ONDBEAT: Great American Eclipse soon darkening a sky near us

It’s just a month and a day away: Do you know where you’ll be when the Great American Eclipse casts a brief, dark trail across the United States?

The folks at Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach have been doing their part to spread awareness of the Aug. 21 event, when the new moon will pass directly between the Earth and sun, temporarily turning day into night from Oregon to South Carolina and 10 states in between for less than three minutes at any one viewing site.

Now and even after the occurrence, the planetarium offers 11 a.m. weekday presentations of an informative, timely program, “Eclipse: 2017,” for half-price admission in its Sky Theater at 7625 High Market St. in the Village at Sunset Beach.

And — this just in — the planetarium’s Galaxy Gift Shop has pairs of solar-safe Eclipse Shades available for just $1 each. But hurry and grab ‘em before supplies “eclipse out.”

That’s because while the approaching eclipse will be a heavenly thing to behold, staring directly at it without the proper protection could wreak hell, not to mention permanent damage, on human eyes and it’s definitely not recommended.

At the start of his daily eclipse presentation this past Monday, July 17, planetarium manager Will Snyder noted it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The last time for a coast-to-coast U.S. eclipse was in 1918. The next time isn’t until 2045, which doesn’t include the Carolinas.

Though Sunset Beach isn’t directly in the 2017 total solar eclipse path, “You’ll get to see at least a bite taken out of the sun,” Snyder promised the moms, dads and kids gathered in the Sky Theater.

The eclipse starts at 10:18 a.m. PDT on the Oregon coast and is expected to start affecting our area between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. EDT, said Maria Knapik, education coordinator for the planetarium and its sibling Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach.

For access and viewing of a more total eclipse, Snyder recommends heading south of Myrtle Beach, to Murrells Inlet, S.C. Knapik plans to go west toward Sumter, S.C., in time to see the eclipse that afternoon because there should be less haze there than along the coast.

“It’s really a game-time decision,” she said.

The closer you get to the direct path, the longer the viewing time should be — about two-and-a-half minutes for those in the eclipse band, including Columbia and Moncks Corner, S.C. Maps of the path are available at the planetarium. Also check out greatamericaneclipse.com.

Learning about the approaching solar eclipse is just one of the programs on Ingram Planetarium’s Sky Theater agenda.

Another one is “Back to the Moon for Good.”

“We haven’t visited our closest celestial neighbor in over 40 years,” reads a planetarium promotion. Anniversary-addendum alert: in just two more years, it will have been a whole half-century since that “one giant leap for mankind” moonwalk on July 20, 1969.

“When will we be going back?” the promotional teaser asks.

That’s another good lunar question.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.