A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the earth and the sun. If the moon completely covers the sun, a total solar eclipse occurs. During a total solar eclipse, day turns into night, and we can plainly see one of nature’s most incredible sights, the Sun’s corona.
Keep reading for a list of eclipse-viewing events in the Carolinas.
Due to the brightness of the sun, the corona (a ring of hot gas around the sun’s perimeter) is not visible to the naked eye. However, during a total solar eclipse, the Moon blocks out bright sunlight, and we see the corona. It’s definitely a bucket-list-worthy event that doesn’t happen often.
Past and Future American Eclipses
Here’s a list of eclipses that have been (or will be) visible in the United States. It’s been 26 years since the last one, and will be seven years until the next one. So this might be your chance to experience one of nature’s most fascinating events.
- March 7, 1970. Total solar eclipse along the Atlantic seaboard.
- February 26, 1979. Total solar eclipse through the northwestern and north-central states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.
- July 11, 1991. Total solar eclipse in Hawai’i and the southern tip of Baja, California. Many who flew to Hawai’i from around the world were disappointed to see only clouds. Baja had excellent views, so was the place to be.
- August 21, 2017. All of North America will have a solar eclipse. The eclipse will begin on the Oregon coast and travel in a southeasterly path to South Carolina.
- April 8, 2024. The next total solar eclipse in the United States enters at Texas, crossing a northeasterly path to cross Maine.
Safe Eclipse Viewing
The first thing to know when planning to view a solar eclipse is eye safety.
While a total solar eclipse is safe to look at, the sun at any other time is dangerously bright. We all flinch from the brightness if we try to look at the sun, which keeps us from looking at it directly. But the problem with a partial eclipse is, it blocks some of the brightness making you think it is safe, yet is still as dangerous as trying to look directly at the sun. Your eyes will be damaged before you know it.
Ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, as well as homemade filters are not safe for looking at the partially eclipsed (or uneclipsed) Sun.
To look at any portion of the partial eclipse before totality, you must use special-purpose “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. To be safe, the viewer must meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for these products. Read more about eye safety at eclipse.aas.org.
During totality, it is as dark as night. The total solar eclipse is about as bright as a full moon, and just as safe to look at. But once the moon starts to uncover the sun again, it becomes dangerous to look at without the right kind of eye protection.
Look for Solar Eclipse Glasses online.
August 2017 Eclipse
On August 21, 2017, it will take about 90 minutes for the Moon’s dark shadow to cross the country. When you hear someone say, “the total eclipse lasts 90 minutes,” that’s what they mean. The eclipse will start around 10:15 am Pacific time on the West Coast and end around 11:45 am. (It starts and ends about three hours later on the East Coast.)
Further, the partial eclipse starts about 1-1/4 hours earlier, 9:00 am PST on the West Coast and 1:15 pm EST on the East Coast. And it ends 2½ to 3 hours after that, around 11:30 am PST on the West Coast and 4:15 pm EST on the East Coast.
But, 90 minutes is misleading when you are talking about viewing the total solar eclipse (aka “totality”). At any given location within the path of the Moon’s shadow, the total solar eclipse will last at most 2 minutes 40 seconds. Outside the path of totality, you will see at most a partial solar eclipse (be sure to read about safe eclipse viewing above). And a partial eclipse doesn’t compare to a total solar eclipse.
In order to see the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, you must position yourself within the roughly 70-mile-wide path across the country. The eclipse will cross a total of 12 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina.
Solar Eclipse America has a page of eclipse events across America, including tours, community festivals, and other travel opportunities. GreatAmericanEclipse.com suggests 10 great places to see the eclipse; but scroll down to find the page for the state nearest you. Each state page has several videos showing the path of the eclipse across the state, allowing you to explore several options in your own eclipse-viewing-plan.
Many cities and towns within or near the path of totality will take advantage of the economic opportunity to have parking, shuttles, and other services to facilitate travel to a viewing site. So check the eclipse location nearest you and see what options they offer.
The foremost criterion for selecting a site is the weather. You can watch the weather forecasts starting a week before eclipse day to judge whether you can strike for a spot close to home or travel further afield. Wherever you go, try to remain flexible. Even in the sunniest locations (like Kona, Hawai’i is known for, yet disappointed many in 1991), you don’t want to find yourself looking at clouds during the brief time when totality occurs. So, have a relocation plan in place and keep an eye on weather reports as August 21 approaches.
Secondly, try to find a location with good roads (if possible, away from the most popular spots where everyone–and their vehicles–will be). If clouds threaten, put your relocation plan in motion (literally!) and head to a second well-chosen viewing spot.
