Safely Watching Monday’s Solar Eclipse

Luc Viatour /

On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the country from Oregon to South Carolina, passing through southern Illinois during its journey. While the total eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path and only for about two and a half minutes, all of Illinois will see a partial solar eclipse. Here are some things to know about viewing the eclipse.

Never look directly at the sun.

During the eclipse, the only time that will be safe to look at the eclipse is during totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun. Even with the moon blocking much of the sun, it is still too bright to look at without using special solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” Be aware that there are some unsafe eclipse glasses being sold, and Amazon has issued a refund for those who have purchased ineffective glasses. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has published a list of safe solar filters. AAS also has other ways, including pinhole projection, which you can use to safely view the eclipse.

What will the eclipse look like where I live?

Time Magazine has created a solar eclipse simulator that will show you how much of the sun will be covered as the eclipse happens. Simply type in your zip code or location.

What should I know about travelling to see the total eclipse?

Expect heavy traffic and delays. The Illinois Department of Transportation anticipates that between 100,000 and 200,000 will be visiting southern Illinois to view the eclipse, since the longest period of totality will be in that area. The department has a special web page dedicated to travelling on Illinois roads for the eclipse.

Is it worth it to travel to see the total eclipse?

From those who have experienced a total eclipse, it is described as an incredible, even life-altering, experience. The difference from seeing the sun 99.9% eclipsed and 100.0% eclipsed is literally like night and day. Check out the TED Talk from David Baron below. Note that if you can’t catch Monday’s eclipse, you’ll get another chance on April 8, 2024 as a total eclipse passes from Texas through southern Illinois and much of Indiana.