Viewing The Eclipse In Milwaukee: Not Total, But Still Amazing

Aug 17, 2017

On Monday, part of the United States will experience a total solar eclipse, where the moon completely covers the sun. Milwaukee won’t get totality, but we will still experience a partial eclipse. 

Credit NASA

"In Milwaukee we're going to see a partial solar eclipse, 86%... most people, if they've seen a solar eclipse at all, it's likely to be partial," says Jean Creighton, Lake Effect astronomy contributor and director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium. 

During a partial solar eclipse, the moon blocks just a portion of the sun, so viewers in Milwaukee will see 86% of the sun covered by the moon. While Creighton says a partial solar eclipse is still an amazing (and sometimes life-changing) sight, she admits it lacks the "drama" of a total eclipse. 

"The thing about total solar eclipse is that it is so dark that you can see stars, bright stars, but it really makes it nighttime," she says.

Unlike lunar eclipses, solar eclipses are relatively rare. The next total eclipse in North America will be in 2024, and won't be completely visible in the Milwaukee-area. 

"Solar eclipses are considerably more selective because really it affects only, typically, a strip of earth that's a few thousand miles long and sometimes only a hundred miles wide."

"Solar eclipses are considerably more selective because really it affects only, typically, a strip of earth that's a few thousand miles long and sometimes only a hundred miles wide. So, you know, you have to be in really the right place and the right time to see a solar eclipse." 

In this case, Creighton says the "right place" closest to Milwaukee is likely the southern Illinois border. People will also be able to view the total eclipse in parts or Oregon, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. 

While the eclipse visible in Milwaukee will only be partial, Creighton says, it's something viewers will remember for the rest of their lives. She still remembers seeing a partial eclipse as a child.

UWM's planetarium will be hosting a viewing party on the day of eclipse, and she encourages people (particularly those with children) to come out and watch the cosmological phenomenon. 

"Even if you can't go anywhere and you stay in Milwaukee, do bring your kids to the planetarium or somewhere else. Make sure that they see even the partial eclipse because I think that's something they never forget. It stays with you and it gives you that connection with the cosmos that I think is so healthy for us all," says Creighton.

Viewers should take precautions, since they will essentially be staring at the sun. "Frankly, any portion of the sun is enough to ruin your retna... so be sure that you get proper protection, proper glasses," she says.

Sunglasses will not be enough protection to look at the sun, but Creighton has a good tip on how to make sure your viewing device is adequate for the eclipse.

She explains, "If you put on the filters that you're given and you can see any light whatsoever from say, a lamp, they're not good enough. It should block more than 99% of light."