Preparing for the 2024 Solar Eclipse in Illinois

One of nature’s most spectacular shows is a total eclipse of the sun. On April 8, 2024, Illinois will be treated to such an event. From Mexico to Canada, the path of totality will cross the continental United States, passing through nine states, including parts of Illinois.

A total eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the sun, revealing the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona. The last time a total eclipse was visible across all of Illinois was on August 21, 2017. The 2024 eclipse will happen on April 8. In Illinois, the eclipse will peak at 1:19 PM CST, and the entire eclipse will last over two hours.

Where Will the Path of Totality Be in 2024?

The path of totality is the moon’s shadow cast as it moves in front of the sun during a total eclipse. It’s usually about 100 miles wide and extends several thousand miles long. The path of totality for the 2024 eclipse will cross Illinois through Carbondale. It will first make landfall in the Western Hemisphere in Mexico before moving up through the US. The centerline of the eclipse path will cross through Carbondale in Southern Illinois before heading up towards Ohio, New York, Vermont, Maine, and eventually, into Canada.

Can You See the Lunar Eclipse in Illinois?

We don’t have to wait until 2024 to witness an astronomical event in Illinois. On November 8, 2022, we will see a lunar eclipse in good-old Illinois. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the lunar surface.

Since the moon doesn’t produce light, we only see the silver rock orbiting our planet when light from the sun reflects off it. This is one reason the moon waxes and wanes each month; as the moon orbits Earth, different amounts of sunlight hit it depending on its position.

During a full moon, the sun and moon are on opposite sides of Earth, and the entire lunar surface is bathed in sunlight. The new moon phase happens when the sun and moon line up so that the lunar surface is facing away from us and sunlight can’t reflect off the moon.

Lunar eclipses happen only during full moons. But not every full moon causes an eclipse; the three celestial bodies must be lined up just right for it to happen. The type of eclipse we see depends on how the sun, Earth, and moon line up.

There are three types of lunar eclipses:

  • Total: During a lunar eclipse, the sun, Earth, and moon line up perfectly, and the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon. This can only happen when the moon is close enough to Earth to pass through our planet’s umbra, the darkest part of the shadow.
  • Partial: If the moon is too far away to pass through the umbra, it will only partially enter Earth’s shadow. During a partial eclipse, part of the moon appears darkened while the rest remains lit by sunlight.
  • Penumbral: The penumbral eclipse is the most common type of eclipse. It happens when the moon passes through Earth’s outer shadow or penumbra. During a penumbral eclipse, the moon darkens slightly, but it’s not as noticeable as a partial eclipse.

How Can I See the 2024 Eclipse?

You’ll want to ensure you have the proper eyewear to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. Looking directly at the sun, especially during an eclipse, can cause severe eye damage.

Several types of solar filters will allow you to view the eclipse safely. Solar glasses or handheld solar viewers are the most common type of filter. These must meet international safety standards (look for ISO 12312-2). Do not use regular sunglasses; they won’t protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.

No matter how you view the eclipse, ensure you take precautions to protect your eyes. Looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause severe eye damage.