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Eclipse viewing downstate for Lyons Township students
Chance to witness rare solar event is too big to ignore
By Steve Metsch
About 40 students from Lyons Township High School will have a memorable first day of school Aug. 21.
They will arrive at the north campus no later than 5:15 a.m., climb into a coach bus and ride six hours downstate, most likely to Goreville, a town of about 1,000 near Carbondale. There, they will see something that last happened 99 years ago: A total eclipse of the sun covering the country coast-to-coast.
“The last total eclipse that went coast-to-coast was in 1918. The last one was in 1970 and that was all along the East Coast, and I was fortunate to see that,” astronomy teacher and trip leader Kevin Murphy said. “I was only 7, but I remember it getting dark and cooler in the middle of the day.”
That 1970 eclipse is mentioned in Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” with the lyric “then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.” Reminded of that, Murphy said he may play the song en route.
The Lyons Township students will be among the expected thousands to visit that part of the state as is the eclipse will cross directly over Southern Illinois in about a 70-mile wide sweep. The eclipse will cover the country from Oregon to South Carolina.
Murphy said there will be solar viewing setups for students on the site, along with telescopes that can be used for cell phone photos, and projected images of the eclipse. They will be given protective eyewear, said Murphy. Viewing the eclipse without can result in eye damage, he said.
“All you see is the sun’s corona. It’s always there, but you can’t see it because it’s thousands of times fainter than the sun. When you’ve seen photos, you see that white fuzz around it, that’s the solar corona,” he said.
The students will have a school-approved absence for the first day of school. They will not be in Carbondale, which, being the largest city in Southern Illinois, is expected to be very crowded, Murphy said.
The full eclipse, Murphy said, begins at about 1:20 p.m. and will last about two and one-half minutes. But the skies will slowly darken before and slowly lighten after.
Students are getting a snack of breakfast bars, apples and water. Articles and videos will be offered. The viewing site in Goreville is beside a Subway restaurant, and “the manager is happy to have us there,” Murphy said.
Chester and Johnsonville are options if Goreville doesn’t work out, perhaps if it is too cloudy.
A box dinner will be provided for the six-hour drive home. The trip is partially subsidized by the school, but each student is paying $75, Murphy said. “So, the kids who are most interested are going to go,” he said.
Chicago is expected to hit about 90 percent eclipse of the sun around 1:18 p.m. But the entire process takes about three hours.
— Desplaines Valley News
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Email Steve Metsch at firstname.lastname@example.org