081717 Eclipse: At totality, 99.9 percent isn’t quite enough
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NASA map shows the northern extent of the shadow band.
Eclipse: At totality, 99.9 percent isn’t quite enough

By Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

If you’re north of Midway Inlet between Pawleys Island and Litchfield Beach, you’re out luck. No total eclipse for you.

The eclipse will still be visible, with some percentage of coverage all the way through Canada. The northernmost extent of the 70-mile-wide shadow band will cut across the Waccamaw Neck, dividing the community between totality and something less than 100 percent coverage. Some residents will only have to cross the street to be in totality.

Ron Revere, a Coastal Carolina University astronomy instructor, says there is definitely a difference between the 100 percent totality and the 99 percent coverage. “Folks in Litchfield, on the wrong side of the street from totality, may see Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring, but not a total eclipse,” he said. “If they want to see a total eclipse, they need to “cross the street” into the zone of totality.

Baily’s Beads is a phenomenon named after 19th century British astronomer Francis Baily, who first observed the rigid surface of the moon as it grazes over the sun. He was able to conclude the surface of the moon was rugged, and featured valleys and mountain peaks because of the way the sun’s light shined during an eclipse. It looks sort of like a dotted line.

The diamond ring occurs alongside Baily’s Beads and is a phenomenon that occurs twice, as viewed from 100 percent totality during a solar eclipse. The diamond ring is when the outline of the sun is visible in a ring shape and there is a bright jewel of sunlight at either end of the coverage.

“Some people actually choose to be right on the edge for that effect,” Louis Rubbo, a Coastal Carolina professor, said. “If you’re in totality, those beads only last a few seconds, but if you’re on the edge like Pawleys Island, they can last upwards of 40 to 50 seconds.”

According to Rubbo, a great reason to “cross the street” is to view the corona of the sun. It is only visible inside the shadow band, during 100 percent coverage. “It’s a really faint, wispy looking atmosphere around the sun and it’s a beautiful thing to see. You can only see it during an eclipse.”

John Thomas agreed. While living in Panama in 1991, he drove for three hours into the mountains to watch a total eclipse. “Seeing the corona is the most amazing thing,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The North Litchfield resident is planning to watch Monday’s eclipse from the Santee River. By getting farther into the shadow band of totality, he will get a longer look at the corona. “It’s about 30 seconds in Pawleys Island. In McClellanville, it’s about two and a half minutes,” Thomas said.

In the 99 percent of totality a viewer must wear protective eyewear the entire time they view the sun, says Rubbo. “Any sliver of the sun, the sun is just so bright, any sliver sticking out is enough to do eye damage,” he said. Some people will get eye damage immediately from looking at the sun for a moment, others won’t. “The good and the bad about it, is that everyone’s eyes are different. Some people will have temporary damage, others will have permanent. It really depends on the individual,” he said. “It’s worth going a couple of blocks to see the difference.”

If Baily’s Beads and the diamond ring are what you want to focus on, Litchfield is the place for you. If it’s the corona and totality, Pawleys Island and south are the place for you. McClellanville will offer the longest glimpse at totality with more than 2 minutes of viewing time.

Err on the side of caution when it comes to looking directly at the sun. On the 100 percent side, people will see totality and be able to remove their eclipse glasses. Protective eyewear must be worn at all other times while viewing the process of the eclipse, or the sun in general.

Only take the glasses off during totality, which will only happen for approximately 40 seconds on Pawleys Island inside the shadow band.

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