The Great American Eclipse is Monday August 21, 2017. Are you prepared?

While a partial solar eclipse is fascinating and worth seeing, a total solar eclipse offers everything a partial does, plus much more. Many who have experienced totality describe it as an incomparably beautiful and awe-inspiring event. For viewers along the eclipse center line, the partial phases preceding and following totality must be viewed with solar filters, just like locations far from the shadow path.

The total solar eclipse of July 22nd, 2009. Note the "diamond ring" produced by the last bright glint of sunlight (the "diamond") and the ghostly solar corona (the "ring").

During totality:

  • Once the sun is completely eclipsed, reddish gas eruptions ("solar prominences") may become visible around the dark moon.
  • The corona becomes easier to see.
  • The sky darkens dramatically, with bright stars and planets becoming visible at mid-day.  Mercury, Mars, and Venus should be visible near the obscured sun during the 2017 eclipse; Leo's brightest star, Regulus, will lie just one degree from the moon's limb; and Jupiter will sit to the east.
  • Birds begin chirping or seeking their roosting spots and cows start heading for their barns, as though the day had ended and nightfall was imminent.

None of these phenomena are visible unless you are in the path of totality. All in all, a total solar eclipse is a truly unique, dramatic, and unforgettable experience.

Where is the best place to view this eclipse?
For approximately 90 minutes, the moon's shadow will sweep eastward across the U.S., from its first land contact in northwestern Oregon, to its last in southeastern South Carolina. Viewers in southern Illinois will experience the maximum duration of totality along the shadow path, with the sun completely obscured by the moon for 2 minutes, 40 seconds. However, weather indicates that the best chance of clear skies along the eclipse path are to be found in the Western U.S.

How can I determine exactly where the shadow path will be?
NASA has an excellent web site ( with an interactive map showing the path of totality. 

Eclipse Circumstances for Charlotte and York County, SC

Simulated view of the sun at maximum eclipse (August 21st, 2017, 2:41 EDT) in Charlotte as seen through a solar telescope.

Neither Charlotte, NC nor York County, SC will experience the total solar eclipse. In Rock Hill, SC, the moon will obscure 99.1% of the Sun. You must be in the path of totality (places like Pickens/Easley, Seneca, Greenville/Greer, Lugoff, Columbia, northern Charleston/Georgetown) to see a total eclipse of the Sun.

What will people see in the vicinity of York County, SC?
The path of totality (the moon’s full shadow) does not pass through York County, so it will only be a partial eclipse here, lasting from 1:13 PM to 4:06 PM EDT.  At maximum eclipse (2:41 PM), the moon will cover 99% of the sun's disk, leaving only a very thin, intensely bright "sliver" of the sun's surface exposed. The level of illumination on the ground will be noticeably dimmer than normal. The sky will look a little darker than normal.  Since the sun will not be completely eclipsed, proper solar filters are required to look directly at the sun safely from York County and Charlotte throughout the entire eclipse.

How long will the eclipse last in the vicinity of Rock Hill, SC?
The moon will begin to pass before the sun 1:15 PM EDT, beginning as a small, dark "bite" from the sun's upper right edge. At maximum (2:41 PM EDT), 99.1% of the sun's disk will be covered.  The last bit of the lunar silhouette will disappear from the sun's lower left edge at 4:06 PM EDT. Throughout this time, proper solar filters must be used to protect the eyes from damage when looking at the sun. The danger is that it's possible to look directly at a mostly-dimmed sun for longer than normal without discomfort, which allows more damage to occur. This is especially hazardous for young children, who may stare at the sun without experiencing the instinctual urge to blink or look away.

How close does the path of totality come to York County?
White Oak, SC is one of the nearest populated places to Rock Hill which will experience a total eclipse. White Oak is only 48 miles and less than an hour away. However, White Oak lies just inside the northern border of the 65-mile-wide shadow, and thus will only see 22 seconds of totality, vs. 2 minutes, 30 seconds of totality in Columbia, which is nearer the center line.

The Aug. 21st, 2017 solar eclipse's path of totality over South Carolina. Note that regions outside the red curves will only experience a partial eclipse whose maximum obscuration and duration diminishes with increasing distance from this path.

Where will be the best place in South Carolina to view this eclipse?
Make sure you are in the path of totality. Check the interactive map at That said, weather is the most important factor when choosing a viewing location. Check the weather forecast the day before traveling. Greenville, Columbia, and north Charleston are all places where the eclipse may be seen.

