WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Solar Eclipse in the Tri States

Aug 21, 2017

More than 90% of the sun was covered by the moon at the height of Monday's solar eclipse in the tri states.  Overcast skies generally obscured the eclipse, though occasional breaks in the clouds gave people glimpses of the phenomenon. 


Monday was the first day of classes at Western Illinois University. But, for some the start of the school year was overshadowed by the eclipse. Western students and faculty gathered on the lawn near Sallee Hall for the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s eclipse viewing party. 

People in the crowd shared eclipse glasses and ducked their heads into cardboard boxes that had been turned into large pin hole viewers. 

The sun peaked out through the clouds and at its height the eclipse reached 95% totality in Macomb. For a few moments, the sky got darker and the lamps lining the sidewalks on campus lit up as they normally do at dusk. The air cooled slightly before it got really cloudy. 

The watch party crowd mingled for a little longer as they waited. But, the sun did not come back into view. Students and faculty returned to the classroom with the eclipse behind them and a new school year ahead.

Shiquita Lacy a senior at Western said she was the first in line to get eclipse glasses from the COFAC viewing party. She said it was an event she did not want to miss.
Credit Emily Boyer

“It’s a little bit disappointing because we’ve been waiting for a couple weeks. But it’s Mother Nature. What can we do?” said Monmouth College sophomore Kasha Appleton (left) with a laugh. Fellow sophomore Hadley Smith Hisler (right) said, “It’s kind of fun to see everybody coming out even though we can’t see it (the eclipse).”
Credit Rich Egger

Adults and children alike stand outside the Keokuk Public Library at around 11:45 a.m. Monday. They saw the start of the eclipse but eventually clouds and rain rolled in, obstructing the view during the remainder of the Solar Eclipse Day Camp, which was hosted by the library, 4H, and Iowa State University Extension.
Credit Jason Parrott


More than a dozen children took part in a special Solar Eclipse Day Camp at the Keokuk Public Library on Monday. The event was organized by the library and Iowa State University Extension through a 4H grant.

Lee Ann Shaffer-Smith with ISU Extension said the participants made several viewing devices out of cardboard boxes and envelopes and watched news coverage of the eclipse, including a feed from NASA.

She said, unfortunately though, the weather did not cooperate as the day campers were only able to see a sliver of the eclipse at its start in Keokuk, around 11:45 a.m. Clouds and occasional heavy rain rolled through, preventing residents, and the children, from seeing the moon cover about 96% of the sun.

“We did get to see just a little sliver at the very beginning, so I am so thankful because the kids worked so hard on the viewers,” said Shaffer-Smith. “And so they did get to experience it, just not the way we had planned. We really wanted them to experience the whole thing, but we are glad they got to see a piece of it.”

Two of the participants were Kash and Reece, who are friends entering 5th grade in Keokuk. They both said they had a great time making the viewing devices and just learning about the eclipse, especially how rare it is for one to cross the U.S.

A large electronic billboard counting down the minutes until the solar eclipse began in Keokuk. Bad weather prevented extended viewing in the community.
Credit Jason Parrott
WIU Art Teacher Duke Oursler uses a welding mask to watch the eclipse.
Credit Emily Boyer
Monmouth College Physics Professor Christopher Fasano (left) addressing the crowd at the viewing party. “Look at all the people here who are actually starting to look at things and observe the sky. That’s a great thing.”
Credit Rich Egger


Monmouth College hosted a viewing party on the front steps of the Center for Science and Business.  Plans to hold the party at the building’s observation platform were scrapped because the weather forecast included the possibility of storms with lightning.

Monday was the first day of classes for freshmen.  Students and community members mingled on the steps, donning safety glasses and peering up at the sky.

“Hopefully what happens is this generates some discussion and some questions that students bring to class or to their parents. I would consider that wildly successful,” said Monmouth College Physics Professor Christopher Fasano.

Clouds made it difficult to fully view the eclipse, but occasionally the clouds broke a bit and people reacted with wonder as the moon made its way in front of the sun.  At the height of the eclipse, 93.6% of the sun was eclipsed by the moon in Monmouth.

Throughout the region, the phenomenon began at around 11:45 a.m. and was over by 2:40 p.m. 

Photo of the eclipse through a pin hole viewer.
Credit Emily Boyer

Reece (left) and Kash at the Solar Eclipse Day Camp. The fifth graders both said they had a good time during camp, building viewing devices and watching the news coverage of the eclipse. They each said they saw a sliver of the eclipse before the rain and clouds rolled in.
Credit Jason Parrott