By Kelly Youngblood
Mark your calendars now! On Aug. 21 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States and Southern Illinois is considered one of the best places to view this rare and spectacular event.
In fact, the Carbondale area, which is about three hours south of Champaign, is where the total solar eclipse can be viewed the longest out of any other place on the path. Carbondale is expected to get about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality.
During those minutes when the moon completely “blocks” the sun, it will become darker, the temperature will drop, and some of the brighter stars and planets will become visible. Pretty cool, huh? The total eclipse will begin at 1:20 p.m.
David Leake, the director of the Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College, says he has never personally seen a total solar eclipse but he’s excited to be planning a trip with his astro club to witness it firsthand in Southern Illinois next year.
“I hear it is a wonderful experience,” Leake said.
SIU at Carbondale is planning lots of activities on the day of the eclipse with a public viewing planned on the football stadium. For more information about eclipse events at SIU, go here.
Many people have already reserved campsites and booked hotel rooms in the Carbondale area so it could be tough to find a place to stay. If you’re interested in heading south to view the total eclipse, now is the time to make those reservations!
For those who decide to stay closer to home, you can expect to see something but nothing quite like what you’d see in Southern Illinois.
Leake said in the Champaign-Urbana area, only 93 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon which means people will see a thin “crescent sun” in the sky.
He pointed out even seven percent of the sun is still bright enough to blind a person, so proper safety equipment like special eclipse glasses must be used. (They sell those glasses at Parkland for $1 FYI.)
There are other eclipse safety solutions that include projecting an image with a telescope or making a pinhole projector. This website talks about ways to safely view an eclipse.
Leake hopes local educators will take advantage of the chance to let their students experience a partial eclipse.
“What an awesome teaching opportunity,” he said. “You want kids to be able to do this; the key is just to make sure they are doing it safely.”
Here in Champaign-Urbana, the eclipse will start at 11:53 a.m., when the moon starts to move in front of the sun. The maximum eclipse happens at 1:20 p.m. and the entire thing will be over at 2:44 p.m., Leake said.
While total eclipses aren’t necessary rare if you’re willing to travel, they don’t happen very often in the United States.
The last total eclipse in the United States was in 1979. And the last coast to coast eclipse in this country was in 1918.
If you can’t make it to the Carbondale area next year, another total eclipse is expected to occur there on April 8, 2024.
For more information about the 2017 eclipse in Illinois, go to http://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/illinois/.