Photo courtesy of Wibu Lu.

A Guide to the Almost Total Eclipse of Wheeling

On April 8, the moon and stars will align. To be more specific, the moon, one star, and the earth. Around midday, the moon will creep in front of the sun, providing a dusk-like atmosphere for people during their lunch break. As darkness descends, what do you need to know?

Per NASA, there are many misconceptions about the eclipse: it will harm babies, poison food cooked or signal bad times ahead. An eclipse is not dangerous “unless you decide to go out and ignore the warnings,” said Robert Strong of the SMART-Center. Thursday night, Robert and Libby Strong gave a presentation at the Ohio County Public Library to explain the celestial event. Their main warning was simple: do not look directly at the sun. The only way to safely enjoy the eclipse is with eclipse glasses. Only use official eclipse glasses; don’t just buy some on Amazon, your vision isn’t worth the risk. Where should you go to get your glasses? You can call the SMART-Center and they can get you some, or stop by the Ohio County Public Library to get two free pairs per person. The only other valid way to look at an eclipse is through a welder’s glass. Anything else is a hazard. As Robert said, “Any method that starts with the phrase ‘I heard you can’ is bad.”

A group of onlookers using welder’s glass during an eclipse in 1914.

If you can’t get ahold of glasses, don’t fret; there are so many other ways to enjoy the beauty of the eclipse. You can look at the shadow cast from leaves, a colander, or your fingers crossed on top of each other and see the shadows projected onto the ground. The sunlight will be dappled, but not like normal. You’ll be able to see tons of tiny crescents. 

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Crescent shadows during the eclipse. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Seigh.

You can also use your other senses to enjoy the eclipse. During the last solar eclipse, Libby noticed that the birds had stopped chirping and that the night insects had started to sing. Wheeling is even closer to the path of totality on this eclipse, so the change should be even more evident. The path of totality is where the total eclipse happens. Wheeling will experience 96.6% totality, which is really, really good. Especially since if you want to experience the total eclipse in Wheeling, you’ll have to wait till 2099. For now, plan to look up from 2-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with 3:16 p.m. being the high point. It will get 30x times darker than a full sunny day.

If you want to celebrate with like-minded eclipse fans, the Strongs will be at Grandview Park, shelters 3, 4, and 5, during the event. They’ll have indirect viewers, glasses, and ways to experience the crescent shadows on the ground. They also hope to be able to view Venus and Jupiter during the eclipse. 

So, do not be afraid! Nothing bad happens during an eclipse. It is not a harbinger of bad times, it will not harm your plants, or cast bad vibes on you if your birthday is near. You do not need to fix glasses to your pet’s eyes or lock yourself indoors. You can go about your day like normal. But maybe, if you can get the proper protective gear, you can pause, look up, and relish the beauty of the cosmos.

• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.