“The Adler Planetarium’s Mammoth Eclipse-Watching Block Party” by S.M. O’Connor

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum is hosting or helping organize an eclipse-viewing party for tens of thousands of people on-site and at other locations in three states tomorrow, Monday, August 21, 2017: Chicago’s Eclipse Fest.  People in the seventy-one-mile-wide path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina will be able to view the total solar eclipse, while people in other parts of the Continental United States will be able to see a partial solar eclipse (if they have clear skies overhead).   This will only be visible in the U.S.A, so it is being called the Great American Eclipse of 2017.  In Chicagoland, we will be able to see the solar eclipse in 87% totality, meaning a sliver of the solar disc will be visible behind the Moon, at 11:54 a.m.  This ring of the solar disc that will be visible from behind the Moon is called an annulus.

This will be the first total solar eclipse over the U.S.A. since 1979.  A total solar eclipse was visible in a single American state, Hawaii, in 1991.  The solar eclipse in 90% of totality tomorrow will be the closest Chicagoland has been to a total solar eclipse in ninety-two years, since 1925.  The last time there was a total solar eclipse over Chicago was in 1806, at a time when only a handful of people lived here.  The next partial solar eclipse visible in the U.S.A. will occur in 2021, the next total solar eclipse will be visible in the U.S.A. in 2024, and the next total solar eclipse visible in Chicago will be in 2099.  A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow over part of the Earth’s surface.  A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon blocks out entirely the view of the Sun from a portion of the Earth.  This is as opposed to a partial solar eclipse that blocks out part of the Sun.

To avoid damaging one’s eyes, it is vital that one not look directly at the Sun when any part of it is visible without a solar filter.  It is important to only purchase or accept solar filters from reputable sources.   Regular sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection.  Use a pair of CE-and-ISO-certified solar viewing glasses.  Alternatively, one can use #14 welder’s glass, but only if it is shade number 14.  It is only safe to view a total solar eclipse with the naked eye if (a) one is in the path of totality and (b) one waits to gaze upon the Moon while it is completely obstructing one’s view of the Sun.  One must then immediately re-don protective eyewear when the Sun begins to re-emerge from behind the Moon.

If one is unable to obtain the Adler Planetarium-branded glasses or any other solar viewing glasses, one can still view the eclipse indirectly with a pinhole projector (and of course it is perfectly safe to watch video or photographs of the eclipse).  To create a pinhole projector, poke a hole in either an index card or a paper plate and take a second index card along as a screen.  Stand with the Sun to one’s back.  [Remember, it is vitally important not to view the Sun through the pinhole.]  With one hand, hold up the index card or paper plate with the pinhole points in the direction of the Sun.   With the other hand, hold the screen in position to catch the sunlight pouring in through the pinhole.  Position the screen so one can view the Sun.

One can learn more about how to safely view the solar eclipse from the Adler Planetarium online at www.adlerplanetarium.org/equippedtoeclipse.  The American Astronomical Society has also created a Web site that addresses the subject, www.eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety, which is endorsed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (N.A.S.A.), the National Academy™ of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Optometry, the American Optometric Association, and the National Science Foundation.


Figure 1 Photo Credit: Adler Planetarium Caption: Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr. won an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for his design of the original building. Dirk Lohan, grandson of Mies van der Rohe, designed the C-shaped Sky Pavilion.

Guests at the Adler Planetarium will receive free solar-viewing glasses, talk with Adler Planetarium experts, participate in eclipse-related activities, and gather with a crowd anticipated to be 10,000 thousands of astronomy enthusiasts.  There will also be food trucks.   The first 30,000 Eclipse Fest visitors will receive free solar-viewing glasses.  These will be distributed one pair of solar-viewing glasses per person while supplies last.  Distribution of the glasses will begin at 9:30 a.m.  Outdoor activities are free.  Inside the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Eclipse Fest visitors will gain free admission to exhibits including the temporary exhibit Chasing Eclipses.


Figure 2 Photo Credit: Adler Planetarium Caption: The Adler Planetarium is located at the northeastern tip of Northerly Island in Burnham Park.  The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium comprise the Museum Campus.

The Adler Planetarium is located on Northerly Island, which is the only one of the manmade islands called for in Daniel Hudson Burnham, Senior’s Plan of Chicago to have actually been built.  It is one of the three institutions that form the Museum Campus in Burnham Park, the other two being The Field Museum of Natural History and the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

The parking lot adjacent to the Adler Planetarium will be in use for eclipse-related activities and will consequently be unavailable for parking.  Visitors who plan on driving should use the other parking lots on the Museum Campus and at Soldier Field.  A shuttle will run between Soldier Field and Chicago’s Eclipse Fest between 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.  The shuttle will pick passengers up on the north side of Soldier Field near the Chicago Transit Authority (C.T.A.) bus stop and drop them off at the Adler Planetarium.

