It begins as a tiny spot on the western side of the sun. Gradually, the spot grows. The blue of the sky is getting duller as the light begins to diminish. For the first half hour, things seem to proceed slowly. Then with about 15 minutes left to totality, the sky gets darker in the west as the shadow of the moon approaches and deepens the sky to blue-gray or violet. In a few more minutes, the sun doesn’t fill the sky with brightness; it becomes a tiny silver band of light as the darkening sky closes in. The ends of the bare sliver of the sun become individual points of intense white light called ‘Baily’s Beads’ when the last rays of sunlight pass through the deepest lunar valleys. Opposite the crescent, a ghostly round silhouette looms, the dark limb of the Moon, framed by a white opalescent glow. This is the corona, the most striking and unexpected of all the features of a total eclipse. (Adapted from The Experience of Totality by Mark Littmann, Ken Willcox and Fred Espenak, see MrEclipse.com)
Rusty Weisman, an archaeologist at the Missouri Department of Transportation, has researched and lectured on these and other questions. “Beliefs about astronomical events like eclipses are not something archaeologists can readily dig up – they are not directly preserved in the archaeological record – so we can only approach them indirectly through inference,” he said. “But it is possible to look at the beliefs of descendant peoples for some ideas about what the Mississippians might have believed.”
Another source Weisman noted is prehistoric rock art, some of which may have been created along the paths of eclipses to commemorate or mark those events. “There is an unusual concentration of ‘ogee’ petroglyphs and pictographs in the Mississippi River Valley south of Cahokia,” Weisman said. Based on their location and corona-like form, he believes these may be depictions of the sunrise total eclipse witnessed there more than 1,000 years ago. Most of these prehistoric rock art sites are on private land and are not open to the public, but photographs of the ancient artwork are available online. One Mississippian rock art site that is open to the public is at Washington State Park in De Soto, Missouri, which is within the path of both the 941 and 2017 total eclipses. The best place to see this year’s eclipse for the longest duration is at Carbondale and Makanda, IL with the partial phases starting at 11:52 a.m. and totality at 1:21 p.m. For 2 minutes, 40 seconds, it will be like night time with bright stars visible.
The excitement is building as we prepare to welcome visitors from all over the world who want to share this experience. Partial and total eclipses happen frequently all around the world, but rarely on the same path or even over the same area. To be able to see it as the ancients did is very special. Most people won’t see a total eclipse more than once (if that) in their lifetime. But hold on to your eclipse glasses, because there will be another one crossing over southern Illinois from southwest to northeast on April 8, 2024. Very rare, indeed!
Note: The grounds at Cahokia Mounds, including Monk’s Mound and Woodhenge, are open every day. The public is welcome to watch the Eclipse from here, although the Interpretive Center is only open Wednesday – Sunday. The Mounds Gift Shop will be giving away eclipse glasses in August.
See the Eclipse in ILLINOISouth!
Click a city below to see attractions, eateries, shopping, and accommodations.
St. Clair County
CLICK HERE to see a map of what the solar eclipse will look like in your zip code!
Looking for somewhere to see the eclipse? Check out these events:
- Shopping in the Dark in Fairfield
- Eclipse Party at Frontier Community College in Fairfield
- Solarbration in Waterloo
- Total Eclipse in the Park in Columbia
- Total Eclipse of the Park in Sparta
- Eclipse Viewing in Mascoutah
- Solar Eclipse Party at The Wayward Pub in Freeburg
- Solar Eclipse in River City in Chester
- Solar Eclipse Viewing and Golf at Chester Country Club in Chester
- Party in the Dark at Lincoln Park in Red Bud
- Moon’d by the Sun at Red Bud Winery in Red Bud
- Solar Eclipse Day in Marissa
For more information about the eclipse and things to see while you are here, please click here.
Article from Spring/Summer Tourism Times Newsletter.