Eclipse excitement builds in Greenville area

Hundreds of people hoping to get their eyes behind some special glasses to catch Monday’s eclipse are inundating outfits that are sponsoring viewing events in the Greenville area, organizers said.

“The frenzy we are seeing now is something we didn’t anticipate. We had been selling 100 or 200 a week, but at the demand we have right now we could have sold 100 or 200 a day,” said Brian Baker, director of astronomy at a Time for Science, an environmental education and science center.

“There was a big uptick in interest over the weekend, and we were cleared out at a Time for Science (located outside Grifton) and Go-Science (located on Dickinson Avenue),” he said.

The organization secured a shipment of the eclipse glasses earlier this week and will begin selling them at 10 a.m. today. The glasses are made of cardboard and an aluminum coated film. The cost is $5 for a pair with a limit of two per person, Baker said.

While the organization wants to make glasses available to the public, staff also is keeping a supply to use at their free solar eclipse event planned for 1 p.m. at the center’s planetarium, 949 Contentnea Lane, Grifton.

“Do you have glasses” and “Is it safe to watch” are the most common questions fielded recently by Regina DeWitt, an associate professor of physics at East Carolina University.

DeWitt has organized an informal viewing beginning at 2:15 p.m. Monday at the Howell Science Complex off 10th Street.

“We are already worrying we don’t have enough (glasses),” she said. “I think people will have to share at this point.” When people started inquiring about glasses, DeWitt said she tried to order more, but her online supplier was sold out.

“For a long time there was nothing. I thought nobody is really interested. But now, suddenly, with a week to go I am actually surprised about how many people are asking about it and are interested,” she said. “I think it’s great everybody is getting excited about it.”

Connie Widney, children’s librarian at the Farmville Public Library, also has been amazed by the interest.

“We are not in the totality zone, but there is still a great deal of interest,” Widney said, referring to the path of the phenomenon. The Greenville area will see about 90 percent coverage of the sun, versus a total eclipse farther south.

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The library secured 200 pairs of glasses from NASA to use for an eclipse viewing event it is hosting at 2 p.m. Monday. The announcement generated a flood of inquiries about purchasing the glasses.

“We averaged about 40 telephone calls a day. We had about 10 people come in daily,” Widney said. It started Monday, she said, when people said they either couldn’t find the glasses locally or they learned the pair they bought online weren’t safe.

To begin to understand a solar eclipse you have to understand how the solar system works. The earth orbits around the sun and the moon orbits around the earth. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the earth and the sun, casting a shadow on earth, according to the National Aeronautic sand Space Administration.

Thee are three types of solar eclipses. In a total eclipse, the sun, moon and earth have to be in a direct line and it looks like the moon is completley blocking the sun. A total solar eclipse is only visible from a small area on earth.

A partial eclipse is when the sun, moon and earth aren’t exactly lined up and the moon appears to block only part of the sun. The third type is an annular eclipse which happens when the moon is farthest from the sun. It looks like a dark disk on top of the sun.

“What’s special about this eclipse is the path it’s taking,” Baker said “It starts in Oregon, crosses the Midwest and comes out on South Carolina into the Atlantic.”

The total solar eclipse will cross 14 states, including western North Carolina, where the total eclipse will be visible around the towns of Murphy, Milltown, Bryson City and Franklin.

The total eclipse’s path also stretches across 251 miles of South Carolina, ending on the coast at McClennanville.

It’s the first time in about a century that an eclipse like this has happened in the U.S., Baker said, the last being in 1918 when an eclipse crossed from Washington State to Florida.

Locally, the eclipse will just miss totality at 92 percent, Baker said.

“There will just be a small sliver of the sun peeking out from the moon so we won’t be in total darkness,” Baker said.

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It will be similar to the differance in daylight between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., he said. Also the length of time it takes to reach totality, when the moon’s shadow is at its darkest part, is so slow everyone’s eyes will adjust to the change, further diminishing the sense of darkness, he said.

On the East Coast the eclipse will begin at 1:19 p.m. It will reach totality at 2:47 p.m. and end shortly after 4 p.m., Baker said.

While locals won’t be engulfed in darkness, DeWitt said, they can expect to notice a temperature drop and changes in shadows. Of course, this only will happen if the sky isn’t cloudy.

In 1999 a total eclipse crossed southern Germany, and DeWitt and her friends went to watch it.

“I was there to witness it, but a cloud moved in front just before totality,” she said. “It was one of the more frustrating experiences. … It was windy and the clouds really moved across the sky and we could hear people just a couple hundred meters from us who could see it. It was really frustrating.”

The National Weather Service in Morehead City forecast is Monday will be partly sunny with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

While DeWitt has planned Monday’s event on the ECU campus, she won’t be there. She is going with a group of 20 faculty and members of the ECU Astronomy Club to view the eclipse in Manning, S.C.

“It’s extremely exciting. I am so happy I finally have the opportunity to witness a full solar eclipse. I hope it’s happening. One of the students said maybe you should stay here because you might be bad luck,” she joked.

The city of Greenville is not hosting a local viewing event, but is hosting a bus trip to Manchester State Forest in South Carolina so Greenville residents can enjoy the total eclipse.

Christoper Horrigan, parks coordinator for the Recreation and Parks Department, said seven people have reserved seats and three seats remain open. Anyone interested should contact him by Saturday at 252-329-4562.

The bus will leave from River Park North at 8 a.m. and will return at 8 p.m. The $45 fee includes the required gear for viewing the eclipse, but does not cover lunch and dinner stops.

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Horrigan said organizers decided to go to the park near Columbiabecause a public viewing is taking place there. Additionally, Horrigan said the location is accessible from Interstate 95 and is one of the shortest possible drives to see the full eclipse.

Baker said he was tempted to travel to see the total eclipse but wanted to host a local activity.

“It’s something that you can’t experience on a daily basis. You get a different prespective,” he said. “One of the things that makes it so remarkable is there are so many things that have to line up.”

“It was kind of amazing to me,” Widney said. “The whole idea of how our solar system works, and a tiny, tiny moon can get between the sun and the earth and block out part of the sun.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at [email protected] or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.


Below is a listing of eclipse-related events occurring locally:

A Time for Science

949 Contentnea Lane, Grifton

1-4 p.m.

Admission: free

Live music, planetarium shows, crafts, food and other activities

Farmville Public Library

4276 W. Church St., Farmville

2-3 p.m.

Children’s craft and refreshments. NASA-approved glasses available for participants.

East Carolina University

Howell Science Center

2:15-3:15 p.m.

Eclipse viewing glasses will be available but individuals may have to share.

Goose Creek State Park

2190 Camp Leach Road, Washington, N.C.

1-4 p.m.

Viewing taking place in the field across from the visitor center; a livestream will be inside the center. Individuals should bring water, blankets, sunscreen, chairs and umbrellas. A limited number of NASA-approved glasses for viewing the eclipse will be available, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own.