Total solar eclipse to cross US soon. This Illinois spot will have one of the best views

For the second time in seven years, southern Illinois residents and visitors will have the chance to see a total solar eclipse this spring, something that’s typically a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The April 8 eclipse will allow metro-east and St. Louis region residents a chance to see a partial solar eclipse at 99% sun coverage, while southern Illinois is in the path of totality.

“On average, a single place sees a total solar eclipse every 375 years,” Bob Baer, specialist at the School of Physics and Applied Physics and co-chairperson, Southern Illinois Eclipse 2017-24 Steering Committee at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, told the News-Democrat recently. “So we’ve been very lucky to see two of them in just seven years.”

Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Paducah, Ky., are also in the path of totality this year, along with sites in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, according to NASA. Certain areas in Mexico and Canada will also see a total eclipse.

Here’s what to know about viewing the April 8 partial solar eclipse in the metro-east and St. Louis region, as well as what you can expect if you plan to make the trip to Carbondale to see the eclipse in totality.

Partial eclipse in metro-east and St. Louis

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and completely blocks the face of the sun, according to NASA, while a partial eclipse happens when the sun, moon and Earth are not perfectly aligned while the moon passes through.

Belleville and St. Louis will see a partial eclipse, while Red Bud will see 3 minutes and 50 seconds of totality this April. The partial eclipse will be visible in Belleville from 12:43 p.m. to 3:17 p.m. April 8, with a maximum at 2:01 p.m., according to online global clock Time and Date. Viewing times will be very similar in St. Louis.

“The St. Louis area is about a 99% partial, which means it will get just a little bit dark, but it won’t be anywhere near like totality,” Baer said.

April 8’s total solar eclipse will completely block the sun’s light and create a 115-mile-wide “path of totality” across much of the U.S. Those outside the path will see a partial solar eclipse. NASA Scientific Visualization Studio
April 8’s total solar eclipse will completely block the sun’s light and create a 115-mile-wide “path of totality” across much of the U.S. Those outside the path will see a partial solar eclipse. NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

It’s unsafe to look directly into the sun, and the only time you don’t risk permanent vision loss is during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse, NASA reports.

Because the eclipse will only be partial in Belleville and there will be no point where the sun’s light is entirely obscured by the moon, it will not be safe to look straight at the 2024 solar eclipse without proper eye protection at any point within the city.

“Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury,” NASA’s website reads.

To safely view an annular or partial eclipse, you need “eclipse glasses” or a safe, handheld solar viewer, NASA says. Regular sunglasses will not provide enough protection and are unsafe for this use.

Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, NASA reports, and they should comply with international standards. NASA does not “approve” any specific brands of solar viewers.

If you have eclipse glasses you used for the 2017 eclipse, you may be able to safely reuse them if they are in good condition, Baer said. You should check the back of your viewers to see if the manufacturer recommends discarding them, but if there’s not a note saying that and you don’t see any holes, smudges or big scratches, you should be good to use them again this April, Baer continued. They should be generally safe to use until the lenses sustain damage.

Baer recommended those who are looking to buy eclipse glasses this year consider purchasing them from Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics or DayStar Filters to avoid ending up with a fake pair.

“I would be very careful about getting them on Amazon. I know there’s some good reputable stores on Amazon, but in 2017 there were also a lot of counterfeits on Amazon,” Baer said. “And they just weren’t any good at all. So I would say try to buy them from a reputable manufacturer or a local vendor.”

SIU Carbondale staff will hand out about 50,000 free pairs of eclipse glasses to those attending events on campus this April, Baer added.

Total eclipse in Carbondale

SIU Carbondale will host the Crossroads Eclipse Festival from April 5 to April 8, including an arts and crafts fair, eclipse-themed musical concert, Run From the Sun 5K, an eclipse convention and more.

The main event at SIU Carbondale will be held at the stadium April 8, where experts from the university, Adler Planetarium and NASA will host a “guided eclipse experience.” Tickets for the stadium event are $25 a piece for nonstudents, and parking is $35.

“We have 4 minutes and 9 seconds of totality in the stadium, which is quite a lot,” Baer said.

The period of totality will begin at 1:59 p.m. at SIU Carbondale’s stadium, Baer continued. At more than 4 minutes, Carbondale’s period of totality will not be the longest in the world, but will be longer than in many other sites in the U.S.

“It’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see totality,” Baer said.

Total solar eclipses typically occur somewhere in the world every year and a half on average, Baer said. The next time any part of the U.S. will see a total solar eclipse will be in the 2040s, and Carbondale will not be in the path of totality, Baer continued. Chicago will see a total solar eclipse in 2111, NBC Chicago reported.

“I always tell people wherever you wanna see it from, just make sure you see it. Because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. It’s life-changing for some people,” Baer said.