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.


Bryson City Eclipse Block Party
Bryson City • August 21 Await the eclipse with live performances while browsing the many shops and restaurants in downtown Bryson City. RR Depot, 226 Everett St.; Monday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; free; (828) 488-3681
Cashier's Groovin' on the Green
Cashiers • Boogie down to local tunes at Cashier’s Groovin’ on the Green on Friday, August 18; visit a Summer Arts and Crafts Market in Dillsboro on Saturday, August 19 or the Arts and Crafts Festival all eclipse weekend in Sapphire Valley; check out trending designs from interior decorators from the region at the Cashiers Designer Showhouse, running August 12-27. On Twitter? Check @NCEclipse for event updates and public safety updates.
Cashiers Eclipse Festival
Cashiers • August 21 Talk with experts while you view the eclipse during this free community event held at The Village Green of Cashiers. The festival will also include a concert by local band Coconut Groove as well as food from local vendors and brews from Satulah Mountain Brewing Company and The Ugly Dog Public House. The Village Green Commons, US 64 & NC 107; Monday, noon-4 p.m.; free; (828) 743-3434.
Cherokee County Prime Viewing Spots
Murphy • Thanks to an initiative by Tri-County Community College in Murphy, the state’s westernmost counties have a hyper local guide to their viewing and celebration options. The website,, is an ever-growing clearinghouse of info on the event. What’s more, Tri-County is hosting pre-event eclipse camps, and when the big day comes, it will offer a VIP pack- age including on-campus lodging and parking, a shuttle to a prime viewing spot, and access to the college’s telescopes. 21 Campus Circle, Murphy; price for VIP package TBD; Call (828) 835-4208 for updates.
Clay County Eclipse
Hayesville • August 18, 19 & 21 Clay offers a weekend of eclipse revelry. On Friday night, the Caribbean Cowboys kick off a free show at 7 p.m. at Historic Hayesville Square. Saturday brings the Solar Feast: From 11 a.m.-4 p.m., the square will be filled with food, games, and music. Admission is $3 per person or $8 per immediate family. On Monday, the Solar Fest viewing celebration takes place at the airport in Brasstown (811 Settawig Rd.), where parking for up to 3,500 cars will be open from 8 a.m.-noon. The free event will have lots of food vendors, music, a model rocket demonstration, and VIP and food and wine tents. (828) 389-3704.
Cultural Eclipse Celebration
Cherokee • August 20 & 21 Experience “Nvdo walosi ugisgo,” the Cherokee term for eclipse that means “when the frog eats the sun” during this two-day celebration. A concert by The Warriors of AniKituhwa, plus storytellers and craft demonstrations commemorate the eclipse’s cultural significance to the ancient Cherokee. Food vendors will be on hand, and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian will host educational activities. Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds, 545 Tsali Blvd.; Sunday, 2-9 p.m., Monday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; free with a $5 purchase of eyeglasses; (828) 788-0034
Darnell Farms’ Appalachian Renaissance Festival
Bryson City • August 19-21 On Saturday and Sunday, Darnell Farms is hosting a county fair-style festival, complete with agricultural demos, craft vendors, food trucks, and bands. Camping is welcome. Visitors are invited to stick around Monday to enjoy the eclipse from the farm’s open fields. Viewing glasses will be provided and food vendors will be on hand. 2300 Governors Island Rd.; Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. until late; free; (828) 488-2376.
Dillsboro Eclipse Celebration
Dillsboro • August 21 Enjoy festival snacks like Italian ice and funnel cakes or explore Monteith Park’s interpretive nature trails while you await the eclipse. A free shuttle will be available from the park to restaurants and shops nearby. Water and eclipse glasses will available for a small donation to the Dillsboro Merchants Association for the Luminaries. Monteith Park; Monday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; free with $2 parking; (828) 586-3511.
Downtown Sylva Eclipse Festival
Sylva • August 18-21 Sylva’s festivities kick off Friday at Bridge Park with the Concerts on the Creek series featuring the band Porch 40. Food, including MoonPies, will be available for purchase. Saturday brings more live music with a performance by A Social Function, and that night, Historic Downtown Sylva hosts Moonlight Madness, when shops will offer special deals and extended hours. On the day of the eclipse, munch on food truck eats while listening to public talks from science experts and a performance by Colby Deitz Band leading up to the big moment. Bridge Park, 76 Railroad Ave.; Friday, 7-9 p.m., Saturday, 4-6 p.m., Monday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; free; (828) 743- 3434.


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)

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Fly over the Great American Eclipse

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5 ways to safely view the 2017 total solar eclipse

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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

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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.