For the first time since 1918, the United States gets treated to the sight of a total solar eclipse from coast-to-coast, giving nearly everyone in the U.S. a chance to see this rare and breathtaking event. The eclipse is coming up Monday, August 21st.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon goes in between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out the sun's light and casting the moon's shadow onto the Earth.
Depending on your location, only a fraction of the sun will be blocked. However, southern Illinois will be one of the prime areas to see something called 'totality', or when the moon completely blocks out the sun, turning day to night, and causing the moon to look like it has a ring of sunlight around it for a few minutes.
If you decide to take the trip to Carbondale (one of the best spots nearby for viewing) or other locations along the path of totality, be ready for travel headaches. IDOT estimates that up to 200,000 people may be traveling to southern Illinois to view the eclipse. Gianna Urgo of IDOT has the following tips for eclipse watchers making the drive:
-Prepare for increased traffic and travel delays. That many people on the road will slow things down, so leave early and plan ahead for slow downs.
-Pick your spot ahead of time. Pulling over to the side of the road to watch the eclipse may not be possible.
-Watch for other drivers and especially pedestrians. There will be a lot of extra foot traffic near prime viewing areas.
If you are staying closer to home, areas around Rockford may see the moon block about 90% of the sun, darkening the sky and making the moon look like its taking a bite out of the sun.
Remember, do not looking directly at the sun with proper viewing devices, even during the eclipse! You can order special solar viewing glasses, or use an indirect method like a pinhole projector.
One wild card? Cloud cover. If we see a cloudy day or rain and storms, we may miss out on seeing the eclipse. However, we won't have to wait another century for the next total solar eclipse to be seen from the U.S. The next one happens in just seven years.