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On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States will see a total eclipse of the Sun. South Carolina will be a significant destination for the eclipse because it will be the nearest spot within the path of totality for at least 100 million Americans in the Atlantic Seaboard and Florida.Cell phone service and smartphone Internet are expected to be unavailable inside the path of totality due to the large concentration of people. Cell phone companies will reinforce their network capacity for emergency responders. However, this will not increase capacity for commercial use. Visitors to South Carolina for the eclipse are encouraged to print paper versions of directions, lodging and restaurant reservations, and tickets to local eclipse events they plan to attend.Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers, according to the American Astronomical Society and the National Science Foundation.

Making History with a Total Solar Eclipse

Recently identified photo of scientist, academics and dignitaries gathered to witness the May 28, 1900 solar eclipse in Winnsboro, SC.
Photo Courtesy of Fairfield County Museum and Historical Society
Recently identified photo of scientist, academics and dignitaries gathered to witness the May 28, 1900 solar eclipse in Winnsboro, SC.

Today residents and visitors in South Carolina will witness a total solar eclipse, a rare phenomenon that hasn't been seen in the state since March 7, 1970 and won't occur again in the United States until 2024. This eclipse is being called "The Great American Eclipse" because it will begin in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and cross the continent to Charleston. Here, South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger talks with a local expert about what to expect during today's eclipse.

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The Fairfield County Museum shared the photo above, which they have identified as a solar eclipse observation party in Winnsboro, SC on May 28, 1900. According to the museum's August newsletter, "That date was the last full-occlusion solar eclipse visible across a wide band of the continental US in our area of the Southeast until upcoming eclipse that will happen [today]... On May 28, 1900, an important astronomical observation station for scientifically observing and photographing the anticipated total eclipse of the sun was set up on a hill in Winnsboro, SC near St. John’s Episcopal cemetery. The project was a partnership between Professor Ormond Stone from the University of Virginia, the town fathers, Professor J. M. Witherow of Mt. Zion Institute, and a number of professors and astronomers and physicists from colleges and universities such as Rutgers, Davidson, Southwestern Presbyterian, and Winthrop. Winnsboro had been chosen as an ideal spot where the duration of totality of occlusion was about 90 seconds."

As we prepare to see this rare event today, help us capture this history-in-the-making. Tweet a photo of your South Carolina eclipse viewing party or group to @SCPublicRadio with your location. Stay safe with eclipse viewing glasses and do not attempt to photograph the eclipse itself without specialized photography equipment (you can damage your camera as well as your eyes). And don't forget to look down and around for shadow bands and a 360-degree sunset!