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Carbondale's 2-Time Eclipse Plans


Monday's total solar eclipse crosses through southern Illinois on its way across the country. But as Jennifer Fuller of member station WSIU reports, something more unusual is happening. Residents are living at the eclipse crossroads as they look forward to totality twice.

JENNIFER FULLER, BYLINE: A total solar eclipse is often called a once in a lifetime opportunity.

BOB BAER: Yeah, we jokingly say once in a lifetime moves twice - twice for Carbondale.

FULLER: Bob Baer is co-chair of the Southern Illinois Eclipse Steering Committee. And his job doesn't end on Tuesday. That's because Southern Illinois is in the path of totality again in 2024. Baer says they'll be using Monday's experience as a practice run.

BAER: With the kind of feedback we get from people - you know, did you enjoy a stadium show? Would you rather have seen this somewhere else? We're doing some follow-up to see a little bit of what they learned from this. So did you improve your science literacy by going to an event like this?

FULLER: In addition to the thousands of visitors heading to Carbondale, scientists like Michelle Nichols of Adler Planetarium in Chicago say they're looking forward to having two opportunities so close together. She says there was a lot she missed in her first eclipse back in 1999.

MICHELLE NICHOLS: All the other things that you're supposed to do, like look for bright stars in the sky - did the wind die down, did it pick up, did it get cooler? - I truly don't remember because I was so focused on looking at the eclipse.

FULLER: NASA astronomer Lou Mayo and his team will also be in Carbondale conducting experiments.

LOU MAYO: Most of them kind of center on understanding the lower atmosphere of the sun kind of right near what we call the photosphere or the surface of the sun.

FULLER: He'll be joined by lots of other scientists like Mike Kentrianakis, who's with the American Astronomical Society.

MIKE KENTRIANAKIS: I said that Carbondale has won a triple jackpot. It not only has an eclipse, it also has the longest duration of this eclipse across anywhere in its path. And you get another eclipse in seven years. That's unusual.

FULLER: The longest point of totality in 2017 at 2 minutes, 41 seconds is actually just south of Carbondale, near tiny Makanda, Ill., population 600.

JEREMY SCHUMACHER: Any one spot on earth gets a total solar eclipse about once every 350 years.

FULLER: Makanda Eclipse Committee's Jeremy Schumacher says it's certainly a historic event for his community.

SCHUMACHER: The last time Makanda itself had a total solar eclipse was in the year 1442. So that would be nine years before Christopher Columbus was born.

FULLER: Thousands of people are traveling to southern Illinois to view the eclipse. Makanda shop owner Dave Dardis (ph) says he's been inundated.

DAVE DARDIS: When I heard that the line runs right through the shop, then the party, obviously, is going to be a lot bigger. Everybody's calling me up.

FULLER: And Dardis and many others say they expect their phones to be ringing for a while as eclipse chasers look to Carbondale for a carbon copy eclipse in 2024. For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Fuller in Carbondale, Ill.

SIMON: Many NPR stations are going to cover the eclipse live. Really, hear the eclipse on radio. No special glasses necessary. Check your local listings. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Fuller
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