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Kershaw County gets ready for Great American Eclipse

Posted: August 10, 2017 5:57 p.m.
Updated: August 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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The skies will begin to darken in parts of Kershaw County at 1:13 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 as the Moon begins to eclipse the Sun. The total eclipse will start at 2:42 p.m. and last anywhere from about a minute and a half, depending on where somewhere is standing. It’ll all be over by 4:06 p.m.

Not everyone in Kershaw County will get the full effect of what is being called the Great American Eclipse. According to Astronomy.com, the website for Astronomy magazine, the eclipse is being called that because “The Moon’s shadow will race across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina.”

Information from Astronomy.com shows the center of the shadow’s path will pass, from northwest to southeast, over I-20 a few miles southwest of the town of Lexington, about an hour away from Camden. At that point, the width of the path will stretch from near Aiken to just shy of Camden, a few feet on the Lugoff side of the Wateree River bridge on U.S. 1. Inside that space -- and remember, it’s moving -- people will see the total eclipse. Northeast of that border, people will only see a partial eclipse. Everyone watching from any point in Kershaw County will see at least a partial eclipse, but the further away from the path’s center, the less of the Sun the Moon will block.

Different groups in Kershaw County have been getting ready for the eclipse in various ways. The most notable is the Kershaw County School District (KCSD). Back in March, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees voted to start the coming school year on Aug. 17. Trustees cast the vote based on a resolution passed by the S.C. General Assembly allowing schools to start Aug. 17, instead of the third Monday in August because that would be Aug. 21, the day of the eclipse.

Students will report for full days of school on Thursday, Aug. 17 and Friday, Aug. 18. Monday, Aug. 21 will be a half-day for students, being dismissed well before the full eclipse. At the time of the board’s decision, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the district didn’t want situations where students could be accidentally harmed by additional traffic (increased from people traveling to see the eclipse) or while watching the eclipse as part of school activities.

There will be viewing parties. The most notable for Kershaw County will be at Potter Community Park, 2427 Main St. in Elgin, the site of the Kershaw County Solar Eclipse Party. The event -- taking place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. -- is sponsored by the town of Elgin, Kershaw County Parks & Recreation Department and the Kershaw County Library. The free event will include music, treats, games a photo station and free eclipse viewing safety glasses for the first 600 attendees. Sponsors are urging party-goers to wear sunscreen and a hat and to bring their lawn chairs. The glasses have been donated through a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to the Space Science Institute.

The Total Eclipse Weekend Kershaw County page on Facebook touts a number of other possible viewing events, including “Come Play in the Dark” at Old McCaskill’s Farm in Rembert. There, free parking will be offered and lunch will be served at noon featuring sandwiches and salads. Glasses will be offered along with souvenir farm T-shirts. The farm is asking that there be no picnics since concessions will be available from noon until the eclipse around 2:30 p.m.

Although Goodale State National Park in Kershaw County does not have any eclipse-related events scheduled, Lake Wateree State Park near Winnsboro in Fairfield County, will offer a viewing opportunity from 2 to 3 p.m. According to park information, there will be 97 percent or better eclipse coverage, meaning the Moon should block all but a very small portion of the Sun from that vantage point. Call (803) 482-6401 for more information.

Also, Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, which is usually closed on Mondays, announced in mid-July it would open to the public on Aug. 21 as an alternative to driving to Columbia or elsewhere in the eclipse’s path. It is touting itself as a “great place to picnic” during the eclipse. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for children, seniors and the military; and free for Historic Camden members.

More to know

• Want to get a better idea of what you’ll see depending on where you are in Kershaw County? Click here to see an interactive map and, where you see a zip code in yellow, type in yours. For example, type in “29045” (Elgin) and it will not only tell you that the moon will obscure 100 percent of the sun, but show you what that looks like. The page also includes a map showing where your zip code is along the path, an animated map showing what the eclipse looks like from a bird’s eye view along the path across the U.S. and a short video telling “Why a total eclipse is such a big deal.” It also has a link to a NASA article about how to view the eclipse safely.

• Speaking of which, a number of scams have shown up, including on Amazon, touting “eclipse glasses” that aren’t safe. In one list of tips, Astronomy.com suggested buying cardboard “eclipse” glasses with optical Mylar or a piece of No. 14 welder’s glass, either of which, it said, should cost about $2. If you don’t have any way to protect yourself, the site also suggests making a pinhole camera. For information on how to make one, click here and scroll down to the 13th tip.

• The Astronomy.com list also includes this point: during totality (when the sun is fully eclipsed), scan the horizon -- you’ll see “sunset” colors because, “in effect, those locations are when sunset (or sunrise) are happening.”

NASA’s eclipse website includes lots on the science of the eclipse, safety, education and events. The homepage includes a countdown clock to first contact of the eclipse in Oregon. The site will also include live streaming of the eclipse from Carbondale, Ill., thought to be the best location from which to view the total eclipse in the country. (Astronomy.com will also offer a live stream of the partial eclipse from Denver, Colo.)

• Also, NASA suggests obtaining an ISO 12312-2 complaint and “CE” certified pair of special glasses or checking for other eclipse glasses from local science museums, schools and astronomy clubs. NASA also points out you can take off the glasses for the moment or so when the eclipse is in complete totality, but make sure you cover them again before totality ends.

• The next total eclipse of the sun in the U.S. will be experienced on April 8, 2024, but will stretch from southwestern Texas to the east coast of Maine. Most Kershaw County residents would see the Moon block about 76 percent of the Sun that day less than seven years from now.

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