Strongly recommending that visitors take public transportation, the Adler Planetarium has explained on its Web site that one can take the Red Line, Orange Line, or Green Line C.T.A. trains to the Roosevelt Stop, and then take walk over to the C.T.A. bus stop at the intersection of State Street and Roosevelt Road and board either a #146 bus or #130 bus.

Alternatively, one can rent a Divvy bicycle from any of the over 580 locations across Chicagoland.  Bike riders can save $2 off of a Divvy 24-Hour Pass with code ADLERIDE.  This will give one access to thousands of bicycles for a twenty-four-long period.

Adler Planetarium partners are hosting booths.  These will include the American Writers Museum, Bike and Roll, Broadway in Chicago, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Sky, Divvy, The Field Museum, Georama, Honest tea, ISEA Solar Ambassadors, KIND Bars, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, chalk artist Shawn Hayes, the Shedd Aquarium, Whole Foods, and the United States Postal Service.

On the Solar Eclipse Main Stage, one can see live coverage of the solar eclipse from Chicago and Carbondale.  There will be “Mad Science” demonstrations live on the Main Stage, eclipse trivia, and “Man on the Street” interviews.  One of the activities will be “Ask and Astronomer.”

Other outdoor activities will include human chalk dials, an opportunity to create sundials, solar car races, solar oven demonstrations, and an opportunity to build one’s own pinhole projector.  For the family, there will be light-and-shadow activities, telescope viewing, “Selfies From Space,” and carnival fun.  This will include giant Jenga®, bean bag tosses, a “gladiator” obstacle course, and a giant bounce house.

Indoor activities include a special twelve-minute-long “Eclipse Watch” show for $2 and the standard thirty-minute-long Adler sky show for $5, the solar eclipse “talk-back experience,” the Adler Collections Corner.  There will also be a cooling station.

There will be a satellite eclipse-viewing party at Daley Plaza in front of the Richard J. Daley Center.  Starting at 11:30 a.m., Adler Planetarium staff members will be distributing solar viewing glasses while supplies last and presenting telescope-viewing opportunities.

To promote Chicago’s Eclipse Fest, the Adler Planetarium installed giant eclipse-viewing glasses at points throughout the city.  The Blue Glasses was at the John Hancock Center from July 7th to July 21st; Maggie Daley Park from July 21st to August 4th; Grant Park from August 4th to August 18th; and at Adler Planetarium since August 19th, and it will remain through the 21st.  The Pink Glasses have been on display at Daley Plaza since July 10th and it will remain there through the 21st.  The Orange Glasses was at Oak Street Beach from July 14th to July 28th; the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library from July 28th to August 11th; and the Lagunitas Brewing Company since August 12th, and it will remain there through the 21st.  The Adler Planetarium is holding the #EquippedtoEclipse Instagram contest.  To enter, take a photograph with all three of the Adler Planetarium’s Traveling Eclipse Glasses.  Then upload the photos to Instagram using the hashtag #EquippedToEclipse.  The contest began at 12:00 a.m. on July 10, 2017 and will end at 11:59 p.m. Chicago Daylight Saving Time on August 21, 2017.  Read the official rules online here.

These organizations will also be distributing Adler Planetarium-branded solar viewing glasses while supplies last: the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois; the Chicago Park District; the Chicago Public Library; The Morton Arboretum; Naper Settlement in Naperville, Illinois; Sea Dog Cruises; and the Wonder Works, A Children’s Museum in Oak Park, Illinois.  Some of these venues will be hosting their own eclipse-viewing parties.  Check their Web sites for details.  The Chicago Botanic Garden will be hosting a Solar Eclipse Viewing event.  The Chicago Public Library will be holding eclipse activities at twenty-four libraries.  These will include five Great Solar Eclipse Observation Events at the Wrightwood-Ashburn Branch Library, the Richard M. Daley Branch Library, the Chinatown Branch Library, the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, and the North Austin Branch Library.  The Morton Arboretum is hosting a Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Drop-in Activity in the Sycamore Room.  Naper Settlement is hosting a free Solar Eclipse Viewing Picnic.  Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wonder Works is hosting an eclipse-viewing party covered by general admission.

The Adler Planetarium, N.A.S.A. EDGE, The N.A.S.A. 2017 Eclipse Team, and the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium are partnering with Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois to provide eclipse programming at Saluki Stadium, the S.I.U. football stadium.  There will be Adler Planetarium astronomers and educators to organize Eclipse Day activities, and answer questions, as well as view the eclipse.

