Where to watch the Total Eclipse in Illinois on the cheap. If you haven’t heard a full solar eclipse is coming t0 the US. It will be moving from the northwest to the southeast on Monday, August 21,2017. The last total solar eclipse in the continental US was in 1979 and the next one will be April 8, 2024.
What you will see/How long it lasts
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location. For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds.
Watch the weather forecast
The main consideration here is the weather. If it’s cloudy you obviously won’t be able to see anything. The total eclipse only has a maximum duration of 2 minutes 40.2 seconds depending on where you are. You should start watching the weather forecast a week in advance to get an idea of where the best viewing location(s) might be. You may want to have a couple of alternate viewing locations and decide where to drive to at the last minute. Still there are no guarantees.
The link above takes you to an interactive NASA map. To find out how long the eclipse will be at any location click anywhere on the map to add a red marker. A popup window appears above the marker with the calculated eclipse times and duration for that location. Additional markers can be placed anywhere on the map. Move the cursor over a marker to reveal a popup window with the eclipse times for that position.
Where to view it
The best place to view the eclipse in Illinois, based on the path, will be in and around Carbondale. On the main Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) campus the partial phases of the eclipse start at 11:52 a.m. CST, totality will happen around 1:21 p.m. and the post-totality partial phases end at 2:47 p.m.
SIU has a website dedicated to the event. Carbondale is about a five hour drive from Chicago.
Amtrak has a stop in Carbondale from Chicago but you have to go the day before. Amtrak is sold out. All hotels in Carbondale and the surrounding area are sold out. SIU is offering indoor camping on campus but that may be sold out also.
For people who want to be right on the point of greatest duration, there is an event planned by the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois just south of the main Carbondale campus in Giant City State Park. You may be able to camp at Giant City State Park – Illinois DNR.
Prepare for chaos
Be prepared to contend with massive traffic from locals, tourists, eclipse-chasers, RV’s, buses, hippy vans, etc. States that are prime viewing areas are preparing for disaster by mobilizing the Red Cross. States are anticipating massive traffic jams, car accidents, people running out of gas, food and water. They are anticipating people sleeping on the side of roads and a restroom shortages.
Cell service in remote areas will be non-existent so bring paper maps rather than rely on GPS. Also bring back up cell batteries as charging will most likely not be available.
If you decide to drive be prepare to be stranded. Pack extra food and water. Fuel up. Be prepared to sit in huge traffic jams due to millions of extra people on the road or car accidents that may block roads.
Massive price gouging going on. Hotel rooms that would normally cost $125 a night are $500 or more and totally sold out.
Certified solar eclipse eyegear/Fakes on internet
I’ll quote NASA here:
Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” (example shown above) or handheld solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. To date three manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical.
Those recommended manufacturers only sell in quantities of 10 or more for less than $2 each. Just buy some for your friends. Many fake glasses are now being offered on the internet so buy from Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical only. Also it appears that price gouging is going on with glasses now.
If you’re serious about viewing the eclipse purchase glasses, prepare to be flexible, study the maps and charts and have multiple alternate locations mapped out. Prepare to camp or sleep in your car. Gas up and pack your car the night before and enjoy!