Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 1:00 am

Best way to watch eclipse? From home

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

I've seen my share of solar eclipses.

Some of the eclipses have been pretty significant, perhaps with half or more of the sun obscured by the moon.

The temperature begins to drop suddenly as the sun partly disappears and the birds start thinking the sun is going down and fly to their nests.

Decades ago, people would take piles of old photographic negatives and look through them, sort of like very dark sunglasses.

They also used smoked glass. They'd hold a small picture-sized piece of glass over a candle, and the soot would build up and turn the glass pitch black. It was enough to let you look at the sun during an eclipse.

That wasn't smart, though. Gadgets like that might block visible light but not infrared rays. Those rays can end up burning your retina.

When I was younger, I heard about a man who worked with the father of a friend. He watched an entire eclipse, fascinated by the slow show.

The next day he was blind. He had cooked his retinas, and retinas don't heal.

There are makers of special eclipse sunglasses that will let people watch an eclipse, but even then you aren't supposed to look at the sun for more than brief moments.

Of course I'm talking about eclipses because in 27 days we're going to have a near total eclipse here, and if you're willing to drive a bit, you can see a total eclipse, something I've never seen.

But I think I'll just stay in town and witness a 90 percent eclipse. All you have to do is stand underneath a tree and as the light filters through the leaves, it will leave wonderful little pictures of the eclipsing sun on the pavement.

One reason that I'm not going to try and chase the total eclipse is that I don't want to get caught in a stampede.

I've read that 200 million Americans live within a day's drive of the 70-mile-wide path where people will be able to witness a total eclipse.

Can you imagine what it will be like if even half of them decide to head for southern Illinois or Kentucky or any of the other states along the path.

It will be one of the largest migrations in the history of the United States, tens of millions of people heading out at the same time for the same spot. It will be like trying to get out of the Coliseum parking lot after a Donald Trump rally, except it will be like that all over the Midwest.

Where are we going to find parking for 100 million people in Missouri and southern Illinois and Kentucky?

I imagine plenty of people hurrying to get to the zone of totality will even go so far as to stop their cars on the highway once the eclipse starts and get out and watch while others will continue to drive.

Sounds to me like a disaster waiting to happen.

So I'll just stay home. It's cheaper anyway.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.