COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We're just four months away from a celestial spectacle that could draw people from all over the world to South Carolina.
University of South Carolina physics and astronomy professor Steve Rodney has been waiting a lifetime for August 21st. The day he'll be able to witness his first total solar eclipse, and he won't even have to leave the USC campus.
"There are folks who travel around the world to see a total eclipse. They'll go to great expense and great lengths to see this event which is landing on our doorstep," Rodney said.
It so happens that this week, the sun is taking a track across the sky nearly identical to the one that will occur in August. Rodney says this provides a great opportunity to figure out where to go to get an unobstructed view. He says viewers who want to use a telescope to get a closer look should make sure they use a super-dark filter.
He also says, however, most people will have a better experience using simple, cheap and safe eclipse sunglasses. The glasses should be available just about everywhere as the event draws near.
"When the moon completely covers the sun, the sky will go as dark as deep twilight and you'll start to see stars appear, bright stars and planets will be visible in the sky. And the temperature will drop by a few degrees," Rodney explained. "So here in Columbia it will go from about 104 down to 99. And that will be a unique experience for all of your senses, and so if you're locking yourself in the eyepiece on a telescope you'll be missing out on the whole sky experience that is really the unique feeling of a total solar eclipse."
Columbia's location will make the city a magnet for viewers all over the east coast who want to see total coverage of the sun – as long as August 21st is not a cloudy day.
"It keeps me up at night. The weather is the one thing that we cannot control and cannot predict," Rodney said. "So we can predict within a hair's breadth when the eclipse will happen, how long it will last. But if a cloud rolls over and it happens to linger for two and a half minutes, then we could miss the whole thing in Columbia."
After August, the next total eclipse won't happen until April 2024.