© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2024 solar eclipse guide: How to enjoy totality in Missouri

This composite image details the progression of a total solar eclipse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, that directly passed over the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The observatory is located in the foothills of the Andes, 7,241 feet (2200 meters) above sea level in the Coquimbo Region of northern Chile. A total and partial solar eclipse was visible across parts of Chile and Argentina, while a partial eclipse was visible across much of South America.
Rebecca Roth
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
This composite image details the progression of a total solar eclipse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, that directly passed over the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The observatory is located in the foothills of the Andes, 7,241 feet (2200 meters) above sea level in the Coquimbo Region of northern Chile. A total and partial solar eclipse was visible across parts of Chile and Argentina, while a partial eclipse was visible across much of South America.

This will be the last time in more than 300 years, researchers say, that a total solar eclipse will go over southern Illinois and Missouri. Here’s what you need to know to make the best of the celestial spectacle.

The moon will chase the sun next month during a celestial spectacle expected to bring millions into its path of totality.

For the second time in seven years, a total solar eclipse will be visible across a large swath of southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri. In the bistate region’s path of totality, the moon will slink in front of the sun on April 8, with its peak from about 1:59 p.m. to 2:03 p.m.

St. Louis is not in the path of totality as it was in 2017 and instead will only see 99% of the sun blocked.ㅤ

For the smaller towns in the path of totality, the often once-in-a-lifetime event means major tourism dollars in the days around the eclipse.

“Carbondale has won the celestial lottery,” said Steven Mitchel, the economic development director for the City of Carbondale. “We’ve had two lifetime events occurring within seven years of each other.”

Related: Southern Illinois and Missouri towns are eager for April's solar eclipse tourism

A total eclipse occurs somewhere around the world approximately every year and a half. However, southern Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky are the only places located in the 2017 eclipse path that will also experience a total eclipse in 2024. In Carbondale, the total eclipse will last 4 minutes and 9 seconds.


Here are tips and frequently asked questions to plan for the April 8 total solar eclipse.

Where can I watch the solar eclipse?

If you want to experience the eclipse's totality, nearby towns within driving distance are celebrating with fairs, concerts and more. Scientists say the difference between the full eclipse and just a portion of it is a night-and-day difference. Here are a few drivable options, with their distance from St. Louis:

Missouri State Parks is taking advantage of the increased interest in southern Missouri and are opening Eleven Point State Park. The latest addition to the parks system is located in south-central Missouri, near the Arkansas border, at 10418 State Highway Y in the town of Couch — 137 miles from St. Louis. The new park will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 8.

If the Missouri-Arkansas border is a bit far for your liking, Missouri State Parks has a map of notable sites in the eclipse’s path of totality. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources also compiled a list of its parks in the eclipse pathway.

While St. Louis will not be in the path of totality during the 2024 total solar eclipse, there are several happenings in the St. Louis region around the event. The partial eclipse in St. Louis is expected to last from 12:42 p.m. to 3:17 p.m., with the maximum coverage of the sun around 2 p.m.

  • St. Louis Science Center: Team members will livestream NASA video in the McDonnell Planetarium as the total solar eclipse travels its path in the United States. Guests visiting the Science Center that day will receive free eclipse glasses — while supplies last — to view the partial eclipse outside in the GROW gallery or on the Planetarium grounds and will have the chance to create a free glasses case by visiting the Makerspace gallery.
  • The St. Louis Public Central Library branch is hosting a Kids Solar Eclipse Watch Party.

If you can’t make it to the path of totality but want to experience it, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will livestream the eclipse.

How bad is traffic going to be?

Illinois and Missouri Department of Transportation leaders say visitors should be prepared for long traffic times when leaving the region. During 2017’s eclipse, one Chicago-area resident spent nearly 15 hours trekking back to the Windy City in what is normally a five-hour drive from southern Illinois.

“We anticipate large crowds with possible heavy congestion on the interstates and major highways especially after the eclipse is over,” said Missouri Department of Transportation’s Becky Allmeroth. “If you are traveling for the event, leave early, stay put as long as possible and plan to stay after the end of the eclipse to avoid the peak traffic.”

In Illinois, the state’s Department of Transportation will reopen all lane closures on state projects throughout the weekend and until the day after the eclipse to help alleviate traffic congestion.

In addition, IDOT’s Paul Wappel recommends drivers:

  • Keep cellphones charged, a full tank of gas in your car and bottled water on hand.
  • Get to your destination early, stay put and leave late to prevent backups.
  • Keep headlights on if you’re driving during the eclipse.
  • Do not stop on roads or bridges when in transit.
  • Don’t take photos or wear eclipse glasses while driving.
  • Make note of pedestrians near roads.

Related: For April's eclipse, going from 'meh' to 'OMG' might just be a short drive away

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

What should be part of your eclipse-chasing kit?

While umbraphiles may already have their eclipse glasses and camera in hand, Astronomy's Michael E. Bakich recommends some of the following must-have items to include in your eclipse kit.

