I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the total solar eclipse coming our way on Monday, Aug. 21. The last time the Chicagoland area was this close to the eclipse was 92 years ago! After listening to a presentation by The Adler Planetarium’s Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing, I am now prepared and even more excited to safely view this magical event! Here’s what I learned, plus a few spots that are celebrating this historic celestial event.
What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the moon casts a shadow on Earth, fully or partially blocking the sun’s light in some areas. It’s a spectacle when the earth, moon and sun perfectly align. And if we’re lucky enough and the sky is clear, observers in the path of totality will be able to see the moon completely cover the sun revealing the sun’s corona, the sun’s outermost atmosphere. It will look as if there is a black hole in the sky. Viewers outside the path will see a partial eclipse instead. Day will turn into night and temps will drop.
What is so special about this one?
Total solar eclipses themselves are rare, but the path of the moon’s shadow will pass through the entire United States from Oregon to South Carolina. This spectacle has even been dubbed “The Great American Eclipse.”
Tips to view the eclipse
If you’re looking up in the sky: Never look directly at the sun without appropriate eyewear. Don’t even think about using regular sunglasses since they won’t be safe at all! Make sure to buy your sunglasses from a reputable vendor such as Eclipse.aas.org, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, Rainbow Symphony and Lunt Solar System. Avoid getting something from China, as you won’t be sure the glasses have been tested. When you get your glasses, make sure you inspect them for any holes and scratches.
If you’re looking down: Make a pinhole projector. Sunlight streaming through the hole will cast an image of the sun on a screen. This NASA webpage has great resources on how you can make one. You can also find items such as leaves that have natural holes made from insects or even Ritz crackers.
If you will be watching the total solar eclipse, be prepared. Find your spot as early as possible. Pack as if you’re camping. (High volumes of traffic are expected.) Charge your batteries and bring your charger. Make sure your gas tank is full.
Total-ly fun events
If you truly want to experience the eclipse and all its magic, the best place for viewing a total eclipse is in southern Illinois at Carbondale, where they will experience totality the longest at two minutes, 43 seconds. If a trip downstate is not possible, attend one of these special events in the area instead:
1300 S Lake Shore Dr., Chicago
9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Adler Planetarium is going all out and celebrating all things solar with Eclipse Fest. We’re talking free outdoor activities including live entertainment, hands-on science for all ages, local food trucks and eclipse updates. Guests will receive free solar viewing glasses, participate in eclipse-related activities and get the chance to talk with Adler experts. Viewers should be able to see the eclipse at 87 percent totality. General admission to the museum will also be free! Even if you can’t make it to the event at the Planetarium, gear up with all the facts and knowledge about this fascinating event when viewing the special temporary exhibit, Chasing Eclipses.
The Adler Planetarium is also partnering with Southern Illinois University to provide eclipse-day programming in and around the SIU football stadium.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn more about what will happen to the moon’s shadow during the eclipse by walking along a huge scale model of the earth, moon and sun. Family drop-in activities will be eclipse-themed. Eclipse glasses and pinhole projectors will be available, and demonstrations will show participants how to view the partial eclipse safely. In addition, kids can participate in acting out the eclipse to help them visualize it. There will also be storytelling, including the kinds of mythical legends that have been inspired by nature’s majesty.
Algonquin Area Public Library
2600 Harnish Dr.
11:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m.
The library will be giving out special viewing glasses on August 21 (provided by NASA@ My Library and STAR_Net).
Discovery Center Rockford
711 N. Main St., Rockford
10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Discovery Center Rockford has two eclipse-themed events. On Sunday, gather all the info you need to understand how the tiny moon can block all the light from our gigantic sun. Take in a special planetarium show, explore sun-moon-earth relationships, manipulate models of scale, size, and movement, and build tools to safely view the eclipse. On Monday, Eclipse Day, activities from the day before will be repeated, but you’ll be outside watching the spectacle in person. Maximum coverage expected to be at noon.
4100 Illinois Rt. 53, Lisle
Aug. 20, 2017, noon to 2 p.m. and Monday, August 21, 2017, 11 a.m to 2 p.m.
Learn all about solar eclipses – why, how it happens, and how to safely view it. Eclipse viewing glasses will be provided.
523 S. Webster St., Naperville
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Bring your lunch for a solar eclipse picnic at Naper Settlement. Listen to celestial legends and view the total eclipse on the main green. Complimentary viewing glasses will be available.
Crabtree Nature Center
3 Stover Rd., Barrington
Before 11:54 a.m.
See the partial solar eclipse with their filtered scope. The eclipse will start at 11:54 a.m.
Can’t make it anywhere? Tons of people will be live streaming. Here is NASA’s link.
Don’t miss out on these events. After all, the next total solar eclipse visible over the continental United States will be on April 8, 2024.