Eclipse Fever has gripped The Times and Democrat Region as the Aug. 21 Total Solar Eclipse grows closer. The T&D Region is in a prime location to view the celestial event, providing the weather cooperates that day.
More special eclipse programs and activities were announced this week.
Great American Solar Eclipse Program July 18
ELLOREE -- Local interest in the upcoming solar eclipse, which will take place on Aug. 21, continues to rise. Elloree Museum and Heritage Center has the proof.
The museum arranged for educator Andy Cohen to put on three portable planetarium programs on the rare phenomenon. It’s nearly sold out seven so far.
“We had a really good program for a church youth group at the museum a while back,” said Cohen, founder and president of Dome Education. “The kids loved it but, every time I do it, it seems that the parents and the adults are more interested and get more out of it.”
Based on positive comments about the show, the museum’s director asked Cohen to bring back his portable planetarium and put on a similar show for adults. Three shows were originally scheduled, but the museum added four more due to popular demand.
“With this event, I’m particularly interested in reaching adults because (watching the actual eclipse is) potentially dangerous,” Cohen said. “I want to let people know what to expect, how to watch it safely and how to plan for it.”
“I will be focusing on what will cause the eclipse and how the moon will align with the sun,” he said. “I will also tell people why it’s dangerous, when it’s dangerous and how to watch safely.”
Cohen added, “During the total eclipse, you’re not looking at the surface of the sun. So, it won’t hurt you. You can use binoculars or a telescope without filters.
“Strangely, that’s what makes it so dangerous. You should never look at the sun but during the brief period of totality, you can look directly at it. But if you’re still looking at it when the sun comes out (of the moon’s shadow), that’s when your eyes will be damaged.”
In all, the eclipse will cover a 70-mile-wide path from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the first coast-to-coast eclipse in the U.S. since 1918, and South Carolina will be the closest location to view the eclipse for the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.
It will cross 29 counties in South Carolina. The Santee-Elloree area is prime viewing territory. The duration of the totality here will be about two and a half minutes.
“The number of people that are expected to come visit South Carolina is just incredible,” Cohen said. “We’re the closest destination for everybody on the East Coast, from Maine to Miami.
“With 100 million people within a couple days’ drive, we’re expecting an immense number of people in South Carolina."
Cohen noted that for the most part, people will be looking for a place where they can have some space around them, particularly if they’re bringing telescopes.
“That’s a lot of equipment and it’s a lot of money and once you set it up, it’s almost impossible to control the number of people who are going to want to know what you’re doing and if they can take a look through your telescope," he said.
“So people will be looking for a lovely little town like Elloree, where they can come and set up and hopefully be surrounded by people who (know how to be polite).”
Cohen, who is originally from Buffalo, New York, served in the U.S. Navy and first came to Charleston while on active duty. He said he married a South Carolina girl and has been here ever since.
A professional educator since 1993, Cohen has been using a portable planetarium for 14 years
“I’ve been a public school teacher in South Carolina, mostly in the Charleston area, for more than 20 years,” he said. “I learned how to use a planetarium. Not many other teachers use the planetarium. So, I became something of an expert with it.”
“Then I saw about six years back that there’s going to be a total eclipse. I set a goal of being involved and using the planetarium to get the word out.”
Cohen also created the script and lesson for the TED Ed video "What Creates a Total Solar Eclipse." The video has been viewed more than 125,000 times on YouTube.
The overriding message of the video and the Elloree museum presentation is the same: “Don’t miss this once in a lifetime event, but watch it safely,” Cohen said.
Dome Education is an educational partner of the South Carolina Space Grant Consortium. Cohen is the Starlab Education Ambassador for South Carolina.
Each program at the Elloree Museum is limited to 10-15 people because of space. Donations will be accepted to help cover expenses. To find out more, call 803-897-2225.
Solar Eclipse Festival scheduled
ST. MATTHEWS -- Calhoun County will even sponsor a Solar Eclipse Festival in the government complex area in St. Matthews from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
The festival will feature food, rock painting, vendors and eclipse information, and eclipse viewing glasses will be available. EMS will be on hand if anyone needs medical assistance from looking directly at the eclipse without proper eye protection. Calhoun County will have full access to the eclipse beginning at approximately 2:42 p.m.
Rivers Bridge SHS plans viewing activities
EHRHARDT -- Rivers Bridge State Historic Site also has Eclipse Fever and will be sponsoring Total Solar Eclipse Viewing activities beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Free eclipse-related crafts and ranger-led programs for all ages will be featured at the Community Building at Rivers Bridge. Participants will move to the Memorial Grounds to view the eclipse. Questions about the eclipse will be answered before, during and after the celestial show.
Safety viewing glasses will be available for $2.
Refreshments will be served to all participants during the activities.
Rivers Bridge State Historic Site is located at 325 State Park Road near Ehrhardt.