Chasing the Eclipse: Popular Science Books

On August 21, a total solar eclipse will take place in the continental United States for the first time since 1979. While total solar eclipses happen about every 18 months somewhere on the Earth's surface, the path of totality only goes through the same area every 375 years. Illinois is lucky to buck those odds. Total totality, the time in which the sun is completely covered by the moon, will happen near Carbondale not only this year but again in 2024.

What should you expect on eclipse day? Well, that depends on where you're located—ideally somewhere in the path of totality. Otherwise, you'll only see a partial eclipse. In Chicago we should see about 80 percent.

As the moon's "bite" gets bigger and the sun gets thinner, things will start to get weird. The sky begins to darken, little crescent shadows start to dance under the trees as the leaves act like a pinhole camera, the wind will pick up, the temperature will drop, birds will go silent and Ozzy Osboune will start to Bark at the Moon (really!). And people will start to get a bit excitable. There's nothing you can do, it's a total eclipse of the....

So when the moon starts its path across the sun, toss on your funky eclipse glasses, sit back and take in the scene for the next hour and a half, perhaps at one of our eclipse watch parties. While you wait for the big show, check out one of these books to learn more.

American Eclipse: Science journalist David Baron recounts America's epic scientific race to the Rocky Mountains to best capture the solar eclipse of 1878. Scientific teams consisted of the famous, such as Thomas Edison, and those who should have received more fame, such as renowned female astronomer Maria Mitchell and her all-female team from Vassar College.

Sun, Moon, Earth: Astronomer Tyler Nordgren explains how what was once thought to be a dire omen from the gods is now a sought-after tourist attraction.

Eclipse: Popular science author Frank Close explains what's so alluring about solar eclipses and why some people spend a lot of time and money to chase them around the globe.