It’s one of the most exciting and rare events of 2017, and it only lasts a few minutes. Yes, Charleston is right under the path of the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21, so we've put together a guide with some tips on the perfect eclipse experience. Let’s hope there are clear skies.
Totality, or the point where the moon completely blocks the sun and makes the hidden corona visible, passes over the Lowcountry between 2:40 and 2:50 p.m. Make sure you’re in a good spot to watch around 1 p.m. as that’s when the partial eclipse starts.
However, you can’t just grab a lawn chair, a drink, and start staring at the sun — you’ll go blind. Like a magnifying glass, the lens in your eye focuses light onto your retinas. Anything more than a quick solar glance can result in permanent damage — literally burning a hole into your eye. Ordinary sunglasses, no matter how dark, won’t protect you as they don’t have the right filters.
Instead, use specially filtered eclipse glasses — they’re available all around as Charleston prepares for August 21.
If you’re buying online, NASA has some recommendations. The Charleston County Public Library is handing out free eclipse glasses, and Mt. Pleasant’s Vision Center at Seaside Farms is selling them for $1. Just make sure safely store the glasses — any scratches or damage to the lens will ruin the filters. You can also use a pinhole projector if you don’t want to buy new shades.
Looking at the sun with no protection is only safe during totality. Remember to put your glasses back on as soon as light begins to reappear.
In addition, never look at the sun through a camera, telescope, or binoculars even with eclipse glasses on, as the concentrated rays will damage the lenses. There are custom solar filters available for cameras, binoculars, and telescopes, but talk with an astronomer before using one.
Where to lookSo, you’ve got your glasses. Your eyes are now safe from the sun’s radiation. But where can you see the eclipse?
The area under the moon’s shadow stretches from Center Street in Folly Beach to the northern tip of Pawleys Island. If you want the longest time in the total eclipse (2 minutes and 30 seconds), head to the center of the moon’s shadow. It will pass over Lakes Marion and Moultrie before heading out over the Atlantic between Awendaw and McClellanville, just north of Bulls Bay.
If you don’t feel like traveling, Downtown and West Ashley will get around 1 minute 30 seconds of eclipse time, North Charleston will get between 1:30 and 2 minutes, and Summerville, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s, and IOP will get around 2 minutes.
You can see exactly where under the eclipse your house lies using this interactive map made by Xavier Jubier. Just click on any part of the map to get the exact time of the eclipse and the duration of totality at that location.
If you plan to travel, plan ahead and leave early — traffic will probably be a nightmare, as millions of people are expected to pour into South Carolina for the eclipse. Sitting in school, on the other hand, won’t be a concern — CCSD has announced there will be no classes on August 21.
Know the last time a total solar eclipse came near Charleston? 1970. So yeah, you don’t want to miss this. Grab your glasses, find a good spot, and enjoy this mesmerizing natural wonder.