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Updated July 20, 2017
When the “Great American total eclipse of the sun” occurs on Aug. 21, Ocracoke will have a ringside seat to view it almost in its entirety.
According to news sources, barring a cover of clouds, the eclipse will be visible over a small portion of western North Carolina beginning at 2:33 p.m.
As it continues toward South Carolina, those on the Outer Banks will be able to see it at about a 0.9 magnitude, which is a partial eclipse of about 90 percent or more, around 2:50 p.m. Information from the National Weather Service says the partial eclipse will begin around 1:23 p.m.; the peak of 87 percent will be at 2:50 p.m., and the eclipse will end at 4:09 p.m. (See graphic below.)
For about a half hour on either side of the peak, the sky will darken, said Gerry Lebing, an amateur astronomer in Waves.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets in the way of the sun, turning day to a brief twilight.
The eclipse path will take around an hour and a half to sweep across the United States along a 70-mile-wide path.
The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Ore., at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality begins there at 10:16 a.m. PDT. Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through 12 states and will end near Charleston, S.C., at 2:48 p.m. EDT. From there, the lunar shadow finally leaves the U.S. at 4:09 p.m. EDT.
At any given location, the total eclipse will last for about two and half minutes.
“All of a sudden, you see a 360-degree sunset all around you,” said Lika Guhathakurta, lead scientist for the Living With a Star program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as reported on space.com. “Stars appear. The temperature drops. You can actually hear chirping of grasshoppers.”
Lebing said if there’s a cloud cover, it might become darker.
The area around Carbondale, Illinois, will get the most protracted view at 2 minutes and 40 seconds, according to information from NASA.
The Aug. 21 event will be the first-ever solar eclipse whose path of totality hits no country other than the United States. The last one to meet this geographical standard occurred before the nation gained its independence in 1776.
All are cautioned to never look directly at the sun with your unaided eye. NASA said the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters for telescopes, “eclipse glasses,” which are now available from many locations, or welder’s goggles rated at 14 or higher. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. For more information, click here.
Or, people can create pinhole projectors with two pieces of cardboard: One card should have a small hole punched in it, while the other card remains blank.
The light through the card with the hole can then be projected onto the blank card, allowing a solar eclipse or large sunspots to be seen. (See graphic below.)
The total solar eclipse of 1970 also crossed over the United States. Also known as the “eclipse of the century,” it ran along nearly the entire East Coast.
For more information, visit greatAmericaneclipse.com.