SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA — For the first time in almost 100 years, residents in the United States can witness a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse – and fortunately for residents of New Hanover County, the chance to witness the event is only a short drive away.
While a partial solar eclipse will be visible from right here in Wilmington, stargazers can head down to South Carolina to witness totality, or the full solar eclipse.
The eclipse will happen August 21, crossing the U.S. through 14 states, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina, according to NASA.
There are different types of eclipses, both lunar and solar. A lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the earth falls on the moon, causing the moon to appear dark.
“A solar eclipse happens when the Moon’s orbit puts it directly between the Earth and the Sun, and the Moon’s shadow falls on the Earth’s surface. Solar eclipses can block part of the sun, called a partial eclipse, or can cover the Sun completely, called a total eclipse. This August’s total eclipse will be visible all the way across the United States, but only a narrow path will be along the path of totality,” Scott Spike, secretary for the Cape Fear Astronomical Society said.
The Solar eclipse is when people would see the iconic image of a black circle with a halo of light surrounding it. Totality occurs when the moon moves fully in front of the sun – while a partial eclipse only provides partial coverage.
Spike offered some viewing advice for those hoping to make the most of the experience.
Never look directly at the sun …The only time it’s safe to view directly is during totality, which will not be happening in Wilmington during this eclipse.
“Cape Fear Astronomical Society’s goal is to educate and promote amateur astronomy and awareness of the night sky. We will participate in eclipse viewing events throughout the area, and several members will also be traveling to the path of totality,” he said. “We will have solar telescopes and other observation equipment on hand, allowing visitors to safely view the eclipse.”
How to watch
Staring at the sun is never a good idea especially without proper eye protection – this remains true during a solar eclipse. NASA suggests several viewing methods to ensure eye safety.
“Never look directly at the sun, even when it’s 96 percent covered. Even the thin sliver of 4 percent can cause permanent vision damage. The only time it’s safe to view directly is during totality, which will not be happening in Wilmington during this eclipse,” Spike said.
- Eclipse safety glasses can be found online for purchase, regular sunglasses do not offer enough protection
- Create a pinhole projector to view the shadow of the sun on the ground
Where to watch
“At 2:48 p.m. EST on August 21, the height of the eclipse, observers will be able to see a thin sliver of the sun, which will resemble a crescent Moon. Since the eclipse will only cover 96 percent of the Sun as seen from Wilmington, safety precautions are required,” Spike said.
- The Cape Fear Museum is holding a solar eclipse party to watch the partial solar eclipse at Airlie Gardens
- The Cape Fear Museum will provide solar eclipse safety glasses at Airlie Gardens for viewers
- There are several official NASA viewing events in South Carolina
- NASA released a solar eclipse map
When to watch
- The eclipse begins at 9:06 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time in Madras, Ore., and moves across the country over the next several hours
- In Columbia, S.C., the eclipse begins at 1:13 p.m. with totality beginning at 2:41 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
- The eclipse totality is estimated to end in Charleston, S.C. at 2:48 p.m. EDT
- Totality only lasts for a few minutes according to NASA, at its longest for two minutes and 40 seconds in Illinois