Eclipse 2017 – Live blog from the eclipse path in South Carolina

This blog was updated live throughout the afternoon and evening from 5pm BST as the eclipse started in Oregon. 

Credit: Tyler Nordgren (Space Art Travel Bureau) / NASA

Hello Eclipse Fans!

Good morning from South Carolina! Here we go… a very excited Sara with you gearing up for live blogging as the ‘Great American Eclipse’ begins its journey across the United States. While this is not the first solar eclipse in recent years in America, it is the first total solar eclipse since 1979 somewhere in the US and the first to travel from coast to coast for 99 years. So, as you can imagine the excitement levels here are high with every TV network covering the event.

You might recall eclipse-fever in Britain in August 1999, the last time a part of the UK saw a total solar eclipse. Totality was reserved only for the far southwest of the UK but the weather had its say; much of the area under totality was cloudy. The next total eclipse in Britain isn’t slated until 2090.

Let’s start our coverage with some info about what we’re going to see here in the US later.

Words of Warning

Obviously we can’t talk about an eclipse without going ‘safety first’. It is so tempting for most people to take a chance and look directly into the sky during an eclipse. But we know better don’t we? Looking at the sun for as little as just a few seconds with your naked eye during the eclipse can burn your retina, damaging the images your brain can view. This phenomenon, known as “eclipse blindness”, can cause temporary or permanent vision impairment, and in worst-case scenarios can lead to significant loss of vision and ‘legal blindness’. The worst part is that because your retina doesn’t have pain receptors, you won’t feel any warning if there is burning and the symptoms of blindness typically manifest themselves hours later, so sufferers wake up the next morning unable to see properly. In fact the cloud in the 1999 UK eclipse might have been a blessing in disguise; doctors reported nearly a hundred cases of eclipse blindness following that event, most of whom admitted they hadn’t taken protection. One imagines that with clearer skies there could have been many more affected.

If your 20/20 vision rates highly on your must-keep list, there are two main options open to you. First, you can go all Blue Peter and make a pinhole camera using nothing more than an old cereal box, some tin foil and a pair of scissors. Or here in America you can go to your local bank/car dealer/church and pick up a branded pair of solar eclipse glasses. But mind you get real ones; a pair of cheap sunglasses will not do, you’re looking for a pair of eclipse visors with an ISO 12312-2 certification.

People in the path of totality can look directly at the sun when it is completely covered however, which typically lasts for around two and a half minutes. It’s stage four in the five stages of the eclipse:

Stage 1: Partial Eclipse – sun’s disc partially blocked by sun. Do not look directly at the sun or only with approved viewing glasses.

Stage 2: Diamond Ring – moon nearly covering sun but shining bright light still appears in one corner as sunlight streams through moon’s valleys. Do not look directly at the sun or only with glasses.

Stage 3: Baily’s Beads – low-lying valleys on very edge of moon allow some bright light to stream through, nearing totality but still not safe to look directly at the sun.

Stage 4: Totality – safe to look directly at the sun without glasses. Must have 100% totality. Typically lasts for 2.5 minutes.

Stage 5: End of totality – crescent starts to peek out of other side of the moon. Look away or put viewing glasses back on.

From Sea to Shining Sea

As I said earlier, #Eclipse2017 is kind-of-a-big-deal here in the States, in part because of the excitement of bloggers, instagrammers and ‘citizen journalists’ everywhere, keen to get the perfect shot, and also because it’s the first coast-to-coast eclipse for practically a century.

It will start in Oregon a little after 9am local time (5pm BST), before tracking southeast during the next few hours, ending in South Carolina. That’s where I’ll be through the afternoon, along with thousands of very excited Americans who are talking of little else…the children are even having a day off from some schools, although the local school district is at pains to point out that the 21st was scheduled for staff development anyway.

So join me back here from 5pm for live updates as the ‘Great American Eclipse’ gets underway.

Sara August 21, 20175:33 pm
5.04pm BST
eclipse2017 is off, starting at Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon! It’ll be the first location in continental US to see totality.
Sara August 21, 20175:48 pm

5.47pm BST

Totality gives those on the ground an amazing opportunity to see parts of the sun we’d never normally see:

Corona – the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere made up of an ionised gas called plasma with temperatures of millions of degree (much hotter than the surface of the sun), extending millions of miles into space. Only visible to the naked eye during a total solar eclipse.

Prominences – structures in the corona of ‘cool’ plasma supported by magnetic fields and anchored to the sun’s surface. Extend outwards, often in a loop shape, can loop hundreds of thousands of miles into space.

Polar Plumes – bright structures of fast moving solar material spurting from coronal holes. Coronal holes are colder and darker areas with lower energy and gas levels which move closer to the sun’s poles and discharge solar wind along magnetic field lines.

