Friday, August 4, 2017


This piece was written for and published in the August issue of our community magazine. Heaven forbid I don't use it again. It's just a lighter (pun intended?) look at the eclipse that will cross our path here in the Carolinas. Right where we live, we'll see the eclipse at 98.7% totality - that will be close enough for me. I'm trying to decide what seeing the eclipse will do for me. Not being a scientist, it won't mean much more than being able to say I saw it. That and $2.20 will get me a round-trip, reduced Senior fare ride on the Charlotte LYNX light rail.

It’s been said that if you knew it all you’d go crazy.

Just think of all there is to know – everything from the exact amount of pi,* to the last time your neighbor went to the bathroom; the bloom time of each and every daffodil, to the time of the next eclipse; from the function of the microorganisms in your body, to what’s in the center of a black hole. Questions abound about the esoteric, the ecclesiastic, the extraterrestrial, and the down-to-earth. There is just too much to know.

Well, there’s one thing there that might prove to be interesting: the time of the next eclipse. In addition to the time, it is always helpful to know where the show is going on. Every eclipse can’t be seen everywhere, but this August we South Carolinians are in luck. All North Americans will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, but a very short ride south of Sun City Carolina Lakes will take us to the path of totality.

The last path of solar totality that included any part of the United States, mostly the north-westernmost states, was back in 1979. Where were we 38 years ago? The next two will be in 2024 and 2044, and they, and many of us seniors, won’t be within hundreds of miles from here.
The small town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is calculated to be the place to view absolute totality on August 21. The locals there will benefit outrageously from this free, passing natural phenomenon. Scientists, and gawkers and folks who just must be a part of such events, have commandeered and booked solid every available room, campsite, and RV spot for miles around. They’ll take hours and even days to get there to witness a totality show that will last for 2 minutes and 40 seconds, give or take a nanosecond or two.

From the first bite out of the sun to the last, the partial eclipse, the one that can be seen from here will last almost three hours, starting at just after 2:15 p.m. The total eclipse can be seen if you travel just south of here, say to somewhere along I-77 south of Exit 41, to just south of where I-77 and I-26 meet. You might want to drive down and pull off the highway anywhere down here. Better yet, totality will be seen in the many small urban parks in Columbia and Greenville, at the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, at Congaree National Park, in Manchester State Forest, and further afield in places like the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson, or the Nantahala National Forest. 

Don’t think that you’ll be the only ones smart enough to pick your preferred viewing spot. Pack a picnic lunch and get there early. Check the eclipse path on line and check the times for your chosen spot. Above all, be sure to be equipped with the proper eye protection for viewing. On-line sources like Amazon have them already.

*which we now know to be infinite – but perhaps knowable

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