Solar eclipse countdown

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Something magical happens in less than 100 days. The United States will be bringing in visitors from all over the world for a special event, and while we do not have front-row seats, we are firmly planted in the second row with a chance to move forward.

On March 7, 1970 North Carolina and South Carolina experienced a total solar eclipse. Unfortunately for me, I was a year-and-a-half old and only partly remember it. OK, I don’t remember it at all. But to think it has been 47 years since it happened shows just how special it is.

On Aug. 21, the sun and moon do their astrological dance once again. While it will only be a partial eclipse over North Carolina, South Carolina gets to witness it in full glory. At least parts of South Carolina do.

Why is this included in an outdoors column, and why nearly 100 days prior to it happening? The 100 days thing is a quick answer. You need to plan now. In fact, you need plan A, plan B and plan C if you care to see it in totality. As mentioned, people across the world are converging along a narrow corridor running from Oregon to South Carolina in an attempt to catch this spectacle.

To answer why this is in an outdoors column, the answer is a little different. Would you rather witness the total eclipse from the parking lot of a Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or from somewhere like the Great Smoky Mountains or Congaree National Park?

The totality band travels directly over Grand Teton National Park for instance, and hundreds to thousands are expected to try to find and fight for a good vantage point there. In doing so, people are planning and plotting their hikes, their setups, and their alternate locations just in case foul weather decides to try and eclipse the eclipse.

As for our closest locations, if you were to draw a line from the center of the most western edge of South Carolina down through the very center of the South Carolina coast, that is where the total eclipse can be seen. This includes areas such as Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.

Not only will a small (very small, actually) portion of the Great Smokies be involved, but Congaree National Park near Columbia and numerous South Carolina State Parks will also be in the line. These locations will be prime spots if the skies are clear that day.

The eclipse will last approximately two-and-a-half hours, although totality will only last a couple of minutes. This again requires pre-planning. Will you be photographing or recording? Will you join along with a group of others? How will you view the eclipse?

During totality, it is possible to watch with the naked eye. But prior to and immediately after while in partial eclipse — or in North Carolina during partial eclipse — you will need to view either with a solar filter or a pinhole viewer, as the eyes can be damaged with just a short glimpse.

As we get closer, I will do another column on how to properly photograph the eclipse, but for now, it would be wise to start figuring out where you would like to spend a long weekend (Aug. 21 is on a Monday) in South Carolina for a miniature solar vacation.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.