Local physics professors
on what to expect from the eclipse

When it comes to watching the eclipse, experts agree that safety is the most important thing.

Once you’ve taken the proper visual precautions, here are the highlights to look for. During the short minutes of total eclipse, many celestial features normally visible only in the night sky will appear. According to Western Carolina physics professor Enrique Gomez, who has witnessed two full eclipses, totality “is an intense experience because of the dramatic change of light in the landscape and the sky throughout the event. Effectively, it will be night in the middle of the day, and several planets will be visible with the naked eye,” including Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. Bright stars, including Sirius, Spica, and Betelgeuse, will also shine through. What’s more, the temperature will drop by as much as 10 degrees, birds will fall silent, and other animals will react uniquely.

Although much of our region will experience 99 percent totality, UNC Asheville physics professor Brian Dennison recommends traveling to the zone of full totality if you can. The corona—the aura of plasma surrounding the sun that will be visible during totality—“is the most beautiful thing to see during an eclipse,” he says. And, he adds, “because of the current distance between the moon and the Earth, which is increasing due to tidal effects, eclipses are really good right now. Enjoy them while you have them.”


When the moon’s orbit positions it just so between the sun and the Earth, it blocks the sunshine that normally reaches our big blue marble. In a total solar eclipse, the moon will gradually shift in front of the sun until it covers all but the sun’s corona—its wispy outer atmosphere. Some places in WNC will experience the full eclipse, while parts outside that path will still enjoy almost 100 percent of it. So even if you can’t be in the darkest places in the region, you will still be able to witness much of this rare occurrence.

Phases of Total Solar Eclipse

The moon starts to overlap the Sun; the eclipse begins.


The moon covers the entire disc of the Sun; total eclipse begins.


The max phase of a total solar eclipse; only the Sun’s corona is visible.


The Moon starts moving away, and parts of the Sun’s disc reappear.


The Moon stops overlapping the Sun; the eclipse ends.


Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use. If scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. To remove your filter safely, turn away from the sun first, before removing.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer— the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality (visit for an interactive map showing the path), REMOVE YOUR SOLAR FILTER ONLY WHEN THE MOON COMPLETELY COVERS THE SUN’S FACE AND IT SUDDENLY GETS QUITE DARK. Experience totality; then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.


- Totality in Brevard -

Totality Time: 2:37:21 p.m.
Duration: 1:04 min.

- Totality in Bryson City -

Totality Time: 2:35:12 p.m.
Duration: 1:57 min.

- Totality in Franklin -

Totality Time: 2:35:26 p.m.
Duration: 2:30 min.

- Totality in Hayesville -

Totality Time: 2:34:41 p.m.
Duration: 2:33 min.

- Totality in Murphy -

Totality Time: 2:34:15 p.m.
Duration: 2:28 min.

- Totality in Robbinsville -

Totality Time: 2:34:20 p.m.
Duration: 2:36 min.

- Totality in Sylva -

Totality Time: 2:35:50 p.m.
Duration: 1:44 min.

In conjunction with UNC Asheville, the Asheville Museum of Science, and Asheville City Schools, the city will host a viewing celebration from noon-3 p.m. on Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park. Enjoy food, fellowship, free eclipse glasses, and a welcome- back celebration for city students.
Brevard Music Center Eclipse Weekend
Brevard • August 19-21 Head to Brevard Music Center’s 180-acre campus for a weekend of eclipse entertainment starting with a live performance by Lyle Lovett on Friday, movie showings of Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey on Saturday and Sunday, and a Total Eclipse of the Sun BMC fund-raiser on Monday, which will include local barbecue and live music. VIP parking will be included with any ticketed event and eclipse-viewing space is limited. Brevard Music Center, 349 Andante Ln.; Friday, 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Lyle Lovett concert tickets start at $25, movie showings $16, $20 reserved seating, eclipse day fund-raiser $100; (828) 862-2147


Korean folklore suggests that solar eclipses happen because mythical dogs are trying to steal the sun. In ancient China, a celestial dragon was thought to be munching on it, while Norse cultures blamed huge wolves and the Cherokee believed it was, instead, an enormous frog.
PLAN AHEAD! Given WNC’s fortune as one of the ground zeros for regional eclipsing, it will pay to get to your viewing destination early, and keep in mind: • The Blue Ridge Parkway and many rural roads will be jammed up. • Most local hotel rooms and rental lodging will be booked. • In some areas, cell phone networks might be temporarily overwhelmed. • It's wise to bring extra food and water in case of unexpected delays.
A popular misconception was that solar eclipses could be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children, so in some cultures, young children and pregnant women were instructed to stay indoors during the blackout.


Embedded thumbnail for The Night Sky - America's Total Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017)
The Night Sky - America's Total Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017)

Embedded thumbnail for Fly over the Great American Eclipse
Fly over the Great American Eclipse

Embedded thumbnail for 5 ways to safely view the 2017 total solar eclipse
5 ways to safely view the 2017 total solar eclipse

Embedded thumbnail for NASA VIDEO: Get Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse
NASA VIDEO: Get Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Embedded thumbnail for Total Solar Eclipse March 29, 2006 Anatalya, Turkey
Total Solar Eclipse March 29, 2006 Anatalya, Turkey

Embedded thumbnail for Total Solar Eclipse in Svalbard 2015 (Crowd Reaction)
Total Solar Eclipse in Svalbard 2015 (Crowd Reaction)

A Total Solar Eclipse IN the Heart of the Mountains

For most Western North Carolinians, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, an encounter with one of the rarest of astronomical phenomena. Go ahead and clear your calendar for Monday, August 21—a day we’ll all remember as the Great American Eclipse of 2017.
At about 1:15 p.m. EST, a total solar eclipse will appear over Oregon, heading southeast across the nation so that, circa 2:30 p.m., it will glide through the westernmost parts of North Carolina before continuing on to the Charleston area and out to sea. In fact, WNC will offer some of the longest and best opportunities for witnessing the eclipse. That’s because the so-called “path of totality”—a 60-mile-wide swath wherein the eclipse is 100 percent complete, with the moon blocking out the entirety of the sun— is passing right through here. For as much as two minutes and 40 seconds, the area will be blanketed in an eerie yet stunning mid-day darkness. Prior to and after the main event, a total of three hours of partial eclipse will cast the mountains in surreal shadow. With our guide to where and how it’s best to take it all in, the eclipse will be a transformative and memorable milestone.