How to safely watch a solar eclipse
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)
What day is the eclipse?
The big day, being called the Great American Eclipse, is Monday, Aug. 21. Parts of 14 states are in the “path of totality,” in which folks will see the total 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.
How long will the eclipse last?
A partial eclipse in South Carolina begins at 1:08 p.m. and continues until about 4:09 p.m. The full eclipse itself lasts anywhere from 90 seconds to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in South Carolina for areas in the path of totality.
Where can I find an eclipse map?
NASA offers maps of the totality path by state here. Here’s what the path through the Palmetto State looks like. Towns closer to the red line will see longer total eclipse times.
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 Clemson, Greenwood, Lexington, Sumter and Orangeburg.
Areas such as Rock Hill, Beaufort, Florence and Myrtle Beach lie outside the path and will see a partial eclipse.
South Carolina eclipse times
Greenwood, Laurens, Abbeville
Charleston, Mount Pleasant
▪ 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.
Don’t see a city listed? Click here for more times in South Carolina.
What is the weather forecast for Aug. 21?
There’s a chance Mother Nature won’t cooperate for the big day. Here are the latest official forecasts from the National Weather Service for Aug. 21:
▪ Greenville: Mostly sunny, with a high near 92.
▪ Columbia: Partly sunny, with a high near 93. A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent.
▪ Charleston: Partly sunny, with a high near 88. A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent.
Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can’t see the actual eclipse, the sky will darken when the event occurs.
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.
To address concerns regarding fake or counterfeit eclipse safety glasses, there is new guidance advising people to no longer simply look for language indicating that glasses meet certain safety standards (ISO standards). There are glasses on the market that have language printed on them indicating that they meet these standards, but many of these glasses have not been tested appropriately.
The American Astronomical Society is now advising people to make sure their eclipse glasses are from reputable manufacturers instead of only looking for safety/certification language that includes the ISO with reference number 12312-2.
Here are the manufacturers recognized by NASA and AAS as safe to purchase glasses from:
- American Paper Optics (Eclipser)
- APM Telescopes (Sunfilter Glasses)
- Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold Film)
- Celestron (EclipSmart Glasses & Viewers)
- DayStar (Solar Glasses)
- Explore Scientific (Solar Eclipse Sun Catcher Glasses)
- Lunt Solar Systems (SUNsafe SUNglasses)
- Meade Instruments (EclipseView Glasses & Viewers)
- Rainbow Symphony (Eclipse Shades)
- Seymour Solar (Helios Glasses)
- Solar Eclipse International / Cangnan County Qiwei Craft Co.* (plastic glasses only)
- Thousand Oaks Optical (Silver-Black Polymer & SolarLite)
- TSE 17 (Solar Filter Foil)
More info is available at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
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. These glasses are all from recommended manufacturers.
Some area hotels also will offer glasses free to their guests who come for the eclipse. Prices at local retailers usually range from $1-$3.
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.
Columbia’s public parking garages be open eclipse weekend. Will they cost you? Yes.
And so will on-street meters, which will operate as usual Monday through Saturday in downtown districts.
Prepare to pay cash only at the city’s Washington Street, Taylor Street, Lady Street, Park Street, Lincoln Street and PJ Cannon (corner of Taylor and Sumter streets) garages on Aug. 19-21. A $10 daily event parking fee will be charged at the decks that Saturday through Monday.
(Find a map of city parking garages at www.columbiasc.net/parking.)
City-owned surface parking lots on Sumter, Devine and Harden Streets also will be available for parking throughout the weekend and Monday. And the parking lot at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center will be open for parking on the day of the eclipse. The cost to park in any of the lots Monday will be $10 cash.
Coveted on-street parking meters, as always, cost 75 cents an hour and operate until 6 p.m. downtown. You can pay with coins or the PassportParking smartphone app. Street parking is free on Sundays.
Of course, chances are good you’ll find numerous private lots charging their own parking rates.
Regardless of where you end up parking, the best advice is: Bring cash.
Can I take a picture of the eclipse with my smartphone?
Technically yes, but the quality will be rather poor, since smartphone cameras were not designed with astrophotography in mind. You also will need to be careful that you minimize glimpsing the bright sun with your eyes without the benefit of a proper filter.
As for your camera, there is no valid reason why you would want to point your smartphone camera at the brilliant, un-eclipsed sun without putting a filter over the lens. During totality, you do not need the filter, of course.
There are many styles of telephoto lenses for smartphones. Avoid the “clip on” lenses because they constantly slip and have to be precisely lined up on the camera lens to work. They are often of low optical quality.
The best lenses are rated as 12x and above, and come with their own smartphone mounting bracket. At these magnifications, a tripod is essential because of camera jitter. The telephoto lens will give you enough magnification that you will clearly see some of the details in the bright corona.
You should test your system by taking night-time photos of the moon so you understand how large and detailed the moon will appear in your shot. The sun/moon during eclipse are equal-sized, so this is a good way to compose your eclipse shots too. (From NASA, USA Today, kgw.com)
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.
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)