Timeline for the total solar eclipse as viewed from Columbia, SC (all times are Eastern Daylight Time).  Eclipse will occur earlier/later for locations to the west/east, respectively:

1:13:07 PM

Eclipse begins (partial phases, solar filters required for safe viewing)

2:41:45 PM (approx.)

Appearance of Baily’s beads, followed by diamond ring effect

2:41:50 PM

Start of totality (eclipse may be safely viewed directly without filters)

2:43:05 PM

Maximum eclipse

2:44:19 PM

End of totality, reappearance of the diamond ring and Baily's beads, after which filters must be used for safety

4:06:19 PM

Partial phases end


Eclipse Safety

Regular sunglasses, welder's helmets/glass, photographic film, and looking through a pinhole are NOT safe ways to view a solar eclipse!

Can I safely view the eclipse's partial phases through a welder's helmet? While the darkest welder's glass (#14) is safe for solar viewing, most welder's helmets use filters that are insufficiently dark (and therefore, are not safe to view a partial eclipse). Remember, lack of pain does not mean lack of eye damage!  
Most electronically-darkening welder's helmets either don't darken enough, or are designed to trigger from the welding arc, but not sunlight.

Can I look through a pinhole to safely view the partial phases?
No! A pinhole should only be used to project the partially eclipsed sun onto a white surface. Looking through a pinhole will not only make it impossible to see the eclipse, but it could also result in eye damage. (A safe, dramatic way to project the partially eclipsed sun is through a sheet of peg board, producing hundreds of "crescent sun" images.)

Can I safely view the eclipse's partial phases with sunglasses, by not looking directly at it, or squinting?
No! Regular sunglasses will only make it more comfortable to look longer, and thus incur more eye damage. They do not provide adequate eye protection, even from a mostly-obscured sun. And squinting will not significantly reduce the damage, either.

"Solar shades" are inexpensive, widely available, and safe (just don't try to use them with an unfiltered telescope or binoculars!).

Where can I get a safe filter for viewing the partial phases?
"Solar glasses" (good only for viewing the sun, since they are too dark to let you see anything else) are readily available from a number of vendors, including the Museum of York County. They contain a special film that dims the sun and absorbs the harmful infrared and ultraviolet light for safe direct viewing. These are NOT safe for looking at the sun through binoculars or telescopes. Binoculars and telescopes concentrate the sun's light, and would quickly melt through a solar shades' plastic film, resulting in eye damage.

How can I view the eclipse safely with a binoculars or telescope?
A proper, safe solar filter for binoculars or a telescope must fit securely over the non-eyepiece end of the instrument so that sunlight is dimmed to a safe level before it ever enters the optics. Such filters are readily available from a number of vendors. During totality, it is safe to view the eclipsed sun with unfiltered binoculars and telescopes, but great care must be taken to point them away or put filters back on before the sun begins to re-emerge from behind the moon!

When will the next total solar eclipse occur anywhere on Earth?
Solar eclipses (either partial or total) occur somewhere in the world approximately every six months. However, the next total solar eclipse, which will cross the South Pacific and southern South America is on July 2nd, 2019.

The next total solar eclipse in the Contiguous ("Lower") 48 States after 2017 will be on April 8th, 2024.

When will the next total solar eclipse occur in the Contiguous 48 States after 2017?
On April 8th, 2024, a total solar eclipse will sweep from western Mexico, through eastern Texas, and all the way to eastern Maine and the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

What are some activities I can do during the eclipse?

Life Responds is an iNaturalist-powered citizen science effort to document how plants and animals react during the total solar eclipse. Download the iNaturalist app and learn more by visiting -eclipse-2017

NASA will host the Eclipse MegaCast during the eclipse, which will provide broadcast coverage across multiple locations. http://eclipse

Experience the 2017 solar eclipse in many fun, crative and challenging ways. Explore activities at

Google Megamovie is a citizen science project which will combine videos taken during totality. Learn more at


Website Resources

Learn all about the total solar eclipse, when and where you can see it, viewing techniques and safety tips at NASA’s eclipse resource page

Make sure you are in the path of totality! Check the interactive map at

Resources including a “How to Observe a Solar Eclipse” video, are available from the California Academy of Science at

Find out which spacecraft, balloons, and ground-based teams will observe the total solar eclipse at

NASA’s Eyes on the 2017 Eclipse is an interactive 3-D simulation of the August 21 total solar eclipse.

A list of additional eclipse resources as well as eclipse animations to download can be found at the Rice University webpage 

S.C. communities in the path of totality

Details, maps and graphics about the August 21 eclipse

Eye safety tips from American Astronomical Society