t happened in the continental U.S. since The Village People’s “YMCA” was at the top of the music charts.
And even though the eclipse won’t truly be total here in Chicagoland—it will reach 90 percent totality—it only makes sense that our very own museum to the stars, the Adler Planetarium, has an epic eclipse extravaganza planned.
Since March, when Adler’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit opened, the museum has been getting excited. Eclipse Fest takes place all day on Aug. 21 in the parking lot, where three tents will house fun activities centered around harnessing the power of the sun (think: solar cars, solar ovens and sundials), exploring solar science (how does sunblock really work?) and playing with light and shadows. There will also be bubbles for the littlest explorers (because bubbles).
In addition to science-y fun, there will be typical festival faves like bounce houses, chalk artists and obstacle courses. Some of Adler’s local partners—from sports organizations to fellow museums—will be on hand with fun activities. And if you’ve ever wanted to soak an astronomer in a dunk tank? Well, you’re in luck.
Once the eclipse begins—at 11:54 a.m., to be exact—visitors can don their complimentary solar eclipse glasses or take advantage of specially outfitted telescopes to see the celestial sensation. It will take a couple of hours to reach 90 percent totality, but there will be periodic updates.
“This is a huge celestial moment that doesn’t happen very often,” says Annie Vedder, the planetarium’s curator of experience. “We are geeking out.”
If you can’t get to Museum Campus (or Daley Plaza, where a smaller event is planned), organize an eclipse party at home! Adler’s website explains how to make a pinhole projector, which allows you to safely view the eclipse (your Ray-Bans are not going to cut it). Just supplement with Moon Pies and Sun Chips for an out-of-this-world celebration.
Whatever you do, be sure to have your eyes on the sky, because the next time we’ll spy a total solar eclipse in Chicago is 2099. And as Vedder says, “It’s not every day that the moon moves over the sun.”
If you go
9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 21
Free (including general admission)
Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago