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Dark Sun: August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse Over Washington County

The Eclipse’s totality, when the sun is completely blocked by the moon and only the solar corona is visible, should be able to be seen in southern Washington County at around 1:20 p.m., Monday, August 21. (Photo from, Image S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol)

By Alex Haglund

Imagine if you will, what our ancestors hundreds or even thousands of years ago must have thought: It’s a bright, hot day, late in the summer. Maybe they’re hunting, maybe farming, maybe just taking a walk, and then something happens…

Slowly at first, the sun begins to dim.

As it gets just a hair less bright, these ancestors see the first of it: a dark shade is crossing the bright, golden disk. Is it a shadow, or is it a maw? Yawning, empty, hungry, the darkness makes it’s way across, and things get darker and darker and darker as its meal is consumed.

“Is this the end?” they wonder, “Has God forsaken us all?” or “When it’s finished eating our light, will it eat us too?”

Then, as quickly as it began, it ends. With a quick glimmer from the opposite side of the sun where the darkness first started its journey, a few beams emerge, and the brightness returns.

There was no hungry wolf, God did not forsake us, and the light is back.

We have more knowledge now of the dance that occurs in our skies and of the celestial bodies that inhabit it. We know now that what those ancestors gazed up at in despair or wonder was an eclipse. And given what learned men and women know about that cosmic dance, we know that we will be able to see this display, whether miracle or marvel, once again in our own skies.

This eclipse, a total solar eclipse that will pass over the breadth of the United States from west to east, will occur on Monday, August 21. Some of the best spots to observe the event will be very close to us in Washington County.

If you read this paper, you probably keep up on current events in one form or another. If you keep up on current events, then the August 21 eclipse is not news to you – everyone is talking about it, and everyone is hatching their plans for what they’ll be doing as it passes overhead.

With NASA posting that a given location will see a 100-percent solar eclipse roughly once every 375 years, saying that this cosmic event is a “once in a lifetime” occurrence is, if anything, an understatement.

Some will head south and will watch Ozzy Osborne “howl at the moon” at a concert in Carterville. Others will party in the streets near SIU or will crowd into the beautiful Giant City State Park. It’s not necessary to go that far south to see this happening though.

Local Events

The eclipse will have a band roughly 70 miles wide where there will be a 100-percent totality visible on Augst 21. The center of that band will be just south of Carbondale and the northern edge, the part where the totality is just barely visible, will be in southern Washington County.

In Nashville, a totality of 99-percent should be visible. Will that be safe to view without protective glasses? The smart bet would be no. Other than that, will there be a noticeable difference between the view here and the view a few miles south? Time will tell.

So what will be happening here for the eclipse, given that August 21 is a Monday, the eclipse will be reaching totality at approximately 1:20 p.m., and school will have just gotten back into session? Plenty.

Nashville Community High School teachers and administrators had talked about an eclipse lunch on the lawn in front of the school – bag lunches for the students, safe viewing glasses and a cosmic display.

Now, questions about safety have put those plans on hold (no one wants a bunch of kids with damaged vision), and what the exact plans there are will likely be decided on at a meeting of the School Improvement Team before the start of the upcoming school year.

Both Principal Pierre Antoine at St. Ann School and Amy Kurtz at Trinity–St. John School have said that classes will be in session, and that they will be having eclipse viewing activities of one kind or another. Specific plans have not been set in stone yet and both schools are waiting for upcoming faculty meetings to make those plans definite.

Nashville Public Library will be hosting an eclipse luncheon which will begin at noon. They will be providing sandwiches, drinks and viewing glasses. Guests are asked to bring another meat, side dish or dessert to share.

The luncheon is limited to 30 people and those wanting to attend should RSVP by August 16. Contact the library at (618) 327-3827, or by email at

Nashville Primary School

The eclipse plans in place for Nashville Primary School District 49 are the most ambitious of those announced so far.

“I had a couple of teachers approach me last year about doing something,” said Principal Chuck Fairbanks. “The far south part of our district is actually the far north part of the optimal viewing area.”

In the Hickory Lake Subdivision, just to the west IL-127 and south of Nashville proper, “several parents have lots there, and it’s far enough south,” said Fairbanks.

On August 21, all of the students in first through eighth grade at District 49 will get onto buses at 12:30 p.m. or a little later (depending on whether the buses available will be able to do the trek in one or two trips), and will head to a lot owned by a school parent in Hickory Lake, where the students will watch the eclipse.

To insure that the students can safely watch the moon’s final transit across the sun, going from partial to total eclipse, all of the students will have the proper safe viewing glasses, which were purchased by the District 49 PSO.

“We love our PSO,” Fairbanks said.

Kindergartners, being younger, and only having been in grade school for a short time altogether at that point will not be loaded up with the older kids.

August 2017 Eclipse Facts

The times of the eclipse, provided by NASA (given for Carbondale, times in Nashville, slightly further West, will be very slightly earlier), state that the eclipse will begin at 11:52 a.m. The totality, when the moon completely covers the sun, will only be for a short timespan, beginning at 1:20 p.m. and ending at 1:22 p.m. The partial eclipse will end at 2:47 p.m.

The how and why of a solar eclipse. (Image from


NASA states that the proper eyewear will be certified CE and ISO 12312-2 Compliant.

NASA has posted that to view the eclipse safely, those glasses must remain on a viewer’s eyes through all stages of the eclipse except for the brief totality – even the near totality showing a crescent, “Baily’s Beads” (where the sun only peaks through mountains and craters on the lunar surface, or the “Diamond Ring”, the final flash of true sunlight before the totality.

During the totality, around the lunar-shaded sun, viewers should be able to see the sun’s corona, the excited layer of plasma pushed and shoved by immense solar electromagnetic fields.

The August 21 Eclipse will begin crossing the United States at Lincoln Beach, Ore., at 9:05 a.m. PDT, with the totality beginning there at 10:16 a.m. PDT.

The eclipse will cross through the U.S. going through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina.

The total eclipse will end near Charleston, S.C., at 2:48 p.m., EDT, and the lunar shadow will exit the U.S. altogether there at 4:09 EDT.

For a huge amount of additional information on the eclipse, including more in-depth information on times of it’s transit, as well as more ways to safely view the phenomena, head to NASA’s website at

NASA Links:

Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? and How?

Eclipse Safety

Interactive Eclipse Map

How Eclipses Work

Eclipse Livestream

Eclipse FAQ

Eclipse FlickR Gallery

There is much, much more available in terms of resources on NASA’s site than what we have linked to here. To search through it yourself, head to and check out how deep the Eclipse rabbit hole goes.


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