BY MARK MATHOSIAN
The countdown to the total solar eclipse of 2017 has begun. While it’s not too late to make plans to see it, you had better get started. Hotel rooms in cities where the event can best be seen are going fast. Below are facts about solar eclipses, details about this particular event, and information on the closest places to Winston-Salem where you can see the eclipse in totality.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. Some solar eclipses are total, and some are partial. A solar eclipse only occurs during a new moon, when the sun and the moon are in conjunction as viewed from the Earth. During a solar eclipse, the sun suddenly disappears in the middle of the day and the sky quickly darkens. Total solar eclipses are rare because totality is only seen where the moon’s umbra touches the Earth’s surface. A total solar eclipse is a spectacular natural phenomenon, and people travel to remote locations to observe one. In fact, this will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. This amazing celestial event occurs on August 21, 2017, and the path will cross 12 states, from Oregon through South Carolina. Everyone in the U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse, and many areas will see totality for over 2 minutes.
First contact is in Oregon at 10:15:56.5 a.m. PDT and from there the center line crosses through 10 states, eventually making its way to the southeastern U.S. North Carolina will have only a portion of the state hit by the shadow – but it is a huge area. The western part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park lies in the path of totality. However, since the park is so huge, you must be in the right part of the park to actually experience the eclipse. Online maps can help you make your plans, and at the end of this column, you will find a fact-filled website you can visit for more news. You can also experience totality in Murphy (2m26s at 2:34 pm), Andrews (2m38s at 2:34 pm), or Franklin (2m30s at 2:35 pm). Other than that, please be aware that neither Asheville nor Charlotte are in the path. For a great view, many North Carolinians are heading to South Carolina. Greenville and Columbia are two nearby cities where you can bathe in the full glory of the solar eclipse for over two minutes.
To prepare for the event, consider purchasing Your Guide to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, by Michael E. Bakich, Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series. The book is available on Amazon, or it can be ordered at our local Barnes & Noble bookstore. The guide was published in 2016 and presents all the information you need to be ready for the eclipse. Also, consider purchasing inexpensive solar viewing glasses from a company like Rainbow Symphony, Inc. These inexpensive eclipse shades are safe for direct solar viewing and can be used to watch the solar eclipse and planetary transits, and to observe and study sunspots and other solar phenomena. Symphony’s website is RainbowSymphony.com. Other companies offering similar products can be found on Amazon.com. For tons of help with the eclipse, go to Eclipse.org. Consider downloading their free app available at Google Play and at Apple Store, Eclipse2017.org.