Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Eclipse (and Where to View It in Chicago)

Something extraordinary will happen on Aug. 21 in the skies above the U.S. mainland. A total solar eclipse will cast the moon’s shadow along a path across the 48 states.

People have been talking about and preparing for this eclipse for more than a year. What makes it so special?

Total Eclipse Viewings in the U.S. are Rare

The last time people in the U.S. saw an eclipse like this, in full totality, was Feb. 26, 1979. Full totality means the sun is completely blocked by the moon. How does this happen?

As we know, the earth and moon travel around the sun. During its travels, sometimes the moon’s path crosses in between the sun and the earth. As a result, the moon blocks the sun’s light from reaching earth. Even though the moon’s diameter is about 400 times smaller than the sun’s, it is also 400 times closer to earth. Therefore, the moon can totally block the sun, despite its size.

Even though a solar eclipse happens about once every 18 months, Americans often don’t see them because of our position on the planet. If we’re not in the direct line of the moon’s shadow, we miss out on the show.

Where Can You See The Solar Eclipse?

eclipse: tool by Vox

Courtesy of Vox.

This super cool tool from Vox not only explains how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to see from your neighborhood, but it also gives you the exact time you need to look to see the sun being covered by the moon, and how far you have to drive to have the best view.

eclipse: Vox tool

Courtesy of Vox.

Since the moon’s shadow will travel directly across the U.S., visitors will find many places to witness the moon passing in between the sun and Earth. The total eclipse is expected to last up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds, according to NASA.

Here’s a map showing the path of the eclipse’s shadow on Aug. 21.

Some of the largest cities along the “path of totality” include:

  • Corvallis, Albany and Lebanon, Oregon
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Casper, Wyoming
  • Grand Island and Lincoln, Nebraska
  • St Joseph, Missouri
  • Kansas City, Kansas
  • St Louis, Missouri
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina

Even if you don’t live in these cities, most people across the U.S. will get a partial view of the eclipse. And, if you want to travel to see it better, there are enough locations along the path that are just a one-day drive away.

Staying Safe During The Solar Eclipse

Whether you decide to travel or stay put, remember that watching a solar eclipse requires special equipment. No one should ever look directly at the eclipse as it happens. The sun’s rays can do some serious damage to our eyes.

You can pick up special eclipse glasses or solar viewers via sites like Amazon. These glasses help protect your eyes from the damaging rays. And they are inexpensive: Many are under $15. Yes, they may look like the retro 3D movie glasses from 60 years ago, but they’ll allow you to view one of the coolest astronomy events out there.

The next total eclipse the U.S. will witness won’t be until April 8, 2024.

Written by Marie Rossiter for Simplemost.


Where to Tap into the Eclipse Excitement in Chicago

Don’t want to leave town? There are some great ways to watch and celebrate the eclipse right here at home.

1. Eclipse Day at Saluki Stadium at SIU

  • Guided eclipse and entertainment activities, an arts and craft fair, science expo, the Crossroads Festival (food, carnival and music), and an Eclipse Comic Con

2. Adler Planetarium Eclipse Fest

  • A “block party” of entertainment, hands-on science, local food trucks, eclipse updates, and more in addition to a special exhibit called Chasing Eclipses

3. 360 Chicago Eclipse Dance Party

  • Dance on an observation deck with free viewing glasses and a space-themed playlist from a DJ along with cocktail specials

4. Oak Lawn Public Library Solar Eclipse Party

  • Video feed from NASA, hands-on activities and outdoor viewing for ages 7+

5. Kohl Children’s Museum Solar Eclipse Exploration

  • Free event to learn about and explore the eclipse with demonstrations from noon to 2:30 p.m., and free NASA-approved glasses

6. DIY

Written by Manon Blackman. 


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