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