Eclipse: McHenry County gets ready for Monday’s big solar event; what to know and where to go

An image from McHenry County College's Planetarium shows what the April 8 solar eclipse might look like here.

McHenry County is gearing up for Monday’s solar eclipse, taking advantage of an opportunity that won’t come again for 20 years.

Besides some public eclipse-watching opportunities and changes to snag free eclipse glasses – a must for safe viewing – others are marking the occasion in unusual ways.

At Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, babies born Monday will be given a set of mini-sunglasses to commemorate the convergence of two big happenings. Joan Stout, manager of the obstetrics department, came up with the idea.

“That’s what families do, celebrate big events, and we’re always building families here,” Stout said. “The idea is just to have fun and to celebrate and get a cute photograph while they’re in the hospital.”

Stout notes regular sunglasses are not sufficient protection for actually looking at the eclipse.

The dome at the McHenry County College's Planetarium shows the paths of eclipses this century in North America on Friday, April 5, ahead of April 8's solar eclipse. The planetarium has a show called “Eclipses of the Sun” show, which explores the mechanisms behind an eclipse.

McHenry Community High School District 156 will be distributing safe viewing glasses to their students, but district is also marking the eclipse in a different way: by sending students home early.

“While McHenry isn’t in the path to see the total solar eclipse, it is a unique opportunity for our students and families to witness a rare event given our proximity to the path of the total eclipse. Because of this, we have planned an early release schedule for Monday, April 8 so that our students can take advantage of this opportunity,” Superintendent Ryan McTague said in a message to families.

What you need to know, and will the weather hold for good viewing?

The moon will cover about 90% of the sun from the perspective of those in McHenry County, according to NASA. The eclipse is expected to start at 12:51 p.m., peak at 2:06 p.m. and end at 3:21 p.m. The next chance to see a total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2044.

Stormy spring weather, however, could block any chance of seeing the eclipse in the area. As of Thursday, the National Weather Service forecasts Monday could have a chance of showers after 1 p.m.

“There’s probably going to be some clouds around in the morning. There is a trend towards those clouds clearing out in time for the eclipse, but still not 100% sure that will happen,” National Weather Service meteorologist Rafal Ogorek said.

Meteorologist Paul Hamill of McHenry County College’s Planetarium in Crystal Lake, said Friday that a Canadian weather model showed clear skies over the county. He said he’d decide Sunday, based on those models, whether he’ll drive to southern Indiana for the view the eclipse in the path of totality.

The Planetarium had two viewings Friday evening of its “Eclipses of the Sun” show, which explores “the mechanisms behind an eclipse” and what to expect Monday.

Be sure to safely view the eclipse with special glasses because staring directly at the sun during a solar eclipse or at any other time can lead to permanent eye damage. Regular sunglasses are not protective enough, and binoculars, cameras and telescopes without a proper solar filter can magnify light from the sun, making them unsafe reports. The sun’s bright rays can also damage a phone’s digital components.

To verify your pair will properly protect your eyes, glasses should say they comply with ISO 12312-2 standards, though fake suppliers can also print this language on their products. NASA does not approve or certify eclipse glasses.

Kelly (armed raised), Estela and Kendall Merkel wait for the "Eclipses of the Sun" show to start Friday, April 5, at McHenry County College's Planetarium, ahead of the April 8 solar eclipse.

Try indirectly viewing the eclipse by poking a hole through a piece of cardboard and hold it up during the eclipse and look down to see a partial crescent projected below.

Where to view the eclipse in McHenry County:

Crystal Lake Nature Center: The Crystal Lake Park District will host a free viewing party starting at 12:30 p.m. Monday and provide eclipse glasses at the Nature Center, 330 N. Main St. The event will take place outside since the Nature Center is currently under renovations, Nature Center Recreation Supervisor William Sutphin said. The event will have pinhole viewers for people to see the shadow of the eclipse and models to demonstrate how exactly the eclipse occurs, Sutphin said.

“I love space, our instructors love space,” he said. “We’re all super excited about it.”

For more details, visit

Breaking Bread: The Breaking Bread Cary location will host a viewing party starting at 1:45 p.m. The sandwich shop, located at 638 Northwest Highway, will hand out free Milky Way candy bars and eclipse glasses while supplies last, owner Chris Plazak said.

“Hopefully the weather is good. Just something fun to get everybody together,” he said. “Have a little food, have some candy bars and have some fun with people while it’s going on.”

While there, try out their special “Eclipse Burger” served on dark rye with a scrambled egg, American cheese, grilled onions and honey mustard.

Free glasses: Many places are providing free solar eclipse viewing glasses for free while supplies last. Locations include:

  • Cary Village Hall, 755 Georgetown Drive, Cary
  • Cary Area Public Library, 1606 Three Oaks Road, Cary
  • Crystal Lake Public Library, 126 W. Paddock St., Crystal Lake
  • Huntley Area Public Library, 11000 Ruth Road, Huntley
  • McHenry Public Library District, 809 Front St., McHenry

The Associated Press contributed.