The clouds did not do much justice setting the scene for the many spectators that gathered at the Tinley Park Public Library Aug. 21 to see what was dubbed as the great American solar eclipse.
And for most individuals, witnessing this cosmic sighting was a first.
According to NASA, the last total solar eclipse seen from contiguous United States took place on Feb. 26, 1979, so moments like these are coveted. They take years of waiting.
Those who attended the library’s festivities that Monday mid-morning through the early afternoon were able to learn more about the solar eclipse from science educator Cecelia Dygdon.
Dygdon shared that Tinley Park had 87 percent cloud coverage, so viewers should expect to see only a partial eclipse, not a total.
The best views, she noted, were the cities in the path of totality, which stretched from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. As for Illinois, Carbondale, which is roughly four hours away from Tinley Park, was the ideal location.
Jon Mackrow, of Tinley Park, quickly recapped what he saw minutes after the eclipse reached totality.
“It started to get dark, and you heard the crickets,” he said. “The bugs came out. It was cool. Just as quick as it came in, it was gone.”
Mackrow – who noted that the streetlights kicked on – said this was a sight to remember.
“This was just something I’ll probably never get a chance to see again for however long, so I wanted to come out and check it out,” he said.
Adam Moreno, also of Tinley Park, shared those sentiments. Moreno came to the library with members of his family for this event that “only happens once in a while.”
He recalled seeing a partial eclipse in ‘79 and said back then, NASA-approved eclipse viewing glasses did not exist. Relying on his resourcefulness, he drilled holes into a cardboard box and used it as a projector.
Dygdon said what is most interesting about this phenomenon is the effect it has on the animals’ and insects’ behavioral changes when the eclipse reaches totality.
“Many are confused or startled by totality and change behavior [when] totality has arrived,” she said. “You might see more insects out there in the prairie area, maybe more insects chirping.
“Nocturnal animals might start making noises because they’ll get confused [thinking] it’s nighttime, and the birds might quiet down.”
Ahead of the event, the library gave away hundreds of NASA-approved eclipse viewing glasses for people to use.
“We gave away 300 pairs starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning,” Adult Program Coordinator Sue Bailey said. “We had over 500 people in line, and some of the folks at the front of the line were there since 2 a.m.”
Bailey shared that prior to the library’s events, she and other staff members had “no idea” that there would be such a great turnout.
“We just got caught up in the phenomenon, and we wanted to make sure we had [a viewing party] for our patrons,” she said.
Save the date
Be on the lookout for the next total solar eclipse, which is set for April 8, 2024.
For more information, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov.