What you need to know about Monday’s eclipse

The total solar eclipse Monday that will cross a portion of northern Georgia and much of South Carolina will be watched by thousands in the Augusta area and should be enjoyable with a few preparations and precautions, officials said.

 

TIPS FOR VIEWING

The Augusta area will have more than 99 percent of the sun blocked out at the height of the eclipse at 2:42 p.m.

“I would encourage people, if they want to get into the path of totality, that they leave early in the morning and stay west of Columbia because Columbia is going to be very crowded with people coming from the Northeast and the Southeast like Florida,” said Darlene Smalley, the program director at the DuPont Planetarium at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Areas nearby in the path of the totality in South Carolina include Edgefield County and the town of Newberry, which are both planning events Monday afternoon. If you are traveling to view the eclipse, plan for it as though you were going on a lengthy trip.

“What I recommend is people fill up their car with gas over the weekend and take water and snacks and toilet paper and sunscreen with them,” Smalley said.

“The best thing to do is to get a lounge chair and some sunscreen and maybe some insect repellent and find a spot that looks safe that nobody is going to get mad that you’re in a – parking lot or friend’s yard in the path,” said Dr. Tom Crute, the chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Augusta University. “And just kind of hang out with your friends and talk and watch it every now and then.”

Once the process begins just after 1 p.m. locally, it will gradually change during the course of 90 minutes so it is not necessary, and not really advisable, to watch the sky the whole time.

“It won’t really change much over any one or two or even five minutes that you are looking at it,” Crute said. “So I expect that most will be looking up just occasionally at it.”

That’s good news for those who could not get the proper solar-filtered viewers that are absolutely necessary to look at the eclipse directly, even a single pair can be shared among people for quick viewing by all.

Also, pinhole cameras – a pinhole in anything, such as an index card – can project the sun’s image on the ground. That could also be more fun for kids and provide an entertaining project to keep them busy.

What at first will appear like a small bite out of the sun will eventually leave more of a crescent and then a sliver as the disc of the moon crosses the sun’s surface and blocks more of its light. At its height is where things get interesting.

“People who have watched them say it is really cool to watch the shadow coming towards you,” Smalley said. “The shadow will approach from the west. You can actually see and kind of feel the shadow coming towards you. You see it moving across the ground from the west and then you will be engulfed in the shadow.

“They said it is really an interesting feeling to be engulfed in the shadow of the moon. Then you can watch it move away to the east as totality ends.”

During the total eclipse, the corona, or atmosphere, of the sun is visible but prominences, big reddish loops and solar flares might be seen, Smalley said. Try putting a white sheet on the ground to see if shadow bans, dark wavy lines moving across the ground caused by interference in the atmosphere, cross the ground as totality starts, she said.

WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN?

According to Timeanddate.com, Augusta’s partial eclipse will begin at 1:11 p.m., reach maximum 99.68 percent eclipsed at 2:42 p.m., and end at 4:05 p.m. In Aiken, a partial eclipse will begin at 1:12 p.m., reach its 99.9 percent maximum at 2:42 p.m. and end at 4:06 p.m., according to the DuPont Planetarium at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

WEATHER

There is not particularly good news for those hoping for a show Monday afternoon.

The National Weather Service office in Columbia puts the chance of cloud cover in Edgefield at 2 p.m. at 55 percent and in Aiken County at 55 percent, with the chance of rain that day at 31 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Augusta has a 55 percent chance of cloudy skies and a 33 percent chance of rain.

NASA will be livestreaming the eclipse at its website and has 57 weather balloons from Oregon to Charleston that are above the clouds and can show the eclipse as it is happening across the country, along with views from the international space station.

TIPS FOR TRAVEL

South Carolina is the closest place for many people on the East Coast to travel to see the eclipse, and GreatAmericanEclipse.com predicted that up to 2.2 million people might travel to the state to try to find a good viewing spot.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety said it will be out in force to try to help manage what is expected to be very crowded roads and will have extra personnel around the highest-density sites in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston and along the interstates.

The highway patrol will work with local law enforcement on a traffic-management plan to keep things moving.

A big concern is motorists who might stop along the interstate, which the highway patrol is strongly urging people not to do.

Drivers should be prepared for increased congestion and much longer trip times and are urged to take along cellphone chargers, water, snacks and other supplies for the trip. They should also consider alternate routes.

TIPS FOR EYE SAFETY

Dr. Casey Roland, an optometrist at Specs Eyeglasses in Evans, offers safety tips for viewing the eclipse:

Make sure you have the proper eyeware; everyday sunglasses are not eclipse-safe.

They have to be ISO-certified, ISO 12312-2. That’s an international standard that certifies the glasses are safe.

Check the filters and make sure there’s no damage to them, such as being scratched or torn. Usually, certified glasses are going to have instructions printed on the temple side.

Some cheap glasses that people buy over the counter are fine, and they do protect, but there is no way to know unless you are buying from a reputable dealer. There is a little ISO logo, and if you go online, you can Google how to tell whether your eclipse goggles are certified. There are definitely some counterfeit ones online, Roland said.

Only certified eclipse glasses are OK for the eclipse. Regular sunglasses are not strong enough to block out the UV and radiation.

Children must be supervised.

Before looking at the sun, turn your head away and shield your eyes and put your glasses on. Then have a look at it. Likewise, turn your head away before you take your glasses off. You don’t want to take the eclipse glasses off while you’re staring at the sun. That would defeat the purpose.

Don’t look at the eclipse through a camera or smartphone.

People also need to be careful about cameras and smartphones. Cameras and phones need a filter. Even a filter and eclipse glasses are not enough to protect the eyes. That would concentrate the light and damage the eyes.

Staring at the eclipse can cause temporary and permanent damage.

There are two things that could happen. One of them is photokeratitis, which is like sunburn of the cornea, the outermost lens of the eye, and that is usually temporary. Symptoms include really red eyes, tearing, the sensation of a foreign body in the eye and light sensitivity. Photokeratitis is irritating, but over the next few days it will tend to go back to normal.

Healing takes time; however, there is no way to immediately know if you would be the lucky one to heal or if it could be more permanent damage, Roland said.

The biggest concern is what’s called solar retinopathy.

The retina is the back part of the eye, and the thermal rays from the sun can damage it. That can damage the rods and cones in the back of your eyes, and this could be permanent. It could lead to blurred vision or little blind spots in the visual field, such as color changes.

Solar retinopathy doesn’t cause pain, so you would not be able to tell as the damage is being done.

“Oh, well it doesn’t hurt, so I’m just going to keep staring,” Roland said, adding that it gives people a false sense of security.

FUN FACTS

Eclipsewise.com and Smalley say the eclipse will move very rapidly, crossing the United States in about 90 minutes. By the time it reaches the edge of South Carolina, the average shadow will be 71.5 miles wide and will move across that state at an average speed of 1,472 mph. The center will cross 252 miles in South Carolina in 10 minutes, 16 seconds.

Though the next total eclipse will not return to South Carolina until March 30, 2052, a total solar eclipse will cross much of the U.S. in seven years, on April 8, 2024, going the opposite direction, from the Northeast across the Midwest to Texas and Mexico.

Staff writer Abbigail Lennon contributed to this article.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

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