2017-08-10 / Front Page

Total solar eclipse will blaze path very near here

By JANE ELLYN AARON,
news editor


Wilkes County is barely outside the stripe of totality, providing a good experience but making direct viewing of the eclipse unsafe. However, enthusiasts can see the total eclipse by traveling only a short distance to places like Greenwood, S.C. Wilkes County is barely outside the stripe of totality, providing a good experience but making direct viewing of the eclipse unsafe. However, enthusiasts can see the total eclipse by traveling only a short distance to places like Greenwood, S.C. History will soon be made as a total solar eclipse trails through the center of North America with a 70-mile span of coverage, set to begin in Oregon and travel straight through to South Carolina, on Monday, August 21, with partial coverage here beginning around 1 p.m.

It’s been nearly 100 years – since 1918 – when a vast spread of the nation was blackened by the velocity and stretch of a solar eclipse. While several states and isolated locations across the United States have experienced the “totality” of darkness produced by an eclipse, this phenomenon, too, has not occurred in 26 years – the last taking place off the mainland in Hawaii in 1991.


Eclipse viewers must wear eye protection when looking directly at the sun in order to prevent loss of vision. Eclipse viewers must wear eye protection when looking directly at the sun in order to prevent loss of vision. A 50-year lag for the southeast will make this an especially grand occurrence, as the region hasn’t seen this particular wonder since 1970 when an eclipse wound up from Florida in a darkened trail, and blazed up the eastern coast.

People across the globe are highly anticipating this rarity, making pilgrimages to prime viewing locations, and imagining the dramatic scene’s unfolding as midday turns to twilight and sudden drops in temperature to completely shroud the body’s senses in a torrential haze of Biblical proportions.

Luckily, Wilkes County residents who want to immerse themselves into the completeness of the eclipse will have to travel only a short distance for this experience, as northern Elbert County, Hart County, and McCormick, S.C., are all in the path for totality.

But no matter where they are, viewers must watch carefully.

With all the hype surrounding the eclipse experience, people should not forget to take the proper safety precautions to view it. Physicians and scientists alike have put a great emphasis on eye care when staring directly at the sun, as serious eye damage – and even blindness in severe cases – can occur if they are not properly protected.

“Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (‘totality’), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality,” NASA officials said. “The only safe way to look directly at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as ‘eclipse glasses’ or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight.”

NASA has also specifically outlined the best safety procedures to adhere to when sky watching, which are outlined below:

. Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.

. Always supervise children using solar filters.

. Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter – do not remove it while looking at the sun.

. Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.

. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer – the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.

. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.

. If you are within the path of totality remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.

. Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.

. If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

A complete list of safety precautions can be accessed at https:// eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

In preparation for the momentous eclipse, however, libraries throughout the region will have solar glasses available. Glasses will be available for a minimal charge (around $1.50) at the Mary Willis Library in Washington and are free at the Lincoln County Library. Supplies are limited, and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Safe viewing apparatus is also available at a variety of retailers and online but be sure it is properly certified.

Officials with Eclipse2017 have emphasized that those who are not in the direct band of the eclipse will not be able to get the full effects of it. “‘Close’ is not close enough,” Dan McGlaun, veteran of 12 total solar eclipses, penned for the watch group. “For those who choose to experience this eclipse outside the path, a partial eclipse is all they will see. Even if the sun is 99.9 percent eclipsed for these observers, they will not experience the full, jaw-dropping, knee-buckling, emotionally-overloading, completely overwhelming spectacle that is totality.”

According to Eclipse2017, Hartwell is due for a duration of totality for nearly two minutes, with a partial phase beginning at 1:08 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), or at “1:30 o’clock on the sun’s disk.” Totality is projected for 2:37 p.m. EDT.

McCormick will likewise experience nearly two minutes of darkness, with the partial phase beginning around 1:10 p.m. EDT, or at “2 o’clock on the sun’s disk.” Totality will begin around 2:40 p.m. EDT.

For a full list of locations and eclipse times across the country, along with general information, visit www.eclipse2017.org

Sky watching columnist Joe Rao with space.com has also outlined the best places to view the solar eclipse in every state it passes through.

For Georgia, “only the extreme northeast corner of the Peach State will be touched by the moon’s dark shadow between 2:34 and 2:40 p.m. local time (EDT), which is why in a state of more than 10 million people, only about 194,000 are in the total eclipse zone. The Atlanta metropolitan area lies about 85 miles outside the eclipse track to the southwest. But a 75-minute drive on Interstate Highway 85, to just south of Indian Creek, will put you inside the path of totality.

“The best place in Georgia to watch the eclipse will be in Rabun County, where the county seat of Clayton (population 2,300) will be treated to 2 minutes and 34 seconds of total eclipse, beginning at 2:35 p.m.,” Roa said.

The columnist continued to outline, “like Georgia, only a small part of the Tarheel State will experience totality. The path of totality will slide across the western end of the state, passing over the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains. A large part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the path. The center of the eclipse track crosses through Graham, Cherokee, Clay, and Macon Counties. Most of the towns and communities up here are rather small, which is why the number of people who fall within the path of the total eclipse in North Carolina is only about 175,000. Franklin, the county seat of Macon (population 3,900), is the largest local city in the eclipse path and is surrounded by beautiful streams, waterfalls, mountains, hills, and valleys. There are plenty of trails for hiking, as well as plenty of fishing, hunting, rafting, and kayaking, and the views are said to be breathtaking. Franklin will experience 2 minutes and 30 seconds of daytime darkness, starting at 2:35 p.m. EDT. The largest city in western North Carolina is Asheville, but it is 25 miles outside the eclipse path, so the 92,000 residents will see the moon cover 99.2 percent of the sun at 2:37.”

Surely, as the dawning of the eclipse fast approaches, viewers should not be disappointed at everything they’ll behold in the afternoon sky, as celestial glows spilling out of the sun’s unveiled corona interminably envelope the spherical cloak of the moon’s passing. It should be considered a wonder of mythologically epic proportions, especially since the next total solar eclipse is not expected until 2024.

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