Countdown to the Eclipse

North Carolina prepares for a rare celestial event

By Myra Wright

Countdown to the Eclipse

On a summer afternoon this August, a remarkable celestial event will occur across the United States. Views of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse will sweep the country from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts for the first time since 1918.

The best spots for viewing the eclipse will occur within the “path of totality” (where observers will see the Moon completely cover the Sun), which will span a portion of western North Carolina. Skies will darken for up to two and a half minutes in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, Jackson, Swain and Transylvania counties, including part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The length and time of the eclipse will vary based on your location. Sylva will experience darkness for one minute, 45 seconds while Cashiers will have totality for two minutes, 23 seconds beginning at approximately 2:34 p.m. For those in its path, excitement is building for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

“For many, this will be the first and only total solar eclipse they will witness in their lifetime,” says Nick Breedlove, tourism director of Jackson County. “Generally, the average time between total solar eclipses in major cities across the U.S. is a few hundred years.”

With this unique opportunity, several North Carolina organizations, cities and towns are hosting eclipse viewing parties and special events. Many events such as the one at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a nonprofit astronomical observatory in Rosman, have already sold out.

Here are a few additional events to consider within the path of totality.

Brevard College Viewing Event

One Brevard College Drive, Brevard
The public can view the eclipse on the lawn at the college’s entrance.

Eclipse Weekend at Brevard Music Center

349 Andante Lane, Brevard
A four-day celebration is planned beginning August 18. Highlights include a concert from Lyle Lovett, film screenings, BBQ, live music and more.
brevardmusic.org

Eclipse Fest

Crossroads of U.S. Hwy 64 and NC 107, Cashiers
The Village Green Commons in Cashiers is hosting a community festival with special viewing equipment at the gazebo and lawn. The event will begin at noon.
villagegreencashiersnc.com

The Solar Eclipse Train

226 Everett St., Bryson City
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will depart the Bryson City Depot at noon on Aug. 21 and travel to Dillsboro. The round-trip excursion will last five hours with a layover in Dillsboro for the solar eclipse. The event is sold out; check for cancellations online.
gsmr.com/events/solar-eclipse

Franklin’s Total Solar Eclipse Block Party

Downtown Franklin
Live music, a water slide for the kids, and an eclipse viewing station are some of the draws to Franklin’s block party from 1 to 6 p.m.
franklinnc.com/franklin-nc-solar-eclipse-2017

The Eclipse at Gorges State Park

976 Grassy Ridge Road, Sapphire
The park will host three days of events Aug. 19-21. Enjoy food, exhibitors and live music.
bit.ly/GorgesSP

Downtown Sylva Eclipse Festival

Bridge Park, Sylva
Beginning on Friday, Aug. 18, Sylva offers live music, food trucks, demonstrations and eclipse viewing in Bridge Park.
bit.ly/SylvaEclipse

Unable to travel to the path of totality? You’ll still be able to see the partial eclipse. The moon’s shadow is expected to cover 98 percent of the sun in Charlotte, 94 percent in Winston-Salem and 93 percent in Raleigh.

To find out the percentage where you live and for more information about the eclipse, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov

After witnessing the solar eclipse, take time for a little adventure in the southern NC mountains, which offers small town exploring, hiking and paddling. Watch Senior Associate Editor Renee Gannon paddle along the whitewaters of the Tuckaseegee River outside of Dillsboro.

About the Author

Myra Wright is a North Carolina-based freelance writer. She enjoys exploring the state with her husband and three kids.

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