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Cloudy weather nearly eclipses the eclipse

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Thirteen-year-old Bronwyn Hagey turned her camera skyward, training the lens through safety glasses, in the parking lot of the Palos Heights Library to capture this image of the solar eclipse Monday.

Less than 15 minutes before the solar eclipse was expected to peak in the Chicago area, things weren’t looking up at the Palos Heights Public Library.

In fact, it seemed a live video feed from NASA in the library’s darkened community room was about as close as people were going to get to see a natural phenomenon that hadn’t swept the entire continental United States since 1918.

“We watched the simulcast in the library,” said Pat Wojcik of Tinley Park who had her grandson, Connor Stenson, with her. “Too bad it couldn’t be more of a brighter day.”

But soon after filing out into the parking lot shortly after 1 p.m., the weather took a turn for the better.

In the early part of the day, hazy clouds diffused the sun but still allowed it to shine through brightly. By afternoon, however, the clouds had turned thick and blocked the sun almost entirely—until show time, which began in earnest at about 1:18 and lasted for approximately two-and-a-half minutes.

“Isn’t that something!” said Wojcik as the darkish cloud cover diminished just enough to let the sign shine through in a hazy fashion again. “This is really great. I’m glad I came.”

“It looks like a smiley face almost,” said her grandson, Connor. “It looks really cool right now.”

About three-dozen people were on hand at the library, 12501 S. 71st Ave., to take part in a buzz that had been sweeping the nation.

For the first time since the early part of the last century, people all across the U.S. got to see a solar eclipse. The path of “totality”—in which the moon completely obscures the sun–was relatively narrow, passing over Carbondale, Illinois but at least a portion of the eclipse could be seen everywhere in the country. Here in the Chicago area, the coverage of the sun by the moon was approximately 87 percent.

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Photo by Anthony Caciopo

Palos Park residents Jean Marquez and her daughter, Sofia, 5, gaze skyward in the parking lot of the Palos Heights Library.

A similar solar eclipse occurred in 1979, but only in a portion of the U.S. The phenomenon is not expected again over a portion of North America until 2024, although it may occur over oceans and remote areas.

Other types of solar eclipses occur, but are not total. Partial eclipses are common. Annual eclipses also feature the moon directly between the Earth and sun, but the moon is too far away from Earth to give the look of covering the sun.

“This is so exciting,” said Beverly Nielson of Palos Hills who had come to the library with her neighbor, Gene Davis. “We’ve had such a buildup, waiting for all this.”

The small crowd in the library parking lot was equipped with eclipse-safe viewing glasses as they gazed skyward. One family employed a homemade pinhole camera.

Predictions of near-darkness during the height of the eclipse did not come to fruition, however. At the eclipse’s peak, the look and feel in the library parking lot was little different than what one would notice as a thunderstorm approached.

But despite the less-than-ideal conditions, it appeared no one walked away from the library disappointed.

“Different, amazing, unique,” said Thomas Strack of Palos Heights, eager to share his impression of the event.

 

 

Cloudy weather nearly eclipses the eclipse

 

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