Forty-eight years ago, a nation collectively huddled around their television sets to witness three men make one giant leap for mankind. In less than two weeks, the nation will again come together. This time, however, we will not be staring at screens, but will be in the grass, on the sidewalks, in our back yards, or anywhere where we can peer into the sky without obstruction.
The Great American Solar Eclipse is sweeping across the nation.
From Oregon to South Carolina, millions of people will be witness to a once-in-a-generation astronomical event. A total solar eclipse has not been visible from the continental U.S. since 1979. It will not be seen in Western North Carolina again for another century.
The Earth is unique in that our moon is very nearly the exact right size, at the exact right distance, and inclined at the exactly right elliptical to periodically block the sun. When this happens, a penumbra of shadow passes over the planet, causing a partial eclipse. At the nexus of this shadow is the umbra, a very small spot (relatively speaking) where the sun is eclipsed in its entirety.
While locations across all 48 contiguous states will experience a jaw-dropping partial eclipse, one narrow band of citizens will be able to see a 100% obstruction of the sun. Changes in the sky will begin around 1:00pm on Monday, August 21 and last until 4:00. The full eclipse will last up to two minutes and 40 seconds. When viewed safely with solar glasses, this rare occurrence allows you to view the sun’s chromosphere and corona, as well as stars and planets not normally visible during the day.
In Western North Carolina, Asheville and Hendersonville will experience a 99% eclipse around 2:30pm. Areas west and south of Waynesville will be in the path of the 100% eclipse. Jackson County, Swain County, and Graham County, located an hour west of Asheville, are all prime locations for viewing the total eclipse.
From lake fronts and mountaintops to town squares and city centers, there are plenty of places to watch the eclipse in WNC. However, if you are planning to go to locations with limited parking, like national parks and forests, be sure to plan ahead and get there early.
Here are a few WNC-area events for the Great American Solar Eclipse.
Cherokee’s Cultural Eclipse Celebration
WHEN: Sun. August 20, 2:00–9:00pm and Mon. August 21, 9:00am–7:00pm
The ancient Cherokees believed a giant frog that lived in the sky would swallow the sun, causing darkness to occur during the daytime. The Cherokees and other tribes would gather and fire guns, beat drums, and generally make noise so as to frighten the great frog away, making the sun shine brightly again. This two-day event will include the Warriors of AniKituhwa, Native American performances, storytelling, food vendors, and more. Admission is $25 each day for ages 6+ (includes a free pair of certified eclipse glasses).
Learn more: visitcherokeenc.com
Cashiers Eclipse Festival
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 10:00am–5:00pm
The Village Green in Cashiers lies directly in the path of totality and will experience darkness for 2:23 beginning at 2:36pm. Astronomy activities with eclipse tips and facts will be taking place throughout the day. Visitors can try several local food trucks, enjoy beer and wine, and buy sweet treats and ice cream. Yard games and a live music performance by Coconut Groove will entertain guests during the festivities. The U.S. Postal Service will be on site to sell and cancel commemorative solar eclipse stamps. Admission with donation.
Learn more: discoverjacksonnc.com/total-solar-eclipse
Highlands Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Party
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 10:00am
Highlands, North Carolina is the preeminent WNC location to view the 2017 eclipse. Check out events in the area for the entire week leading up to the big event. Their Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Party will start with Yoga in the Park and music by Tyler Kittle and Hurricane Creek Band. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative. Protective eyewear is a MUST!
Learn more: highlandseclipsefest.com
The Total Solar Eclipse at Gorges State Park
WHEN: Sat. August 19–Mon. August 21
The Friends of Gorges State Park is sponsoring three days of family-friendly, fun activities leading up to the total solar eclipse. The park offers prime viewing spots and plans to make the event truly memorable. Enjoy live music, food trucks, ranger-led nature hikes, science discussions and demonstrations, face painting, and more. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative. Free admission.
Learn more: friendsofgorges.org/eclipse-at-gorges
2017 Eclipse at Clingman’s Dome
WHEN: Mon. August 21
Clingmans Dome Trailhead parking area will be converted to a special ticketed event site for experiencing the eclipse with the assistance of experts, educational exhibits, and story tellers. NASA will be streaming live on location. Clingmans Dome Road will be closed on Sunday, August 20 and Monday, August 21 to accommodate the special event. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative.
Tickets for the Clingmans Dome event are SOLD OUT. Any cancelled tickets will become available to the public again at recreation.gov.
Learn more: nps.gov/grsm
Downtown Sylva Eclipse Festival
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 11:00am–4:00pm
Sylva lies in the path of totality and will experience 1:47 of darkness. Festivities include live music from the Colby Deitz band and children’s activities from 11:00am–1:00pm. Don’t miss the planetary walk of the Solar System scaled to fit on Sylva’s Main Street. Adult events following the kids’ events will be held at Bridge Park. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative. Free admission.
