COLUMBIA, S.C. — The total eclipse coming August 21st is four months away, but now is the perfect time to get ready for it in South Carolina. USC astronomer Steve Rodney says, “We are now at the point where that path through the sky is exactly the same as it will be on August 21st. So if you go out in your backyard or outside your office this week at 2:40 p.m., the time when the total solar eclipse is going to happen on August 21st, you will see the sun is in precisely the right position.” That way you’ll know now if the place you plan to watch the eclipse will work, or whether there might be buildings or trees in the way based on where the sun will be in the sky at that time.
You’ll also need some “eclipse glasses,” special cardboard glasses that have thick filters that will allow you to safely look at the sun. “Although the moon will be covering up maybe 80 or 90 percent of the sun as you’re approaching that moment of totality, it is still dangerous to stare at the sun with your naked eye, so you need to wear these eclipse glasses all the way up through to the moment of totality,” Rodney says.
Those glasses will be available around Columbia, which is expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors for the eclipse, since it will have the longest period of totality of any metro area on the East Coast, 2 minutes and 36 seconds. NASA predicts one million visitors will come to South Carolina, since the 70-mile wide path of totality passes from the Upstate through Columbia and down to the SC coast. Columbia hotels already have some reservations from international visitors who go around the world to see total eclipses.
Rodney says, “If you’re outside, so just a few miles outside of that narrow path of totality, if you’re up in Charlotte or Rock Hill or down in Atlanta, then you will not experience totality at all, and it is a vastly different kind of experience to see only a partial and miss out on the total eclipse.”
During the total eclipse, he says the sky will be as dark as deep twilight, stars and planets will be visible, and the air temperature will drop by a few degrees, which is sure to be welcome during Columbia’s August heat.
Because Columbia is expecting so many visitors, it has created a special website, http://totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com/, which has all the information you could need. It lists more than 40 events that will be going on the weekend before the Monday eclipse. Kelly Barbrey, VP of Sales and Marketing for ExperienceColumbia.com, says, “For example, the South Carolina Philharmonic is doing a Star Wars Multiclipse, with all Star Wars music, and that’s going to be the Sunday before the eclipse on Monday. So really just trying to make sure people have a wonderful weekend all the way up through the event itself.”
The Columbia Fireflies baseball team has a game the afternoon of the eclipse, so the teams will play a few innings, pause to watch the eclipse, and then resume the game. The City of Cayce, just across the river from Columbia, is holding the “Soda City Eclipse Festival,” a viewing party with family-friendly events. And the Lake Murray dam will be closed so people can gather on the dam to watch the eclipse.