Safely witnessing a stellar event

Published 5:21 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

Less than two weeks remain before the continental United States will experience a total eclipse of the sun.

A solar eclipse is the alignment of the earth, moon and sun. The moon passes directly between Earth and the sun while it orbits around our planet.

Eclipses happen periodically, but they are not usually total eclipses, and they often happen in different parts of the world. A total solar eclipse is a rare event; the moon, Earth and sun orbit in different planes, so they don’t cross paths often.

But on Aug. 21, the three astronomical bodies will perfectly align with one another, and those in the direct path of the eclipse will see the sun go completely black for a period of time. South Carolina is expected to be in the path of totality, or where the solar eclipse can be seen completely, as the sun will be entirely covered for a short period of time.

However, even if not in the direct path of totality, residents living anywhere in the United States can see a majority of the sun covered by the moon.

In Beaufort County, residents are expected to see their own, hours-long astronomical view. The eclipse is expected to begin around 1 p.m., peak at approximately 3 p.m., and be over by 4 p.m. that day.

While Aug. 21 will surely be a historic event, viewers need to remember to take the appropriate precautions.

Looking at the sun could do tremendous damage to one’s eyes, even if the moon covers it. One should never look directly at the sun, and this solar eclipse is no different. Residents can purchase solar sunglasses that will dim the bright light of the sun while watching the eclipse. Sunglasses will also be distributed to viewers at Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center’s viewing party on the Washington waterfront.

It will surely be a stellar nature event, so take time to witness this astronomical wonder. Another total solar eclipse isn’t expected to be visible again in the continental U.S. until 2024.