Learn more: discoverjacksonnc.com
2017 Eclipse at PARI
WHEN: Mon. August 21
This is the first time a total solar eclipse has occurred at a site equipped with 26-meter radio telescopes. No one knows what will be learned by pointing these giant instruments at the sun during totality, but scientists will be on hand to find out. This is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative.
Tickets for the PARI event are SOLD OUT.
Learn more: pari.edu/things-to-do/2017-eclipse
Rosman Eclipse Viewing Event
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 8:00am–4:30pm
This family-friendly event will include live music, games, and concessions for both lunch and dinner. Tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for children 5–17. Proceeds will go to benefit Rosman High School.
Learn more: blueridgeparkwayevents.time.ly
Brevard College Eclipse Viewing Event
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 8:00am–5:00pm
The public is invited to view the eclipse on the Brevard College campus near the Porter Center. Eclipse viewing glasses will be available. Telescopes and other viewing devices can be set up.
Learn more: visitwaterfalls.com/eclipse
Eclipse Weekend @ BMC
WHEN: Fri. August 18–Mon. August 21
The Center will be hosting a post-festival season eclipse weekend. The event includes a concert by Lyle Lovett and His Large Band and a VIP viewing event that includes two iconic space movies, VIP Parking, PARI safety glasses, astronomy lectures, BBQ, and live music.
Learn more: brevardmusic.org/festival/eclipse
Solar Eclipse Party at Oskar Blues
WHEN: Mon. August 21, NOON–8:00pm
Enjoy live tunes all day, Oskar Blues CHUBwagon specials, bouncy house, special eclipse glasses for everyone, and maybe even a guest appearance by the Pisgah Thunder. No camping is available on site, by there are several locations nearby.
Learn more: facebook.com/events
Solar Eclipse Party at Harmon Field
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 11:00am–3:00pm
The Polk County Public Library and Polk County Early College Science Club are hosting a Solar Eclipse Party at Harmon Field in Tryon. This is a great opportunity to view the 99.77% obscuration of the sun as the moon passes between the sun and the earth. The celebration will include music, food crafts, and activities. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative. The event is free and open to the public. Sun viewing glasses will be available at the event.
Learn more: polkschools.org/eclipse
The Arboretum’s (almost) Total Eclipse
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 8:00am–4:00pm
Avoid the traffic and crowds and enjoy the Arboretum’s 434 acres of trails and open garden spaces, perfect for viewing this once-in-a-lifetime event. The first 250 cars through the Arboretum gates will receive a free pair of solar eclipse glasses for the 99% eclipse. More will be on sale at the Connections Gallery gift shop.
Learn more: ncarboretum.org
Asheville’s Solar Eclipse Festival in Pack Square Park
WHEN: Mon. August 21, NOON–3:00pm
Join the target=”blank”Asheville Museum of Science, UNC Asheville, Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, and more for Asheville’s Solar Eclipse Festival. Bring the whole family and witness a spectacular solar eclipse while enjoying music, food, fun activities, and more. This festival is one of 30 eclipse parties hosted across North and South Carolina as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Party initiative. Satellite locations will be at Owen High School, North Buncombe High School, and TC Roberson High School. Free admission.
Learn more: ashevillescience.org/solar-eclipse
UNC Asheville’s Great American Eclipse
WHEN: Mon. August 21, 1:00–3:00pm
UNC Asheville faculty, staff, and students are invited to gather together on the Quad for an afternoon of eclipse watching on telescopes with sun funnels, listening to eclipse-inspired music, playing games, yoga, enjoying ice cream and other treats, and experiencing this great event together. For UNC Asheville faculty, staff, and students ONLY.
Learn more: eclipse.wp.unca.edu
Highland Brewing Company Rooftop Eclipse Viewing Party
WHEN: Mon. August 21, NOON–5:00pm
Witness the eclipse Beer City USA-style from one of Asheville’s newest rooftop bars. Bring your eclipse glasses, grab a pint, and watch from the rooftop deck at Highland Brewing Company or in the grassy meadow. Come early and stay as long as you want. The rooftop bar is for those 21 and older. The meadow is family-friendly. Free admission.
Learn more: highlandbrewing.com
Rock the Eclipse in Black Mountain
WHEN: Fri. August 18–Mon. August 21
Historic downtown Black Mountain will host events all weekend leading to the eclipse party on Monday. Festivities begin on Friday, August 18, with an outdoor movie on Black Mountain Avenue at dark. On Saturday, join in the evening Wine Walk beginning at the Merry Wine Market. The Monday afternoon eclipse party will begin at 1:00pm on Town Square and feature live music by Jordan Okrend. Black Mountain will experience a 98.9% eclipse.
Learn more: visitblackmountain.net/rock-the-eclipse
For additional eclipse viewing locations, like prime points along the Blue Ridge Parkway, check out exploreasheville.com and romanticasheville.com.
Know of additional solar eclipse events around Asheville? Share them with us in the comments.