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SIU To Host Solar Eclipse Food Festival, Comic Con

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Southern Illinois University has been gearing up to host one heck of a party, as thousands of visitors were expected to descend on Carbondale to view the total solar eclipse next month.

Carbondale is one of the ideal locations to view the moon crossing the face of the sun on Aug. 21, as it lies near the greatest point of duration along the eclipse's path of totality.

The party at Southern Illinois University will begin three days before the eclipse. A team of astronomers and educators from the Adler Planetarium will be leading a series of activities in Carbondale.

Events at SIU include scientific talks leading up to the eclipse; a four-day food festival and carnival; the university's first-ever comic convention; a two-day astronomy, science, and technology expo; a two-day arts and craft fair; a three-day research workshop; and more.

Organizers were expecting 20,000 to 50,000 people to come to Carbondale for the eclipse. SIU Eclipse Steering Committee co-chair Bob Baer said plenty of those visitors will be from Chicago.

"If you really want to see an eclipse, a six-hour drive is nothing. I flew 23 hours to see the last one I saw," he said.

Baer saw his first solar eclipse last year in Indonesia, and described it as breathtaking.

"For most people, they're pretty emotional and just kind of awe-struck when they see that," he said.

The celebration of next month's eclipse will culminate with a viewing on Aug. 21 at Saluki Stadium, for when the eclipse reaches totality at 1:21 p.m. Tickets are available here.

"It will get dark; like, really dark. Think 15-20 minutes after sunset, and in the middle of the day, that's quite shocking," Baer said.

With all lodging on campus already booked, including a dormitory for which SIU has delayed demolition, those who plan to go to Carbondale to see the eclipse will need to find other lodgings if they don't already have a place to stay.

For those not making the trek to Carbondale, NASA will be broadcasting the event.

The eclipse will be visible from Chicago, although Baer said it might be a little underwhelming, as it won't be a total eclipse this far north.

"You won't even notice the eclipse is going on unless somebody tells you, and you put on glasses and look at it," he said.

Carbondale again will be an ideal viewing site for a total solar eclipse in 2024.

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