Downstate viewers there will see the eclipse in its totality, meaning the Moon will completely block their view of the Sun.  The point of greatest duration for the total solar eclipse will be a few miles south of Carbondale.  People who want to experience the total eclipse in its greatest duration may join the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois at Giant City State Park.  This region of Southern Illinois will also be in the pathway of the 2024 solar eclipse.  Hence, this region will make for a unique vantage point to observe both eclipses.  The pathways of the two eclipses intersect around Cedar Lake, south of the S.I.U. main campus at Carbondale.  The second eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024.  S.I.U. has established a Web site to disseminate information about the two eclipses.  It is eclipse™ 2017-2024 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS Eclipse Crossroads of America: www.eclipse.siu.edu.

Tomorrow, at the main S.I.U. campus in Carbondale, the eclipse will begin at 11:52 a.m. and end at 2:47 p.m.  It will reach totality at 1:21 p.m.   The total eclipse will last for two minutes and thirty-eight seconds.  S.I.U. estimates that 60,000 people from the Cabondale area and put of state will gather in and around Saluki Stadium to watch the eclipse.  Eclipse glasses will be provided and eclipse video will be on the scoreboard.  At S.I.U., this is Eclipse Day and classes are cancelled to allow students to watch the eclipse.  Information were available at www.eclipse.siu.edu/tickets, but Saluki Stadium Eclipse Day tickets are sold out.  One can learn about festivities at www.eclipse.siu.edu/festivities.  These include the Eclipse Comic-Con in the SIU Student Center (August 19th and 20th); the Crossroads Astronomy, Science and Technology Expo in the S.I.U. Arena (August 20th and 21st); and the Crossroads Art and Craft Fair (August 20th and 21st).  One can purchase associated merchandise online at www.eclipse.siu.edu/oddicial-siu-eclipse-merchandise. Permits are required to park on the Carbondale campus tomorrow.  Parking on paved parking spaces has sold out.  However, a limited number of grass parking spaces remain available to the general public without Saluki Stadium Eclipse tickets.  Planetary Radio’s Mat Kaplan will be Master of Ceremonies.

N.A.S.A. TV will be broadcasting and streaming footage captured by twelve ground-based video feeds, aircraft, spacecraft, high-altitude balloons, and the International Space Station.  Further, N.A.S.A. TV will be streaming via Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, and Twitch.  N.A.S.A. Edge will be streaming a four-hour-long “megacast” from outside Saluki Stadium in cooperation with the N.A.S.A. Heliophysics Education Consortium, S.I.U., and Lunt Solar Systems.  The megacast will begin at 10:45 a.m. Central Daylight Saving Time.  N.A.S.A. Edge will live stream over Facebook Live and other platforms.  In San Francisco, the Exploratorium is partnering with N.A.S.A. to stream videos on the museum’s Android and iOS apps.  The Weather Channel has a slate of Total Solar Eclipse programming.  Molly Rubin of Quartz has a comprehensive list of television networks and online platforms that enable people to safely view the eclipse in parts of the U.S.A. outside the path of totality and in foreign countries.  W.G.B.H., the P.B.S. station in Boston that produces so much content for P.B.S., has created a 2017 Solar Eclipse Teacher’s Toolkit.

The Adler Planetarium Far Horizons team will be in Perryville, Missouri to launch two high-altitude balloons into the stratosphere.  They will be able to capture 360o video of the total solar eclipse.  Astronomers and other experts will be on hand in Perryville to answer questions.

The name of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum exhibit Chasing Eclipses is drawn from Rebecca R. Joslin’s book Chasing Eclipses: The Total Solar Eclipses of 1905, 1914, 1925, published in 1929.  The exhibit is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and ITW.

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum was founded by Sears, Roebuck & Company executive Max Adler (1866-1952) and famed Northwestern University astronomer Major Philip Fox, Ph.D.  The Adler Planetarium opened on May, 12, 1930 and the institution celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2015.  Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr. won an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for his design of the original building.   Chicago’s architectural firm of Lohan Associates designed the 60,000-square-foot Sky Pavilion (1998) and oversaw renovation of the original building (1999).  The architect of record was Dirk Lohan, grandson and student of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969).

The Women’s Board of the Adler Planetarium will host its biggest annual fundraiser on Saturday, September 9, 2017.  The 2017 Celestial Ball is being called Solar Flare.  A black-tie gala, the annual Celestial Ball raises around $1,700,000 to pay for educational programming.  Women’s Board President Linda Gerstman and 2017 Celestial Ball Co-Chairs Erika Lautman Bartelstein and Elisa Primavera-Bailey will host around 700 guests, including Chicago businessmen and businesswomen, civic leaders, and philanthropists. At the gala, Bob Livingston, President and C.E.O. of Dover, will accept the 2017 Corporate Partner Award on behalf of his company.

The Adler Planetarium has Summer Hours (9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) from Saturday June 10, 2017 to Monday, August 21, 2017.  The address is 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.  The phone number is (312) 922-7827.

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