Your Solar Eclipse Pocket Guide – Everything You Need To Know For Today’s Solar Show

A wall projection inside Chasing Eclipses giving us a sneak peek at what to expect during the solar eclipse of 2017. Image provided by Adler Planetarium.

The day has finally arrived. Unless you’ve been very, very distracted,  you’re probably aware that starting around 11:54 am today, local time, a total solar eclipse will occur. That’s rare enough, but this eclipse will also be visible to millions of people across the country, since its path cuts straight across the United States mainland, which hasn’t happened since 1918. We’re even luckier here in Illinois, as downstate Carbondale will be experiencing totality for the longest duration anywhere in the eclipse’s path. Traffic was already piling up last night on I-57 as people head downstate to view it, but Chicago’s view is nothing to sneer at either. Though at post time the cloud cover was expected to be around 30% for today,  and we should experience almost 90% totality here in Chicago. We covered some of the amazing science behind this spectacular solar display when we visited the Adler Planetarium’s special exhibit on solar eclipses back in April, but we wanted to give our readers a little more to know before you go. What follows are resources for today’s phenomenon, from weather and timing guides to photography and safety tips.  Keep our article handy on your smartphone and you’ll have everything you need to experience the eclipse safely and fully.

Don’t forget to wear eye protection when you view the eclipse. Photo via NASA HQ.`


First off, let’s cover safety. If you don’t already have eclipse glasses, acquiring them should be priority one. Retinal damage can occur while viewing solar eclipses with the naked eye, and the scariest part about that is that it’s likely you won’t feel it happening. Adler Planetarium gave out tons of solar eclipse glasses, and local stores may still have some in supply. If they don’t, go old school and create a pinhole camera for viewing the eclipse safely. Make sure to vet any DIY solar eclipse viewing equipment with reliable sources so that you’ll still be able to enjoy other sights after this solar shocker. All eclipse glasses should be rated  ISO 12312-2 and when worn in normal light, should block out almost everything except the sun. Once you’ve taken the proper precautions, don’t panic. Solar eclipses are amazing, and should be enjoyed. There’s no need for alarm about pets or staying off the roads if you’re smart about how you handle each situation.

Here are some links you can follow for info on Eclipse Safety:

NASA has a very complete guide to solar safety here:

Mental Floss penned an amusing and helpful article on pet safety here:

Finally, WGN-TV has some tips for drivers during the eclipse:

Edmond Halley, ‘A description of the Passage of the Shadow of the Moon over England.. Photo provided by Adler Planetarium


Next let’s talk weather and timing. Thunderstorms should hold off til later, but some clouds are expected for the event itself. This doesn’t mean that you won’t get a peek though, so keeping up on the weather is a fantastic idea. Another important factor for planning is timing. The eclipse should start around 11:54 am, and end around 2:42, while totality is said to be expected at 1:19 pm.

Here’s some good links for up to the minute weather and timetables:

Wunderground is a great place to look at the radar and get an idea what the weather will do, with available mobile apps:

For more local coverage, our favorite stop is WGN’s Weather Center with Tom Skilling. While he’ll be in Carbondale, you can still check out his weather predictions here:

The most accurate timetable for each area of the country comes from NASA, and you can find that table here:

J.M. Schaeberle, Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun observed at Mina Bonces, image provided by Adler Planetarium


Let’s face it, we likely all want to get a good shot of this phenomenon, since we’re going to have to wait til 2024 to see it again (though really, that’s a pretty short time, considering!) If you dabble in photography or love  to use your camera phone, there’s a lot you need to know. For example, do NOT wear your eclipse glasses and then look through a naked lens. Also keep in mind that the sun can damage expensive camera equipment (or phones) too, so precautions should be taken.

Here’s a few places with tips and tricks to get a shot you’ll remember:

Digital Photography School has a great article on equipment and includes some practical tips, like not wasting too much time on any one shot, since the duration of time the “diamond ring” effect can be seen is so short. Here’s their coverage:

National Geographic has a comprehensive guide too, with guides by famous photographers and even instructions on how to create a time lapse:

An annular solar eclipse as viewed from Japan. Photo via Takeshi Kuboki


Forget productivity for a moment and remember how rare this occasion is. To that end, have FUN with it! There’s plenty of ways to do that locally and we’ve got a few ideas

Here’s ways to have fun during this solar eclipse: 

We’ve got a world class planetarium in a great spot for viewing. The Adler Planetarium is hosting a free event. Crowds up to 10K are expected, so go early!:

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a gorgeous place on a regular day, but it’d also be a great spot for catching the eclipse. An added bonus? Sunshine the Corpse Flower just bloomed last night!:

Meanwhile, if you want a collectible reminder, make a stop at the post office and grab some eclipse stamps!:

Wherever you are, we hope you’ll #LookUp and enjoy this rare event.



Marielle Bokor
Marielle Bokor