Communities Events Outdoors

Outdoors: The Great American Solar Eclipse

By Kayla Bott

The Great American Solar Eclipse will be visible as the moon shadows the earth across a southeastern arc over the continental United States on the afternoon of Monday, August 21. Beginning at the Pacific Coast of Oregon and ending on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, the total eclipse will be experienced in fewer than 20 cities in North Carolina from about 1–4 p.m. The last solar eclipses visible from our state were in 1900 and 1970, and the next will be in 2078 and 2099. But, a total solar eclipse won’t pass over Western North Carolina again until the year 2153.

“It certainly is going to be a monumental event,” says Brian Hart, manager of the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s (UNCA) Lookout Observatory. “This particular eclipse will be great because it takes place in the early and mid-afternoon. This means the sun will be so high in the sky that almost any location should be great for viewing it, including your own backyard.”

The moon crosses through Earth’s orbital plane in the path of the sun only twice per year, and only with the occurrence of a new moon phase is the sun blocked completely, casting a shadow across the earth that creates the phenomenon we call a solar eclipse. During a total solar eclipse, the entire surface of the sun is blocked from view, making it the only time the sun’s outer atmosphere (also known as the sun’s corona) is observable from Earth’s surface.

“Studies have shown that the earth’s surface temperature drops during a total eclipse with the magnitude of cooling dependent on the amount of cloud cover,” says Dr. Christopher Godfrey, associate professor of Atmospheric Sciences at UNCA. “There is evidence that wind speeds may decrease during the passage of the eclipse and, if it’s clear, the temperature can drop by as much as three degrees in the minutes after.”

Historically, eclipses have been regarded as astrological messages from deities, as well as opportunities to observe and test astronomical theories. The ancient Chinese and Babylonian peoples predicted eclipses as early as 2500 BCE. Hipparchus, a Greek mathematician born in 190 BCE, used a solar eclipse to determine the approximate distance between the earth and the moon. Edmund Halley calculated the timing and path of a total solar eclipse, which passed over Northern Europe in 1715. Countless scientists and astronomy lovers continue to study this stunning occurrence.

“It will be the first total solar eclipse exclusive to the United States since 1776, and the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918,” says Amy Jessee, editor of UNC Asheville Magazine. “Its path goes through WNC, but Asheville will only experience a 99 percent eclipse. It is important that the local community understands where they can view it and, more importantly, how they can do so safely.”

The event should be viewed using proper eye protection, not sunglasses, but eyewear with specially filtered lenses. They are inexpensive, but will also be given free of charge at many events. With the exception of creating a pinhole projector box, no matter where the eclipse is viewed from, protective eyewear will be needed. Only in the seconds and minutes of totality (where applicable) can the glasses be removed safely. “The best place to view an eclipse is away from clouds—so people should have a plan for several locations, all in different directions, to increase their chances of actually seeing it,” says Hart. “I would love to climb up high on a mountain and see the moon’s shadow rush across the landscape toward me, but since that would make me much less mobile, only a 100 percent clear weather forecast the day before will prompt me to seriously consider that approach.”

Most lodging has already been booked, and many people will be traveling around the country on the day of the eclipse. Anyone planning on driving should account for extra traffic, arrive several hours early to their destination and plan to stay in that location for some time after the event. If you won’t be able to travel to view the total eclipse, there are events around Western North Carolina and opportunities to observe future celestial events with UNCA’s Lookout Observatory and The Astronomy Club of Asheville.

“We all live under the same night sky, and the mysteries and wonder it contains will keep people contemplating it for eons,” says Hart. “Being able to talk directly to members of the community about astronomy and the universe allows us to learn more about the world we live in, creates opportunities to ask questions we’ve often wondered about and promotes the exchange of shared life experiences.”

For more information on the eclipse, visit,,, or


Solar Eclipse Events

2 min 22 sec Totality
The Great American Eclipse Celebration business.
cherokeecountychamber. com/events/details/ the-great-american-eclipsecelebration- in-andrews-4160
Andrews Middle School, free public viewing site
Heritage Park Eclipse Party

Asheville 99% Totality
Downtown Asheville’s Solar Eclipse Festival
Highland Brewing Company’s rooftop Eclipse Viewing

Black Mountain 98.9% Totality
Rock the Eclipse in Black Mountain

Brevard 1 min 5 sec Totality
Brevard College Campus, free public viewing site
Brevard Music Center Eclipse Weekend Festival festival/eclipse

Bryson City 2 min 0 sec Totality
Three-Day Eclipse Weekend Festival 2017eclipse

Cashiers 2 min 23 sec Totality
Eclipse Fest on the Village Green events/eclipse-fest.php

Cherokee 1 min 24 sec Totality
Cherokee Cultural Eclipse Celebration detail/cherokee-culturaleclipse- celebration

Dillsboro 1 min 50 sec Totality
Solar Eclipse Train Ride on the Great Smoky Railroad (sold out)
Monteith Park, free public viewing site

Franklin 2 min 36 sec Totality
Solar Eclipse Block Party eclipse-2017.html

Hayesville 2 min 33 sec Totality
Hinton Center’s Total Solar Eclipse Weekend total-solar-eclipse-weekend

Highlands 2 min 33 sec Totality
Downtown Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

Maggie Valley 99.5% Totality
Eclipse Viewing Party at Rendezvous Restaurant american-eclipse-2017

Murphy 2 min 27 sec Totality
Konehete Park Eclipse Party

Robbinsville 2 min 35 sec Totality
Stecoah Valley Center Eclipse Event stecoah-valley-centereclipse- event

Rosman 1 min 54 sec Totality
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (sold out)
Roman High School Eclipse Viewing Event

Sapphire 1 min 55 sec Totality
Gorges State Park, The Eclipse at Gorges Weekend Festival eclipse-at-gorges

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Partial Totality
Clingmans Dome (sold out), Cades Cove and Oconaluftee, public viewing sites grsm/planyourvisit/ 2017-solar-eclipse.htm

Sylva 1 min 45 sec Totality
Downtown Sylva Eclipse Festival Weekend event/downtown-sylvaeclipse- festival


1 Comment

  • Andrews is the only town on the centerline and should be 2 min 38.4 seconds (maximum totality of any location in North Carolina. You have other towns with more totality time?

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