Final countdown begins for total solar eclipse gatherings in Carbondale, Chicago's Adler Planetarium

Monday, April 8, 2024
Carbondale prepares for total solar eclipse
ABC7 Meteorologist Larry Mowry is in Carbondale, Illinois ahead of the 2024 solar eclipse.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The final countdown has begun Sunday ahead of the total solar eclipse on Monday.

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Millions of people will be looking up to the sky to witness the eclipse, and viewing locations across Illinois have been preparing for the phenomenon.

Total solar eclipse in Southern Illinois

You will only see a true total solar eclipse in southern Illinois, where the largest city in the path of totality is Carbondale.

RELATED: April 8 partial solar eclipse times and magnitudes across the United States

The eclipse begins around 12:43 p.m. Central Time. In Carbondale, about 50% of the sun will be covered by about 1:27 p.m., then half an hour later the big show will begin at 1:59 p.m. Carbondale will experience a total solar eclipse that is expected to last about four minutes and 10 seconds before the moon moves out of the area.

Lots of locals are packing up to head south for the weekend, excited to bask in a total eclipse.

A team from the Adler Planetarium in Chicago is headed to Carbondale to emcee a watch party at Southern Illinois University's Saluki Stadium.

Many have been welcomed to Southern Illinois' campus with a full slate of events from "Eclipse Con Strikes Back" with costumes and role play.

I'm excited it's lasting so long. Four minutes is a very long time. I've actually never seen a total solar eclipse," said Samantha Barnes.

Some are even making the memory permanent with new ink.

"Tonight we're here to see several bands that are local to the community," said Laura Johnson. "I got this tattoo for the solar eclipse. My best friend has the other half of the circle. Mine says 'no matter what' and her says 'no matter where.'"

University of Chicago astronomy professor Josh Frieman and dozens of his students are headed to the campus too.

"We're going to be in a football stadium at Southern Illinois University. I imagine the cheering will be as loud or louder than if they're football team just scored a touchdown," he said.

For a town of just over 20,000 people expecting at least five times that many people, for Monday's main event, where do you put everyone? Well, SIU opened up unused dorms for people to stay.

"The dorm is awesome, because its just like being back at college," said retired Chicago Public Schools teacher Carol Moran.

"We're reliving our college days again, a little spare to some of the other spots we've been but it's worked out well," said Linda and Richard Martens, who are from Oak Park.

2024 solar eclipse will give Chicago quite a show

The final countdown to the solar eclipse 2024 has begun for Chicago's Adler Planetarium.

But just because totality is down south doesn't mean there won't be a show here in the city.

In fact, Chicago should experience about 94% eclipse coverage, and the Adler is ready for it.

READ MORE: Adler Planetarium solar eclipse celebrations include free outdoor event, eclipse glasses giveaway

"We'll be doing a big eclipse event here at the planetarium, a free outdoor event called Eclipse Encounter," said Hunter Miller, public observing educator at the Adler. "You'll be able to look at some projections of the solar eclipse through telescopes. We'll be handing out a limited supply of solar viewers to make sure you can safely look at the eclipse."

The timeline for the eclipse in Chicago is a little different, since it's not in the path of totality. The city's partial solar eclipse will begin around 12:51 p.m., and by 1:33 p.m. nearly 50% of the sun will be covered. By 2:07 p.m., Chicago will be at our maximum solar eclipse coverage, 93.9%.

SAFETY FIRST: Everything you need to enjoy the eclipse safely including solar glasses and more

In the former Hancock building, 360 Chicago will also be open and hosting a viewing party.

"We've got unobstructed views, so our guests will be able to follow the path of the eclipse as it moves through the Chicago sky," said Nichole Benolken, managing director.

Organizers at the Pullman National Historical Park are also planning to welcome people to see the partial eclipse from the view of the city's South Side.

National Park Service Ranger Lisa Burback recalled the 2017 partial eclipse.

"I'm a resident here in Pullman, so I was right here in the neighborhood, and we didn't have a place to gather as a community then for the event, which is what inspired us to put this together," Burback said.

The show in the sky will be over in Chicago around 3:21 p.m.

"I think it's going to be the perfect conditions for this beautiful solar eclipse," Burback said. "We're going to be outside, so as many folks would like to come, we are happy to have them here."

Solar eclipse glasses: Wear them the entire eclipse, don't take them off!

On Sunday, lines were wrapped around the building at the American Science and Surplus in Park Ridge, where specialized glasses to safely see the eclipse were on sale.

If you're watching the eclipse in Chicago or anywhere outside complete totality, make sure you are using your solar eclipse viewing glasses and keep them on the entire time.

"We are certainly very aware of all the safety measures. We will encourage everyone to take those precautions," Burback said.

The only time it is considered safe to look directly at the sun is during the brief total phase of the eclipse, when coverage is at 100%, which in Southern Illinois will last just a bit more than four minutes.

The moment the moon moves to even 99% coverage, you will sustain eye injuries, which can be severe, NASA warns.

Doctor Michael Savitt with Advocate Health Care says at any vantage point, looking into the sun without those specialized glasses could cause permanent damage to your eyes, in some cases, instantly.

"The retina is the insight lighting of the eye, and that's sort of like the film in your camera and the light is focused on that retina. If you look into the sun for any period of time, even when it's not an eclipse, you could burn your retina," Savitt said. "During an eclipse, people are staring at the sun, and the sun is partially covered, so it's more comfortable to look at the sun. And, there's no pain associated with this burn. It's not like burning your hand and you pull your hand away. Thus, you won't feel much of anything if that burn occurs."

Savitt also encouraged people to be wary of where you buy the specialized glasses.