What is the solar eclipse and why is everyone talking about it?

Discovery Place Nature

The official countdown is upon us for what is commonly being referred to as the “Great American Eclipse.” If you stand outside Monday, August 21 at 1:12 p.m. in Charlotte you’ll start to notice the skies darkening. We will reach the darkest point at 2:41 p.m. and at 4:04 p.m. the sky will return to normal. This phenomenon is known as a solar eclipse, and the entire United States hasn’t been treated to one since 1979.

Fun fact, the last total solar eclipse that went from west coast to east coast was in 1918!

What is a Solar Eclipse?

An eclipse is all about shadows. When a solar eclipse happens, the Moon will cast a shadow on a very particular path. If you’re somewhere on the path or near the path (like Charlotte), you will see the sun start to turn into a crescent shape as its light is blocked by the moon.

Why is Everyone Talking about It?

Solar eclipses are quite common and can be seen somewhere on Earth’s surface once every 18 months. However, a solar eclipse that is visible from the entire United States is a rare occurrence, making this eclipse the most talked-about phenomenon to happen in a while.

The catch? Although the solar eclipse will be visible from anywhere in the United States, those along the path of totality will see 100% of the eclipse. The rest of the states will see a partial eclipse, where the moon doesn’t completely cancel out the sun.

Columbia, South Carolina is on the path of totality and is expected to bring over 1 million people to the state. Here in Charlotte we can expect to see 98% of the eclipse. In other words, you will only see 2% of the sun on August 21.

You can participate in solar eclipse-themed events at each of our four Museums. Stop by Discovery Place Science or Discovery Place Nature, on August 21 to view the solar eclipse and interact with educators and visit Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville or Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham to hear themed stories and make crafts.

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