Chamber Eclipse

Dr. Donald Walter, a physics professor at South Carolina State University, was the featured speaker at the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce's Business at Breakfast event on Thursday morning at the Broughton Street Venue in Orangeburg. Walter talked about the upcoming total solar eclipse.

DIONNE GLEATON, T&D

A physics professor shared the science and the excitement behind the upcoming total eclipse with Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce members on Thursday morning.

"It's not a science thing, it's a human thing. You don't have to go hundreds of thousands of miles to see this thing. It's truly an amazing event. I think it's going to be a very fun event," Dr. Donald Walter said.

He teaches physics at South Carolina State University and is a member of the American Astronomical Society, among other affiliations. He was the keynote speaker at the Chamber's "Business at Breakfast" event held at the Broughton Street Venue.

Courtesy Management Vice President of Operations Barry Hood anticipates an economic boost from the eclipse. The company oversees and manages several Orangeburg hotels by the U.S. 601 and Interstate 26 interchange.

"Our hotels currently are full for that particular weekend. We have a regular event on the weekend and then on Sunday and Monday, we have people coming just for the eclipse. Orangeburg's going to be full," Hood said.

He said the excitement is real.

"We've been building up for six to eight months on this, so we’ve got a good head start on everything," Hood said.

A total solar eclipse will occur from coast to coast across a portion of the United States on Aug. 21. Orangeburg County will be in the direct path of the total solar eclipse.

Walter said that alone is exciting because the last time South Carolina was in the path of totality for a solar eclipse was in was on March 7, 1970, and the next one won't be until 2052.

"The sun is going to disappear from the sky in the middle of the day. It's going to be about two minutes and 23 seconds," Walter said.

Orangeburg Preparatory School teacher Kathy Creech said she was a 15-year-old during the 1970 eclipse.

"All the kids in the neighborhood had pinhole boxes and went out and looked at it. I remember it just like it was yesterday," Creech said.

Orangeburg at that time was on the edge of the path of totality, when the sun is totally obscured by the moon, Walter said. It lasted for 45 seconds to a minute.

At 2:43 p.m. on Aug. 21 -- weather permitting -- the skies across Orangeburg County and nearby communities will again grow darker than normal.

The event will mark the first time in 99 years that the United States has experienced a total solar eclipse sweeping across the country, and it’s the first total solar eclipse on U.S. soil since 1991.

Walter said ISO-certified solar safety glasses or a number 14 or darker welder's glass are the safest methods for direct viewing of the eclipse.

Projection, or indirect, viewing can also be done in a number of ways, including making your own cardboard projector, or taking an index card and punching a fine needle point into it. The index card is held between the sun and another sheet of paper or the ground, where the image of the sun will be projected onto it.

He described the corona as "the best part" of the total eclipse. The corona is the sun's outer atmosphere, which is visible during total solar eclipses as a pearly white crown surrounding the sun and which can display a variety of features, including streamers, plumes and loops.

"When you're enjoying the corona, look around to see if you see if you can see any stars and planets," Walter said.

A Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment aims to capture the images of the inner solar corona, a region of the solar atmosphere that is typically challenging to image, using a network of more than 60 identical telescopes operated by citizen scientists, high school groups and universities.

Walter said S.C. State is coordinating the viewing at the seven sites in South Carolina, including Clemson and Lander universities, Coker College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and S.C. State.

The sun will be tracked along its 2,500-mile path of totality. Each viewing site involved in the experiment will produce more than 1,000 images to provide an unprecedented 90 minutes of continuous, high-resolution images.

"We want to be able to study this for a long period of time. We're doing science as well as public outreach and education," Walter said.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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