Reflecting on Illumination
This cosmic interplay of light and shadow in the form of the solar eclipse has occurred regularly throughout human history and across the globe. Light and shadow also play a fundamental role in art, much in the same way that reflection and illumination play a large role in how we view the solar system and the universe.
As such, we wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the history of illumination: the history of science across different times and cultures. While the eclipse was the inspiration for this theme, we encourage students to be as creative as they wish in their own interpretation.
In short: your art should be about astronomy but it does not need to be about the eclipse! We welcome all interpretations of the theme “Reflecting on Illumination.”
The judging will be based on both the quality of the artwork and the artistic skill demonstrated, as well as creativity in the interpretation of the theme. Judges are members of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department.
To be eligible for prizes, the artwork must connect in some way to astronomy. On the submission form, students may include an optional description of the connection of their work to the theme or astronomy in general. This is particularly encouraged for more abstract pieces.
In particular the pieces will be judged based on these three questions:
- Does the artwork relate to the theme?
- Does the artwork display a good grasp of technical abilities relative to the age group?
- Does the artwork exhibit creativity - is it a unique interpretation of the theme?
- Elementary K-5
- Middle School 6-8
- High School 9-12
Prizes Per Age Group
- First Place $100
- Second Place $50
- Third Place $25
- 2D works only (canvases allowed, no sculptures)
- 1 submission per student
- Submissions must be made in person by February 16th, 2024
- Submissions may be dropped off in the Eckhardt Research Building (5640 S. Ellis Ave, Chicago), Room 599 Monday-Friday between the hours of 8:30am - 5pm. For questions about dropoff, please contact the organizers at email@example.com
- To be considered, the informational form must be fully filled out and attached to each piece of artwork.
- Note: Because we are not affiliated with Chicago Public Schools we cannot send emails to children’s CPS email accounts. Please include the email of a parent/guardian or a teacher for each submission, NOT the child’s CPS email.
More information for Teachers, Guardians, and Parents
Eclipse as Illumination
While students should not feel limited to artwork involving the eclipse, we wanted to use this to demonstrate a sliver of the possible concepts that could relate to the history of illumination.
- West African - Sun and Moon “fighting” - showing an understanding that the Moon was involved in the change of light from the Sun
- Chinese and Mayans had a good understanding and accurately predicted the solar eclipse
- Herodotus mentions an eclipse that occurred during a battle, frightening both sides enough that they stopped fighting, despite the eclipse being predicted by Thales, the Milesian
- Artistic representations of the eclipse show solar prominences and corona
The eclipse itself has played a role in many more recent scientific discoveries. Including:
- the discovery of Helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, in 1868 by Pierre Janssen, who observed it in India during a total solar eclipse 
- the verification of Einstein’s conclusion that light is deflected by gravitational fields during a solar eclipse in 1919. Sir Arthur Eddington traveled to Principe near Africa during a total solar eclipse to observe the deflection of stars close to the Sun due to the Sun’s gravitational field - stars that could not otherwise be observed because of the bright light from the Sun itself