  • Sunscreen and umbrella: When you think of protection from the sun, don’t just think about your eyes. If your sunscreen bottle is over two years old, make sure to buy a new one. 
  • Bottled water: The last thing you want is to be dehydrated. Knowing Midwest weather, you could be sweating in the 90s or shivering in the 40s in mid-April. 
  • Camera: Whether your phone or a DSLR, the best camera is the one on you. Make sure you have the appropriate solar filters to photograph the sun or you have the chance to burn your retinas permanently.
  • Portable phone charger: This goes without saying.
  • Binoculars: A great way to get a close-up view of the sun’s outer ridge during totality.
  • Medicine: You don't want to get a headache and not have painkillers.
  • Folding chairs/stools: Whether you’re trekking into the woods, a field or a busy festival, you’ll want to make sure you have somewhere to pop a squat.
  • Pillow: In case you want to catch some shut-eye while waiting for the festivities to start.
  • Toilet paper: There are millions of people around the U.S. and the world traveling to view the eclipse and its path of totality. We may throw it back to the peak of the coronavirus pandemic when toilet paper was worth its weight in gold.
  • Bug repellent: Southern Illinois and Missouri are largely wooded areas. You won’t regret this one.
  • Hand sanitizer: See the last bullet point.
  • Cash: They say cash is king, and you never know what oddities you may find for sale on the side of the road.

Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

How can I watch the eclipse safely?

We all know staring directly in the sun is a bad thing, right? But, with the right glasses, the total eclipse will be a spectacular sight to behold. Look at your glasses for a number preceded by the letters “ISO,” which stands for International Organization for Standardization, reading “12312-2” or “12312-2:2015.” These designations mean the glasses meet requirements to protect your eyes.

There’s no way to check if the glasses’ filter meets the ISO standard for yourself, and some bad seeds may try to sell glasses with a fake label on them. The AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force has compiled this list to see if the seller you’re buying the glasses from is reputable.

Make sure the glasses do not have scratches or wrinkles on them.

If you can see anything through the eclipse filter, including the sun or something that is comparably bright, and the light coming through the filter is not dim, you likely have a pair of fraudulent or damaged solar eclipse glasses. Safe glasses would produce a view of the eclipse that is about as bright as the moon.

Related: How to know if your solar eclipse glasses are legitimate?

Where can I get eclipse glasses?

There are plenty of eclipse glasses available for sale in person and online, but experts are urging people to shop carefully and beware of fakes.

Rick Fienberg, project manager of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force, says counterfeit eclipse glasses began appearing on the market just before the 2017 solar eclipse.

There is a list of recommendations on the AAS website for eclipse glasses and other solar viewers made by reputable companies and safe when used properly.

Various locations around the St. Louis region are handing out free eclipse glasses while supplies last, including any St. Louis Public Library branch.

Family-owned Kloss Furniture is offering free glasses at each of its locations:

  • 5780 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis
  • 1246 Central Park Drive, O’Fallon, Illinois 
  • 1100 Broadway, Highland
  • 6132 Shoger Drive, Edwardsville

Starting April 1 through April 8, free eclipse glasses will be available at any Warby Parker store. Locations include:

  • 30 Plaza Frontenac, St. Louis
  • 304 N Euclid Ave., St. Louis
  • 1224 Town and Country Crossing Drive, Town and Country

If you aren’t having luck at those locations, umbraphiles can purchase eclipse glasses at the St. Louis Science Center’s ExploreStore. In addition, Clarkson Eyecare is also offering eclipse glasses at $2 a pair while supplies last.

  • 3122 S Grand Blvd., St. Louis
  • 6415 Chippewa St., St. Louis
  • 7335 Manchester Road, Maplewood

 A strip of paint that runs through Rainmaker Art Studio in to mark the line of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in Makanda, Ill.
Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
A strip of paint that runs through Rainmaker Art Studio in to mark the line of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in Makanda, Ill.

How can I best photograph the eclipse?

If you want to capture April 8’s solar spectacle, make sure you have the proper equipment to capture these special moments for years to come. NASA and STLPR have compiled these tips to ensure photography success.

Safety first: Under no circumstances point your camera directly at the sun — outside of the moments of totality — without the proper lens filters. Doing so can permanently damage your camera, and possibly your eyesight, as lenses magnify the light entering them. Also, do not wear or photograph through sunglasses because they do not block the right wavelengths of light.

Cameras and settings: You don’t need a special camera to make great photos of the eclipse. All you need is patience, a good eye and whatever camera you have — whether a phone, a high-end DSLR, or somewhere in between. If you don’t have a telephoto zoom lens, focus on taking landscape shots to document the changing environment.

“For DSLR cameras, the best way to determine the correct exposure is to test settings on the uneclipsed Sun beforehand,” writes NASA’s Mara Johnson-Groh. “Using a fixed aperture of f/8 to f/16, try shutter speeds between 1/1000 to 1/4 second to find the optimal setting, which you can then use to take images during the partial stages of the eclipse. During totality, the corona has a wide range of brightness, so it’s best to use a fixed aperture and a range of exposures from approximately 1/1000 to 1 second.”

Move around: While the sky is the star of the show, make sure to move around and think about getting wide-angle photographs showing the scene during totality. As the moon slips in front of the sun, the landscape will have eerie lighting and shadows. Even the trees will cast natural pinholes that will show miniature replicas of the sun on the ground.

Is there any eclipse-related music out there?

The team at St. Louis Public Radio has curated an eclipse-themed playlist to make your watch party the best in town.

What else can I learn about the eclipse?

Make sure to read the rest of St. Louis Public Radio and NPR’s coverage of the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse and stay tuned for more soon!

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Brian Munoz is a photojournalist and multimedia reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Lara Hamdan joined St. Louis Public Radio as the news intern in 2017 and went on to become a producer for St. Louis on the Air before her latest role as the newsroom's Engagement Editor. A St. Louis native, Lara studied journalism and international relations at Webster University. She's fluent in English and Arabic – and in eating falafel sandwiches and veggie burgers. She enjoys discovering new people and gems in the city throughout her work at St. Louis Public Radio.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.