The Great American Eclipse


By Lisa Biehle Files

You may want to skip work Monday, August 21. Or at least the afternoon. On that day, the moon will pass in front of the sun, creating an 87% partial solar eclipse at about 1:20 p.m. in the Chicagoland area. In the ensuing darkness, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Mars may all be visible.

Those interested in seeing the full, 100% total eclipse are welcome to drive to the “path of totality” in southern Illinois or any other state along the diagonal swath that starts in Oregon in the morning and finishes in South Carolina by afternoon.

A cloudy day could ruin visibility anywhere along the route, which is why some eclipse chasers plan to camp out in Wyoming, where the likelihood of clear skies is best.

The “path of totality” has a width of 71 miles and just happens to stay within American borders all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, hence the moniker, “The Great American Eclipse.”

Wolfgang Strickling/Creative Commons

Wolfgang Strickling/Creative Commons

According to the Adler Planetarium website, the last time Chicagoans were this close to a “path of totality” was 1925.

Some local possibilities for viewing on August 21 are:

Adler Planetarium will host a free eclipse block party in their adjacent outdoor parking lot. There will be live music, games, science demonstrations, eclipse updates, trivia, food trucks, and more. The Planetarium encourages safe eclipse viewing with Eclipse Shades that can be ordered online or purchased the day of for $2.99. Regular sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. Solar filters are required. Adler is located at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago.

Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College will host safe observation of the partial solar eclipse with activities and tools to enjoy this memorable day. Between now and August 21, Cernan also hosts the program, “Totality,” which explains how and why eclipses occur. A past eclipse even helped prove general relativity. Shows are at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. Saturday (except for July 29, when replaced by Monthly Skywatch), and Sunday at 2 p.m. Cost ranges from $4 to $10, depending on the day you choose. Cernan is located at 2000 Fifth Ave., in River Grove.

Trailside Museum of Natural History invites visitors to view the partial eclipse through a special filter on their telescope. Maximum coverage of the sun by the moon will take place between 1 and 1:40 p.m., but viewers are invited to linger from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Trailside Museum is located at 738 Thatcher Ave., in River Forest. This event is free to the public.

Oak Park Public Librarywill host a free Solar Eclipse Viewing Party in Scoville Park from 11:54 a.m. to 2:53 p.m. If skies are rainy or cloudy, this event will be held in the library’s Veterans’ Room, where the eclipse will be live-streamed as it moves across the country. Guests will make pinhole projectors, try out science experiments, listen to a live band from School of Rock, and more. Children, teens, and adults are welcome. The library is located at 834 Lake St., next to Scoville Park.

For more information on The Great American Eclipse, go to: