Mark J. Wagner,
Carbondale, Illinois, in deep southern Illinois holds the unique distinction of being the only location in the United States to be situated directly at the crossroads of the routes of the 2017 and 2024 total solar eclipses. Although the 2017 eclipse is now behind us, the 2024 eclipse is upcoming in only five years. Southern Illinois is a rural area with many state parks, campgrounds, and sections of the Shawnee National Forest that can accommodate visitors in addition to the towns of the region. In 2017 visitors from around the country camped, went to wineries, or simply stopped by the side of the road to view the eclipse at little or no cost. Major traffic jams occurred in 2017, however, when tens of thousands of eclipse viewers attempted to return home at the exact same time using the exact same roads whereas if they had spent only an hour or two more at a local restaurant or winery following the eclipse (or even gone back the next morning) they could have avoided the traffic jam.
The Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus also was selected as the NASA headquarters for viewing the 2017 eclipse due to the university’s extensive communications facilities. In addition, Mat Kaplan of NPR’s Planetary Radio hosted his weekly astronomical show at Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus as part of one of the university’s numerous eclipse events. SIUC is already planning for the 2024 solar eclipse and it is likely that both NASA and Planetary Radio will make an encore return to the region.
In anticipations of the 2017 eclipse, the Illinois Archaeological Survey (the professional organization of archaeologists in the state) produced both a poster showing examples of Illinois rock art images that may reflect past eclipse events as well as a special issue of Illinois Antiquity entitled OF Heaven and Earth: Explaining the World Around Us that contained articles on the Shawnee Prophet and the Eclipse of 1806 as well as prehistoric artifacts and rock art sites in the state that express cosmological themes. The poster which was entitled Standing in the Shadow of the Moon was subtitled “Ne TI Kos Ki Qi Ne Ma Som fi Ta Pa Ke Kes Fwa “, which is Shawnee for “Grandpa Moon Put Me in His Shadow”. Both the poster and the Illinois Antiquity magazine can be found in the links above while photos of the 2017 eclipse can be found below.