ASK TOM: Dark as night in the midafternoon

Dear Tom,

My dad claims that one day, when he was a child, it became dark as night in the midafternoon and it became light again a short time later. Could there have been a solar eclipse in the Chicago area around 1918 or so?

–Nick Dispensa


Dear Nick,

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, and the moon fully or partially blocks the sun. Triton College astronomer Dan Joyce was unable to find any historical information to support the possibility of a solar eclipse in or around 1918 in the Chicago area. Joyce said a total eclipse affected Oklahoma on June 8, 1918, but the path of total darkness approached no nearer to Chicago than Kansas City. Another eclipse occurred near San Diego on Sept. 10, 1923, but would have been inconspicuous here.