The Buzz

Get ready: Two solar eclipses are on the horizon

An adult and two children wearing solar viewing glasses while looking up at a solar eclipse.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Get ready to avert your eyes and hope for clear skies. Two upcoming solar eclipses will have us heading outdoors in hopes of seeing these memorable events in person, but both will require special eclipse glasses for safe viewing, so consider yourself warned. 

The two upcoming eclipses will be different types of solar eclipses. The first, on Oct. 14, will be an annular solar eclipse, which is also called a ring of fire eclipse, and on April 8, we will experience a total solar eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth at a time when the moon is at its farthest point from Earth, called the apogee. Because the moon is so far from Earth, it does not completely block the sun, according to NASA. Most of the sun will be blocked by the moon, but the outer edge will remain visible, creating a bright ring of light, hence the name ring of fire. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon slips between the sun and Earth, entirely blocking the sun. As the moon blocks the sun, the sky gets dark, like it does when the sun sets as day turns to night.

Not all places on Earth experience an eclipse or even part of an eclipse, so we should consider ourselves lucky that we will experience both the October and April eclipses to an extent, although not entirely. The ring of fire eclipse in October will be visible across North America, Central America and South America, NASA reports. The path of totality for the annular eclipse traverses parts of the western United States, including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas. The farther away you are from that path, less of the sun will be blocked by the moon. In Illinois, between 40% and 50% of the sun will be obscured during the ring of fire eclipse.

Similarly, the total solar eclipse on April 8 will be visible across North America, but to what extent depends on your exact location. The path of totality — where you can experience the full effects of it, with the sun entirely blocked by the moon — travels a long path across North America, from Mazatl├ín, Mexico, to Newfoundland, Canada, according to NASA. If you want to experience the totality of the April 8 eclipse, you'll have to travel, but you won't have to go too far.

The path of totality travels across southern Illinois, with towns including Carbondale, Mount Vernon and Effingham experiencing the total eclipse for varying lengths of time. Towns and cities closest to the path of totality will experience the total phase for longer than areas farther away from it. In Illinois, Carbondale is directly along the path of totality and will experience the total phase for 4 minutes and 8 seconds. Effingham is a little outside the narrow path and will experience the total phase for only 49 seconds. 

For those of us who choose to stay in northern Illinois, the eclipse will still be a show, with more than 90% of the sun obscured by the moon at its peak. The eclipse will start at about 12:50 p.m. local time and last until about 3:20, with maximum coverage occurring at 2:07 p.m.

The last time a total solar eclipse was visible for a large portion of the Unites States and North America was in 2017, but after the 2024 eclipse we will have a long wait to experience another. The next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the contiguous United States won't be until Aug. 23, 2044, according to NASA. The last annular solar eclipse that could be viewed in America was in May 2012, when it was visible in the western U.S. The next one will be on June 21, 2039, although it will not be visible to as great an extent in the United States as the October annular eclipse.

Both the total eclipse and the annular eclipse should not be viewed without specialized eye protection, NASA advises. Both require the use of solar viewing glasses, also called eclipse glasses, or a handheld solar viewer. If viewing the eclipse through a camera, telescope or binoculars, you should use a solar filter to protect against severe eye injuries. During the total phase of a total solar eclipse, it is safe to look at the sun, but remember that here in Will County we will not experience a total eclipse.

Regular sunglasses do not offer suitable eye protection during an eclipse. Solar viewing glasses are thousands of times darker than even the darkest sunglasses. Always inspect your eclipse glasses for tears, scratches and other damage before using them during an eclipse, and make sure children are supervised while using them.

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