Weather forecast for August 21: Hot, humid, 100 percent chance of a solar eclipse.
On that date, the first total solar eclipse to darken the Carolinas in 47 years will pass through western North Carolina and central South Carolina. Cities in the path, Sylva, Brevard, Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, are preparing for thousands of eclipse tourists.
Racing along a 70-mile-wide path, the moon's shadow will completely blot out the sun for one to two minutes. The eclipse will turn mid-afternoon daylight into dusk, stars will come out and viewers will see the otherwise hidden corona around the blacked-out sun.
The rare celestial phenomenon, crossing the country from Oregon to South Carolina on a Monday, will be visible as a partial eclipse in the rest of the Carolinas. At Charlotte, the eclipse will obscure a maximum of 98 percent of the sun, leaving a sliver of sunlight.
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The city nearest Charlotte with the longest period of eclipse totality, as it's called, will be Columbia with 2 minutes, 36 seconds.
Columbia is promoting itself as the “Total Eclipse Capital of the East Coast,” with lectures, concerts and designated viewing sites. “As of right now, we have over 40 events planned for the weekend of Aug. 18-21,” said Andrea Mensink of Experience Columbia, the city's convention and visitor bureau. “We've gotten visitor inquiries from as far away as the United Kingdom.”
Mensink said Columbia-area businesses have purchased 116,900 eclipse-viewing glasses through Experience Columbia for customers; the city of Columbia has ordered an additional 100,000 through a sponsorship for public distribution and eclipse-related events.
Columbia's totality begins at 2:41 p.m. Viewing sites include the S.C. State Museum, Sesquicentennial State Park near the junction of Interstates 20-77 and the S.C. State Fairgrounds. Fans attending the 1 p.m. minor league baseball game between the Columbia Fireflies and the Rome Braves can watch the eclipse from their seats.
Here are some other public viewing locations, from the N.C. mountains to the S.C. coast:
▪ Bridge Park in Sylva. The Jackson County Tourism Development Office plans concerts and festivities in Sylva and nearby Cashiers.
▪ The front lawn of Brevard College in Brevard.
▪ Falls Park on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. One option: Bike the 9 miles from Travelers Rest on the paved Swamp Rabbit Trail to the park.
▪ Aboard cruise boats and yachts in Charleston. The boats are offering eclipse-viewing cruises in Charleston Harbor.
The eclipse will last three hours. At 1:05 p.m., the moon's shadow will begin to nibble into the sun first in the far western N.C. mountains. Totality along the two-state path begins at 2:34 p.m. in Robbinsville, N.C. and at 2:46 p.m. in Charleston. Full sun will return in Charleston at 4:10 p.m. as the eclipse moves out to sea.
“It's awe-inspiring,” said Dr. Donald Liebenberg, an adjunct professor at Clemson University's Department of Physics and Astronomy. Liebenberg should know. He has seen 26 total solar eclipses all over the world starting in 1954. Nearly all were related to his work as solar physics researcher.
In 1973, he and other researchers tracked an eclipse in a Concorde supersonic airliner across much of Africa at 60,000 feet. The flight experienced 74 minutes of total darkness. He figures he's spent more time in eclipse totality than anyone else.
The darkness will approximate late twilight, or late dusk if the sky is cloudy.
Liebenberg cautioned people to look at the partial eclipse only with specially darkened eclipse glasses to prevent eye damage. Only after the sun is completely blacked out is it safe to view it with naked eyes. Companies that sell certified glasses are listed at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
And where does Liebenberg plan to watch his 27th total solar eclipse? Not from an airliner but from the driveway of his home near Salem, S.C.
For information, see www.columbiacvb.com/events/solar-eclipse; www.discoverjacksonnc.com/total-solar-eclipse; www.visitwaterfalls.com/plan-your-visit/totally-transylvania-2017-solar-eclipse; http://www.charlestoncvb.com/special-offers/packages/eclipse.
More fun in the Carolinas
July 6-9 -- 61st annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games & Gathering of the Clans; athletes, dancers, bagpipe bands, parades and Celtic music; Linville.
July 8 – Historic Tours by Carriage; guided tours by horse and carriage of historic sites; Fayetteville.
July 28-30 – Nantahala Racing Club U.S. Whitewater Junior Olympics; slalom, downriver and freestyle kayak competition; Bryson City.
August 5 – Traditional Skiff Regatta; skiff sailing event; Beaufort.
August 12 – Bikefest 2017: 22nd annual Rural Heritage Tour; among the rides is a seven-mile tour of historic sites; Hillsborough.
August 26 – Charlotte Antique & Classic Boat Show; restored wooden-hulled vintage boats on public display; Mooresville.
September 16 – McCormick Gold Rush Festival; parade, entertainment, vendors, gold mining; McCormick, S.C.
September 17-23 – ESA Eastern Surfing Championships; best amateur surfers on the East Coast will be competing; Jennette's Pier, Nags Head.
September 29-30 -- 13th Annual N.C. Muscadine Festival, more than 25 wineries offering more than 250 wines, Kenansville in Duplin County.
For more information, see www.visitnc.com and www.sciway.net/calendar.html.