What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. The moon appears to completely cover the disk of the sun. By blocking the sun’s light, the moon casts a shadow that turns day into twilight here on Earth. (From USA Today)
When is the eclipse?
The big day, being called the Great American Eclipse, is Monday, Aug. 21, and parts of 14 states are in the “path of totality,” in which folks will see the full solar eclipse. The eclipse makes landfall in the United States about 9:04 a.m. PDT at Lincoln Beach, Oregon; the total eclipse leaves the Atlantic coast around Charleston, S.C., at about 2:49 p.m. EDT. A partial eclipse continues until about 4:09 p.m. EDT.
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How long will it last?
Totality comes in Greenville at 2:38 p.m., lasting about 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
Totality comes in Columbia at 2:41 p.m., lasting 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
Totality comes in Charleston at 2:46 p.m., lasting about 1 minutes and 31 seconds.
Where are the best spots in South Carolina to view it?
Columbia, Greenville and Charleston are forecast to be in the path of totality and will see the full solar eclipse.
The path of totality will also cross S.C. cities such as Anderson, Greenwood, Sumter and Orangeburg.
Areas such as Rock Hill, Beaufort, Florence and Myrtle Beach lie outside the path and will see a partial eclipse.
Columbia has the longest period of totality among the state’s major cities, at 2 minutes and 30 seconds downtown.
Greenville’s time in totality lasting about 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Charleston is situated along the southern limit of the eclipse path, and totality will last about 1 minute and 31 seconds at Charleston’s Battery Park.
How to view the solar eclipse
Ordinary sunglasses, no matter how dark, are inadequate because sunlight is intense. The only period it will be safe to watch the eclipse without eyewear is when the moon totally blacks out the sun.
You need eclipse glasses. Safe glasses for eclipse viewing will be certified by ISO with a reference number of 12312-2 printed on the glasses. NASA lists American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17 as reputable producers of eclipse glasses whose products can be trusted. They also recommend AstroSolar Silver/Gold lensed glasses by Baader Planetarium.
In the Columbia area, all Richland Library locations will be handing out glasses the weekend before the eclipse, and free glasses will be distributed at the majority of events listed on TotalEclipseColumbiaSC.com.
Glasses already are available at stores such as Lowe’s home improvement, Kroger supermarkets, Target and Wal-Mart, according to their websites.
Prices usually range from $1-$3.
Some area hotels also will offer glasses free to their guests who come for the eclipse.
Where can I find a map of the path?
NASA offers maps of the totality path by state here. Here’s what the path through the Palmetto State looks like:
What if it’s cloudy or raining?
It’s too soon to know the exact forecast for the day, but there’s certainly a chance Mother Nature won’t cooperate.
The federal government’s National Centers for Environmental Information (an office in NOAA) crunched the data and developed a map that merges the path of the eclipse and historical cloud patterns for Aug. 21. The research “found that coasts could be susceptible to cloudier conditions and that increased cloud cover may be possible as the eclipse travels across the country east of the Mississippi River.”
Of the narrow band of land that will experience the eclipse in its totality in South Carolina, Columbia (43 percent) ranks below Clemson (75 percent), Greer (65 percent) and Charleston (53 percent) for likely favorable viewing conditions. The higher the percentage, the better the chance that the skies will be “clear enough for the eclipse to be visible.” Those percentages are “an estimate of average conditions, not a guarantee for this year.”
Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can’t see the actual eclipse, the sky will darken when the event occurs.
Are there events planned in the Columbia area?
There are more than 120 events, most scheduled between Thursday, Aug. 18 and Monday, Aug. 21. Find a list of them at TotalEclipseColumbiaSC.com. Some require reservations.
Traffic and parking
Expect congested travel on interstates and major highways around Columbia in the days surrounding the solar eclipse. The main thing officials want to prevent is drivers stopping on the interstates during the eclipse itself to watch. Message boards will be used to relay that message.
The Highway Patrol encourages motorists to plan ahead and designate a safe and legal place to park during the eclipse.
In downtown Columbia, the following parking decks will be open for the public Saturday, Aug. 19-Monday, Aug. 21: Washington Street deck, Taylor Street deck, Lady Street deck, Park Street deck, Lincoln Street deck and PJ Cannon. Event parking rates may apply for city parking decks during the Total Solar Eclipse weekend – cash only.
The following city surface lots will be available for parking during the eclipse weekend: Sumter Street lot, Devine Street lot and Harden Street/Exxon lot.
The Convention Center lot will be available for parking only on Monday, Aug. 21. All surface lots event parking rates may apply only on Monday, Aug. 21 – cash only.
On-street parking will operate as normal.
What about hotels in Columbia?
Hotels in the Columbia area are sold out for the night of Sunday, Aug. 20. There is availability on other days.
What are my hotel options in Charleston or Greenville?
Hotels in Charleston are also sold out for the night of Aug. 20, and rooms in Greenville, Anderson and Clemson are in short supply.
When is the next solar eclipse?
The next total solar eclipse here in the United States will be on April 8, 2024, which will be visible from Texas to New England. More total eclipses in the United States will follow in 2044, 2045 and 2078. In other parts of the world, the next total solar eclipse will be visible in Chile and Argentina on July 2, 2019. (From USA Today)