BYRON – A total solar eclipse is a rare event to begin with, but one that people can see in their own area is very special.
In fact, it happens about once every 375 years.
Luckily, the next on will be on Aug. 21, and people in Illinois will be able to view it. While the eclipse will be total in Southern Illinois – meaning the moon will completely block out the sun – in our area the coverage will be about 86.9 percent, said Vicki Funke, manager of the J. Weiskopf Observatory and an amateur astronomer.
“For us, this is the big one for our lifetime,” she said of the eclipse.
A total solar eclipse is when the sun, moon and Earth align, which means the moon blocks the sun from view. But not for long: In Carbondale, where the eclipse will be total, the full coverage will last about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, Funke said. The entire event will last about four hours.
There won't be that much coverage in Ogle County, but it will be close.
“We're going to have it blocked about 86.9 percent, something like that,” Funke said. “We will see a little sliver of the sun that won't be covered.”
A great place to watch the eclipse will be the observatory, which is part of the Byron Forest Preserve. Funke said they have viewing glasses, a solar viewer and the public can also get a look at the eclipse through the telescope, which will be fitted with a filter to make for safe viewing.
The observatory's eclipse event will run from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Aug. 21.
For those planning on viewing the eclipse at home or elsewhere, Funke reminded them not to look directly at the sun, which can damage your eyes. She suggest eclipse glasses, a telescope with a solar filter fitted on the front, or even a pinhole viewer. A pinhole viewer can be made by punching a small hole in a piece of cardboard and holding a piece of paper under it. The outline of the eclipse will be seen on the paper.
Funke also suggested finding a tree with a lot of leaves and standing under it. She said once the eclipse starts, the sun will project thousands of little crescents on the ground.
She said there are two solar eclipses each year, but they are not always a total solar eclipse. The next total solar eclipse will come in 2024. In our area, it will be a partial eclipse, covering about 90 percent of the sun.
If it is a sunny day, it will be darker during the eclipse. Funke said it could also be cooler.