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.
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.