Chasing Eclipses

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stand in the shadow of the Moon?

Exhibition Closing January 8, 2018!

In the moment before a total solar eclipse, you can physically experience the shadow before it arrives. The wind picks up. Wildlife goes quiet. The temperature drops. The sunlight slowly dims in the middle of the day, bathing the surroundings in an eerie twilight. What feels like an otherworldly experience, is attainable on Earth, and it will leave you in awe.

Adler’s newest temporary exhibition, Chasing Eclipses, will immerse you in the spine-tingling, goose bump-inducing experience of a solar eclipse. You’ll find inspiration in eclipse chasers from history, discover the cosmic scale of being in the shadow of the Moon, and prepare to chase down the North American solar eclipse on August 21 yourself.

Get a behind the scenes look at the making of Chasing Eclipses!

Take Part in Chicagoland

The Adler Planetarium invites everyone in the Chicagoland area to view the eclipse with us here on Museum Campus! Chicago viewers will be able to see the eclipse at 90% totality, which means that a small sliver of the Sun will still be viewable behind the outline of the Moon. Guests will receive free solar viewing glasses, can participate in eclipse-related activities, talk with Adler experts, and share the experience with an anticipated 10,000 other space enthusiasts.

To learn more about this event and activities on August 21, keep an eye on our event page.

Join Us in Carbondale, IL

The Adler is partnering with Southern Illinois University to provide eclipse-day programming in and around the SIU football stadium. SIU is located in Carbondale, IL, which is directly in the path of totality—where the Sun will be completely covered! SIU staff estimate that up to 50,000 visitors from Illinois and beyond will join the celebration.

Tickets and information available at

From The Vault

Did you know that the Adler has one of the largest collections of historic scientific instruments in the world? View a few pieces from the vault yourself! Curated especially for this new exhibition, our Collections team has put together a group of instruments related to viewing and calculating eclipses—two of which can be found on display in Chasing Eclipses!


1704 | London, England

This clockwork-driven model of the Earth-Sun-Moon system, was likely the first device of its kind ever made. It reproduces the motions of the Earth around the Sun, as well as the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, and can be used to replicate the alignment of a total solar eclipse. (Featured in Chasing Eclipses.)


c. 1680 | Venice, Italy

This rare and exquisite 17th-century device is an instrument made of wood, pasteboard, paper, and brass used to calculate eclipses. (Featured in Chasing Eclipses.)

Map Exhibiting the Dark Shadow of the Moon

1787 | London, England

This map depicts the shadow path of several different eclipses over a single area, including Great Britain, Ireland, and parts of France and Germany.

"Chasing Eclipses: The Total Solar Eclipses of 1905, 1914, 1925"

1929 | Boston, MA

Written by Rebecca R. Joslin, this book—from which our exhibit borrows its name!—conveys the excitement associated with eclipse travels and illustrates how chasing eclipses is an adventurous blend of science and tourism.

For the Love of Chasing Eclipses

Meet historic eclipse chasers through the centuries.

Samuel Williams

b. 1743 - d. 1817

Samuel Williams was a Harvard professor who led the first American eclipse expedition in 1780. Pictured above, in 1980, Bob Rothschild stands with eight of Williams’ original instruments in Penobscot Bay, the precise site of the 1780 expedition.

Norman Lockyer

b. 1836 - d. 1920

A figurehead in the development of astrophysics and an avid eclipse chaser, Norman Lockyer was a British astronomer who is credited as the co-discoverer of the chemical element helium and participated in several British eclipse expeditions.

Mabel Loomis Todd

b. 1856 - d. 1932

Author of Total Eclipses of the Sun, Mabel Loomis Todd was a charismatic figure known largely for her editions of Emily Dickinson’s poems. She travelled with her husband, astronomer David Peck Todd, on several eclipse expeditions.

Standing in the Shadow of the Moon

Members of the Adler’s astronomy department talk about their personal experiences with eclipses.

Andrew K. Johnston, VP Astronomy & CollectionsDr. Andrew Johnston
VP of Astronomy and Collections

I traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to see the 2001 total solar eclipse. The eclipse was a big deal in Zambia. The president declared a national holiday and everyone was excited. At the Lusaka airport, a taxi driver asked, “Excuse me, do you have a pair of those special glasses that let you look at the Sun?” In fact, I had a whole pack of them, which I gladly shared. Before long all the other taxi drivers had abandoned their cars to come look at the Sun.

The eclipse itself was glorious. Suddenly, it was nighttime in the middle of the day. The solar corona looks like a delicate sheet—which photographs do not reproduce. The planet Jupiter was visible. Even though the sky was dark, sunlight was visible on the horizon 360 degrees around. People around me were screaming and yelling. I honestly can’t recall, but I’m sure I was doing a bit of that myself.

Larry Ciupik. Astronomer & Doane Observatory DirectorLarry Ciupik
Adler Astronomer and Doane Observatory Director

Adler Astronomer Emeritus, Jim Seevers, and I led a group of 20 people on an Adler-sponsored eclipse expedition to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in July, 1991. It didn’t matter how much I knew about it or prepared for it, my first total solar eclipse was unexpected and unlike anything I’ve ever seen!

In the days prior to the eclipse, Jim and I gave lectures about the mechanics of eclipses and how to view and photograph them. At the final moments before the total eclipse, we were shouting out instructions to keep everyone from looking at the blindingly bright Sun too soon.

Then, in the last few seconds before totality, the sky darkened to a deep blue, then purple, and faint wavering lines appeared—shadow bands—whisking across the sand of our beachside site. Suddenly, the Sun itself dramatically changed. I took off my special solar viewing filter and saw what looked like a hole in the sky surrounded by a pearlescent glow. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, resembled outstretched wings several times wider than the hole on each side.

After admiring the naked-eye view, I quickly turned to look through a telescope and saw a few pink solar prominences projecting high above the Sun’s black disk. The experience left me hoarse from shouting and the extreme emotions of the moment.

Have you ever experienced a solar eclipse? Or are you planning to experience the North American solar eclipse on August 21? Share your eclipse story using the hashtag #AdlerEclipseWatch on Facebook or Twitter!

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