For nearly three minutes this August, darkness will cover Orangeburg, day will become night and travelers from all across the country are coming to see it happen.
On Monday, Aug. 21, at about 2:40 p.m., people will be able to witness the first total eclipse to sweep across the entire country from coast to coast since 1918.
The moon will cover at least part of the sun for two to three hours but halfway through, for up to two minutes and 40 seconds, states along its path, from Oregon to South Carolina, will experience a total eclipse of the sun.
This is the first total eclipse on American soil since 1991 when an eclipse was visible only to Hawaii. This is the first on the mainland of the United States since 1979.
The last time Orangeburg experienced totality was the March 7, 1970, solar eclipse. During that event, Orangeburg was only along the edge of the path and therefore the town experienced darkness that lasted only a short while.
This time around, Orangeburg is one of only six locations in the state of South Carolina that will be directly in the path of totality.
“During totality, the sun will look like a doughnut with the dark 'hole' being the moon covering the solar disk, and the ‘doughnut ring ‘ will be a faint glow of the sun’s outer atmosphere called the corona,” said Dr. Donald K. Water, South Carolina State University physics professor.
The sun will disappear from the sky, stars will come out, the horizon glows and the temperature drops, but it will not be complete darkness. Walter said it will be as dark as it gets after sunset, so you will still be able to see.
“This is not as dark as in the middle of the night, but it will appear dark enough that dogs will bark, birds will come to roost and cows may even begin to come in from pasture,” he said.
Solar eclipses occur every year somewhere in the world but most happen over open ocean or in sparsely populated regions of the globe. It is uncommon to be in the path of totality, so with Orangeburg in the unique position it is, eclipse followers will be coming to the area from everywhere.
Local residents are lucky because anyone in the path can view the eclipse by simply going outdoors at the appointed time.
It is stressed however, that people use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun is not totally eclipsed.
“Only during the time of totality can they look at the sun without any eye protection,” Walter said. “Just before and after totality, they should NOT look directly at the sun without using special solar glasses or similar welder’s dark glasses. Normal sunglasses will not provide enough protection.”
Unless you have special solar filters for your cameras and telescopes as well, you will not even be able to set up for pictures because the heat of the sun can melt lenses.
There may be professional eclipse watchers with telescopes hooked up to televisions, so asking to watch along with them may be your best bet.
“Unfortunately in August there is a good chance that part of the sky will be covered with clouds,” Walter said. “If clouds obscure the sun, you will not be able to see the faint halo around the sun known as the corona, but the sky will turn dark with or without clouds.”
Walter said S.C. State will be sponsoring workshops and talks to the public on the eclipse from April through August.
The Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce will have events available for tourists and local residents to learn more about the phenomenon.
“The chamber plans to host a luncheon with guest speakers and astrology tool kits for all guests who participate,” President Melinda Jackson said. “After the luncheon, we are planning an educational excursion at one of the colleges on the astrological impact of the eclipse.”
Jackson said hotels in the Orangeburg area are already full for the date.
“Santee is completely booked,” Jackson said. “601 hotels are receiving reservations daily for the big event.”
A representative from the Comfort Inn & Suites in Santee said rooms have been reserved since July. All were booked by January.
The 100-plus rooms at the Best Western in Santee have also been completely sold out for the weekend.
In Orangeburg, there are not as many reservations being made but a few hotels have already been receiving calls.
The Comfort Inn is completely booked on the Saturday before the eclipse, but rooms are still available for that Sunday.
The Holiday Inn Express said it is receiving calls from all over but the hotel is not yet completely full. The same with the Country Inn & Suites as well as the Hampton Inn & Suites.
The next on-land eclipse will not be until 2020 and will be visible in southern South America only. After that, the next one in America will not occur until 2024.
You can receive more information on the eclipse at www.eclipse2017.org.
After April 1, S.C. State will also have information available at www.scsu.edu/eclipse.