Finally, unless you have reserved accommodations, the general recommendation is to arrive 24-hours ahead of the eclipse (12 hours minimum) and secure your viewing spot on an open road. Since August is typically good camping weather anywhere in the U.S., you can avoid hotels (and hotel prices) and pack a tent or travel in a recreational vehicle to keep your options open. The good news is, most people who live in the continental U.S. are within a 1-day drive of the August 2017 eclipse path.
Where to watch in the Carolinas
We’re fortunate in the Charlotte area that many viewing locations are within a short drive. You can make it a day trip and not have to pay for accommodations, which might have inflated prices. You’ll have the choice of watching from the North Carolina mountains, Upstate South Carolina, or Columbia, South Carolina, all easy drives. Columbia is a great choice because it’s a pretty big city with a lot of resources (and good highways in and out) so there will be many events. But there’s something about the mountains, isn’t there?
Here’s a video that shows the path of the eclipse through the Carolinas:
Read more about the path through North Carolina and South Carolina. Some communities in North Carolina that will experience the total solar eclipse: Andrews, Sylva, Cashiers, Fantana Village, Sapphire, Cullowhee. Basically, we’re talking about the southwest-most part of the state. Much more of South Carolina will be in the path of the eclipse. Some of the communities closest to Charlotte are Anderson, Greenville, Lexington and Columbia.
Timewise, to give you an idea, the total eclipse enters North Carolina at 2:33 p.m. and leaves South Carolina for the Atlantic Ocean at 2:49 p.m.
Some eclipse watching events
This is not by any means an exhaustive list. Check NationalEclipse.com for an updated list, and make sure to follow each link for details. Some events are free, but many are not. Many require reservations.
Anderson, NC (3 hours, 30 minutes from Charlotte)
The Great American Eclipse Celebration
Hall Park on First Street, Andrews
They’re planning on food, beer, music and wine
Otto, NC (3 hours, 17 minutes from Charlotte)
Pre-Eclipse activities, potluck, group Labyrinth Walk
Mountain Valley Center 43 Shambala Way, Otto, NC
Cashiers, NC (2 hours, 58 minutes from Charlotte)
Cashiers Eclipse Festival
Village Green Commons, Cashiers, NC
Live music by Coconut Groove, experts, viewing equipment
Sylva, NC (2 hours, 41 minutes from Charlotte)
Bridge Park, Nantahala National Forest, 76 Railroad Ave, Sylva, NC
Downtown Sylva Eclipse Festival
Sapphire Valley Resort (2 hours, 47 minutes from Charlotte)
Highway 64, Sapphire, NC
Look for special events updates here
Long Creek, SC (2 hours, 46 minutes from Charlotte)
Eclipse Fest 2017
Chattooga Belle Farm, 454 Damascus Church Road, Long Creek, SC
Food trucks, lawn games, music, astronomy talks, drum circle, tastings, more
Anderson, SC (2 hours, 8 minutes from Charlotte)
Blackout at Greenpond
470 Green Pond Rd., Anderson, South Carolina
On-site astronomer to answer questions
Greenville, SC (1 hour, 36 minutes from Charlotte)
Bob Jones University Eclipse Experience
Bob Jones University, 1700 Wade Hampton Blvd., Greenville, SC
Use university telescopes, do experiments. First 2,000 people get solar eclipse glasses. Register in advance.
Greenville, SC (1 hour, 32 minutes from Charlotte)
Roper Mountain Science Center, 402 Roper Mountain Road, Greenville, SC
Ninety Six, SC (2 hours, 21 minutes from Charlotte)
Eclipse viewing event
Ninety Six National Historic Site, 1103 Highway 248 S, Ninety Six, South Carolina
Family friendly solar system activities
Cayce, SC (1 hour, 36 minutes from Charlotte)
Soda City Eclipse Viewing Festival
Historic Columbia Speedway, 2001 Charleston Hwy. Cayce, SC
A viewing party at the Historic Columbia Speedway festival grounds. We will host local live music, food trucks, beverages and shade tents. Bring out your chairs and blankets and picnic on our 9 acre lawn and take in one of the best views in the city of this momentous occasion. The event will kick off around 10:00 am and wrap early in the evening.
Columbia, SC (1 hour, 22 minutes from Charlotte)
Total Eclipse of the Park
Spirit Communications Park, 1640 Freed Street, Columbia, SC
Festival takes place during the Columbia Fireflies Minor League Baseball game
Columbia, SC (1 hour, 27 minutes from Charlotte)
Solar Eclipse event at South Carolina State Museum
South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC
Viewing area, visit from astronaut, astronomy displays, solar eclipse viewing glasses, more
Thank you to Greater Seattle on the Cheap for much of the information in this post.