This month, families have a chance to experience something that will be a lifelong memory.
The Upstate will have an outstanding view of the totality of a solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Plans have been underway for months at colleges, museums and other locations across the state – with visitors expected from all over to view the show as the eclipse tracks from Greenville to Columbia to the coast.
Amber Porter, a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University, said parents can take some time to prepare even the youngest viewers so they have a better understanding of what they will witness.
“This is such a huge deal because you don’t have to go anywhere,” Porter said. “You really don’t have to travel to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
This one is extra special because, in Porter’s words, “they almost never happen where you live.”
Children may not get why this event has the state abuzz and tourists flocking in for the best viewing spots. But they probably won’t forget it once it happens.
Porter has been talking to future scientists about what they will see.
“The first thing I usually ask them is which is bigger: the sun or the moon?” Porter said. “How can the moon cover the sun?”
For that, Porter gives children some concrete numbers. She compares size by telling children that it would take about 109 earths lined up side by side to cross the sun and about 400 moons to cover the same span. She then explains that the moon is also 400 times closer to us than the sun.
Porter is urging parents to stress eye safety during the eclipse.
“It’s really important that you don’t stare directly at the sun,” she said.
Usually, the bright sun naturally hurts your eyes and causes you to look away. During the eclipse, sunglasses won’t be sufficient to protect eyes. Anyone viewing the eclipse must use solar eclipse glasses (or another safe method like pinhole projection – eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Safety_508.pdf) to keep eyes safe.
“You can burn your eyes just like you burn your skin,” Porter said. “Sunglasses are not good enough.”
During the totality, it will be safe to remove the eclipse glasses once it goes completely dark.
Porter said this celestial event will have an impact here on the ground as well. And that’s a great opportunity to inspire future scientists to pose questions, inquire about possible outcomes, record and report data and more.
“Look at how nature responds to the darkening sky,” Porter said. “Supposedly, if you have a morning glory flower, it will close.”
Birds might even prepare to nest.
“Do roosters crow?” Porter said. “How do squirrels react? How does the temperature change? Do the winds pick up or die off?”
• Visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov for educational materials that can be used at home or in the classroom. Under the education tab, choose “eclipse kit” for downloadable activities by grade level.
• Look for ways to engage children across subjects, using math, science, psychology (how do humans react?), biology (how does nature react?), art and more.
• Prepare to report what you observe using the iNaturalist website at www.inaturalist.org, or the app, available for iPhone and Android.
Gather with others for the experience. Make plans in advance. Some events are ticketed. Some will offer free (or included with ticket) solar eclipse glasses. Here's a list of places with planned events:
• The Children’s Museum of the Upstate: www.tcmupstate.org/total-solar-eclipse. Includes glasses, story time, activities and more.
• Lake Conestee Nature Park: lakeconesteenaturepark.com/events/solar-spectacular
• Clemson University: www.clemson.edu/eclipse
• Roper Mountain Science Center: ropermountain.org Events are Aug. 19 – 21. Prepare in advance with showings of “Eclipse: The Sun Revealed” Friday nights in August.
• Spartanburg Science Center:www.spartanburgsciencecenter.org
• Tyger River Family Solar Eclipse Day: email@example.com
• Spartanburg Libraries:www.spartanburglibraries.org
• Bob Jones University:www.bju.edu/eclipse Includes glasses, experiments and more.
• Furman University: news.furman.edu/features/eclipse-at-furman/. Includes educational activities, glasses, music and more.
• Hughes Main Library, Greenville: www.greenvillelibrary.org Includes glasses, educational information and more.
• Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery:swamprabbitcafe.com
• Lights Out Mauldin at Sunset Park:www.mauldinculturalcenter.org/events/community-events.
• NOMA Square: nomasquare.com
• Woodside Park, Fountain Inn:www.fountaininn.org
• Brevard Music Center:www.brevardmusic.org/festival/eclipse/ Events are Aug. 18 – 21.
• South Carolina State Fair:www.scstatefair.org/total-eclipse-parking
• South Carolina State Museum:scmuseum.org/eclipse
• Historic Columbia:www.historiccolumbia.org/events/historic-eclipse-in-the-gardens
• For more Greenville area events:www.visitgreenvillesc.com/eclipse
• Activities across South Carolina: discoversouthcarolina.com/total-eclipse
• For more Columbiaarea events, visit www.totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com.