March 06, 2015

Carbondale will be Eclipse Crossroads of America

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Though Aug. 21, 2017, seems like a long way off, it’s not too early to begin making plans to be at the Eclipse Crossroads of America.

That is the date when the first total solar eclipse over the mainland United States since 1979 will sweep across the country from northwest to southeast.  The last time that happened was in 1918.

Then, on April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will again sweep across the country, this time from southwest to northeast.

The intersection of the two eclipse paths is just south of Carbondale over Cedar Lake. No other place in the world will offer the opportunity to observe these two eclipses from the same ground-based spot.

And in 2017, Carbondale is the closest city and Southern Illinois University Carbondale is the closest campus to the point of the eclipse’s greatest duration. The eclipse will begin at 11:53 a.m. and all phases will be complete by 2:47 p.m. Total eclipse duration time – which scientists refer to as “totality” -- on the campus will be 2 minutes, 38 seconds, 2 seconds short of the greatest duration time a few miles south of Carbondale. More information is available on the Eclipse Southern Illinois website (

Media Advisory

Members of the news media interested in using the Eclipse Southern Illinois logo with this story can contact Rae Goldsmith, SIU’s chief marketing and communications officer, at 618/453-2589, or via e-mail, .

A university-community steering committee is planning a variety of events leading up to the eclipse, which will occur on the first day of the fall semester. The prime viewing location will be Saluki Stadium, while the SIU Arena will provide an air-conditioned venue for those who want to see the eclipse via webcast or other feeds, but avoid the August heat.

Other spots on and off campus will be available to the many scientists expected to converge on the area, along with “eclipse chasers” who often travel worldwide to view or document the event. 

Bob Baer, a staff member in SIU’s physics department and co-chair of the steering committee, expects thousands of people to descend on Carbondale for the eclipse. 

“People often travel thousands of miles to see a total eclipse and we have one right in our own backyard,” said Baer, who organizes regular astronomy observations from the roof of the Neckers Building. “What a great opportunity this is for the people of the region to experience the eclipse and to be host to visitors from all over the world wanting to come and see this rare event.”   

On March 31, SIU will host one of the nation’s leading astronomers, Matthew Penn, from the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Ariz. He will discuss upcoming solar coronal research as well as the Citizen CATE (Continental America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment planned for the 2017 eclipse. 

The experiment will use a fleet of telescopes to observe the eclipse.  As the shadow of the moon travels across the continental United States, citizen astronomers from more than 60 sites will take images of the brightness of the inner solar corona. The combined Citizen CATE Experiment will reveal for the first time how this part of the solar atmosphere changes during 90 minutes. 

Penn has been with the National Solar Observatory since 2001. He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology in 1986, and his master’s degree and doctorate in astronomy, both from the University of Hawaii, in 1988 and 1992, respectively. 

His talk begins at 3:30 p.m. in Lawson Hall 161, and is free and open to the public. 

Future eclipse-related events will include educational programs and lectures and workshops for high school and community college faculty.