Helmet Streamers – Bright loop-like structures that lie over sunspots and have a prominence at their base. Electrons captured in the loops make them glow brightly and the solar wind pulls them into pointy shapes.

Coronal Loops – highly structured loops often found with sunspots, closed magnetic field lines that connect magnetic regions on the surface of the sun. Often linked to solar flares and coronal mass ejections (causing strong auroras on earth).

Sara August 21, 20176:05 pm

6.05pm BST

The weather back on earth…

Although our attention is focused on a spot 93 million miles away, the moon’s shadow, or umbra, is having quite an effect here on earth too and it’s something meteorologists have to factor into their weather forecasts.

The automated data doesn’t show a dip in temperatures during the afternoon’s hourly forecasts but as the eclipse reaches totality, there will be a definite cooling off.

Here the common consensus is that the temperature will fall by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit where there is totality, and about 5 degrees on the periphery of the shadow. Not only will that mean a cooling off for spectators, it will also mean that by the end of the day, the predicted max temp will be slightly off too.

And it can be even more dramatic; in 2001 a total solar eclipse in Zambia led to a drop of 15 degrees Fahrenheit in a 45 minute period while a US newspaper reported a 28 degree drop during an 1834 eclipse.

Interestingly not everyone will see the same temperature drop-off this afternoon, even if they’re in totality for the same duration, a drier airmass (for example in the west) will lead to a larger drop than the more humid southeast where I’m standing.

And although I’ve said the temps will be falling as the eclipse reaches totality, it’s not when it’s darkest that the temperature falls to its lowest point, there’s a lag of about 7 or 8 minutes.

Sara August 21, 20176:15 pm

6.15pm BST

Totality! The first place on mainland US soil to see it is Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon. 14 states will get to see totality, so let’s follow the eclipse path across the country through the next hour and a half…

Sara August 21, 20176:33 pm

6.33pm BST

Next state up is idaho with totality right now at Idaho Falls. Two states down, twelve to go. eclipse2017

John August 21, 20176:43 pm

6.43pm BST

But there are people in Casper,wyoming

John August 21, 20177:03 pm

7.03pm BST

Slight gap to cross most of #Nebraska to get to state capital Lincoln for totality. Omaha much more populated but no totality eclipse2017

John August 21, 20177:05 pm

7.05pm BST

Sabetha, kansas, pop. under 3k totality now. A 1998 tornado here destroyed the city warning siren less than 1min after it started. eclipse

John August 21, 20177:14 pm

7.14pm BST

America’s “Most Beautiful Small Town” is Jefferson City, missouri, capital but only 15th largest city in state. Totality!eclipse2017

John August 21, 20177:20 pm

7.21pm BST

Carbondale, illinois falling dark now, totality set to last for 2m40s. It will also see totality in 2024 during the US’ next eclipse, one of the very few places to claim that honour as the track this time will go from southwest to northeast.

John August 21, 20177:25 pm

7.25pm BST

Totality at the maximum point of the eclipse2017in Hopkinsville, kentucky. Also lasting 2m40s here.

John August 21, 20177:28 pm

7.28pm BST

Just four more states now including here in tennessee with totality beginning in state capital Nashville.

John August 21, 20177:34 pm

7.34pm BST

Just a little bit of totality in north Carolina, delighting tiny Murphy, est. pop. 1700, right now before racing on to Georgia

John August 21, 20177:37 pm

7.37pm BST

Two more states and it’s all over! Talulah Falls, georgia, now seeing totality, which means it’s nearing Sara…

John August 21, 20177:46 pm

7.46pm BST

Darkness on Hilton Head Island, southcarolina. There’s 98% totality where Sara’s stood on the beach…

John August 21, 20177:47 pm

7.47pm BST

And finally…ending with totality at Charleston, southcarolina. Light slowly returning as eclipse ends in next 82mins. eclipse2017

Sara August 21, 20178:48 pm

Oh. Well never say the meteorologists don’t get the forecasts right. Cloud was predicted and cloudy it was in South Carolina…we gave it a go…video here:

Sara August 21, 20179:09 pm

9.09pm BST

It’s all over folks! That’s eclipse2017 at an end in South Carolina with the moon now completely out of the sun’s way over the US mainland. Thanks for joining us, a bit of sadness in Hilton Head about the cloud, but hey…at least it’s Happy Hour!

John August 22, 20172:44 am

6.43pm BST

But there are people in Casper,wyoming the 2nd biggest city in the state, population 56k. Totality there right now!

John August 22, 20172:47 am

6.43pm BST

In truth we’ve just skipped montana, but like iowa later on, totality only grazes a tiny, unpopulated corner of the state. But there are people in Casper, wyoming, the 2nd biggest city in the state, population 56k. Totality there right now! eclipse2017