Chicago, North America

Solar Eclipse Preparations: Ten Things You’re Forgetting

Make Sure You Don’t Forget Anything!

Last Minute Preparations for the Solar Eclipse

With the solar eclipse upon us, here are some last minute things to keep in mind to maximize your viewing experience!  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity (though the next solar eclipse in the U.S. is in 2024, so you do have another chance technically), and you don’t want to miss out.


DO NOT screw up your eyes. Wear the proper solar glasses if you’re going to be looking at the partially eclipsed sun. Once the moon has completely covered the sun (during totality only), it will be safe to look without glasses.

Your eyes will be adjusted to the darkness, so once the sun starts peaking back out, your eyes could get very serious retinal damage.  About twenty seconds before totality is complete, put your glasses back on. Be smart!

In addition, if you’re going to be taking pictures of the partial stages with your DSLR, make sure you have a solar lens for it.  The sun’s brightness will be concentrated and magnified through your viewfinder.  This is super dangerous, so don’t do it unless you have a solar lens.

2.) Certified Eclipse Viewing Glasses

I had originally purchased a pair of welder’s goggles (shade 14), but Amazon notified me that they haven’t been certified and sent a refund.  I had to go to Adler Planetarium and pay twice the price of what they were selling for a week ago. Whatever you do, sunglasses are not going to cut it.  Here is more information on NASA approved requirements.

3.) Pinhole Projectors

If you’re unable to purchase solar viewing glasses due to low supply, you can still get creative and be safe while doing so.

-Grab two pieces of white paper (preferably cardboard, but not necessary)
-Punch a hole in one of them
-With your back to the sun, use the hole-punched paper to project an image of the eclipse onto the other piece of paper

As an alternative, you can raid your kitchen for a colander, which will project dozens of mini-eclipses on the ground.

4.) Look for Shadow Bands

One super interesting phenomenon associated with the solar eclipse are shadow bands. As the moon starts to cross over the sun, shadows become diffused and start looking wonky. This happens a few minutes leading up to totality, and a few minutes after.

By putting down a white sheet, you’ll have a better chance at seeing this phenomenon.

5.) Accommodations

This has been a highly anticipated event, and is likely the most heavily publicized eclipse on record due to social media. Unfortunately, motels have been booked for months in advance. If you’re lucky, you may find some camping spots available but basically southern Illinois is going to be packed.

6.) Pay Attention to Animals

Once the process of totality begins, animals will think it’s nighttime. You’ll see birds going back to their nests and bats waking up. Then they’ll get REALLY freaked out when suddenly it’s daylight again and totality has completed.

7.) A Timer

I had mentioned before about potential retinal damage.  If you want to avoid this, which you should, you can set a timer to look away twenty seconds before totality is completed.  You’ll have to wear your glasses from then on because the eclipse will only be partial.

8.) Eclipse Science App

Help scientists out! By downloading the GLOBE observer app, you can submit your very own scientific data to help scientists get a gauge what happened here on earth during the eclipse.

9.) Driving Time

The drive is going to be brutal. While there isn’t a confirmed number of people flooding into southern Illinois, it’s possible there could be hundreds of thousands. Don’t leave the day of, especially if you’re coming from Chicago. The highway will be a parking lot. I’m leaving Sunday night because it’s the earliest I’m available, and I’m anticipating a 10-hour drive. Who knows, could be less, could be more.

10.) Cloud Coverage

Let’s all send out positive vibes, because this is an event that clouds could absolutely ruin for us. Be sure to check out the weather forecasts and be willing to change your viewing location.

In short: BE SAFE, plan well, and have fun.  The total solar eclipse is an event some people are never going to see in their lifetime, so enjoy it.

If you haven’t read my eclipse post, it provides some more information on the upcoming eclipse.

The solar eclipse will be on August 21st, 2017, with totality around 1.22pm depending on location.