Later this month, for the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will pass across the United States from coast to coast.
The 70 mile-wide line in which the total eclipse will be visible cuts a swathe across the country—and right through Illinois.
In fact, on Aug. 21, if you are anywhere around Carbondale or on that line you will, weather permitting, be treated to one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.
One person who intends to make sure she will be in place to observe this majestic spectacle is Kris McCall, director of the Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College in River Grove.
“I’m definitely going to make the trip,” said McCall. “I have been talking about this eclipse for 26 years so I have plans to go to totality—I’ll either be in Kentucky or Tennessee.”
While historically many cultures viewed eclipses with a mixture of fear and awe—for example the ancient Chinese thought a dragon was consuming the Sun—McCall says that there is one tribe in West Africa that had a more benign view of what was going on.
“They believed that the Sun and the Moon were loving husband and wife,” said McCall. “But they didn’t get to meet each other very often because they were always in motion, always busy. But every so often, when the Sun and the Moon got together they would turn off the lights for modesty.”
If you are planning on observing the eclipse, the most important thing to remember is to never look directly at the Sun unless you have proper protection for your eyes.
“You need to take great care,” said McCall. “Do not look at the Sun through sunglasses even if you put three or four pairs together. You can use welding glass to look at the Sun directly but it has to be number 14 welding glass. You can also get a pair of certified solar glasses that block 99.9999 percent of the Sun’s light.”
McCall says you should be able to buy those glasses for around a buck a piece.
McCall joins Phil Ponce to discuss all things eclipse.
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July 25: A team led by Adler Planetarium astronomer Grace Wolf-Chase used a telescope instrument to discover infrared light undetectable to the human eye, revealing new stars in the Milky Way.
July 12: Are you ready to party like it’s 1925? That’s the last year Chicago experienced a solar eclipse like it will next month. To celebrate, the Adler Planetarium is hosting a daylong block party, and you’re invited.
June 9: Citizen scientists can help researchers discover new distant galaxies as part of the Adler-led Zooniverse project.