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What Asheville really needs to know about the big solar eclipse

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PHOTO: A composite image of the 2013 total solar eclipse, viewed from Gabon. If the weather is clear, western N.C. will also be able to see the Sun's corona with the naked eye. (Photo: Pasachoff/Rusin/Davis/Druckmüller)

Eclipse day is just over a month away. Are you ready for the North American astronomy experience of a lifetime?

1. Asheville is NOT in the path of totality

If you want to see a TOTAL eclipse of the sun, you'll have to head to the western end of the state or south to S.C.

RELATED | Eclipse guide for the Asheville area

View a map of eclipse totality here that shows the path of the moon's shadow across the U.S.

2. Totality MATTERS

You want to take the time to put yourself in the path of totality during the eclipse.

In the words of eclipse2017.org, "close is not close enough."

Asheville will experience around 99 percent of totality, but veteran eclipse-watchers warn that while partial eclipses, even those at 99 percent, are interesting, only a total eclipse provides the "full, jaw-dropping, knee-buckling, emotionally overloading, completely overwhelming spectacle that is totality."

An excerpt:

For those outside the path, there is no dramatic moment of totality, no dance of Baily’s Beads around the edge of the moon’s disk, no intense darkening of the skies, no stars and planets suddenly revealing themselves against an impossible twilight, no corona flashing into view (the otherworldly beauty of which makes even veteran total eclipse observers gasp in amazement), and no primordial fear which sinks ever so slightly even the modern heart. There is no pitch-blackened disk of the sun, no discernable temperature drop, no impossible nighttime during the day, no scintillating chromosphere or glorious prominences, no 360-degree sunset effect around the horizon, no uncontrollable shouts of emotional overload from the assembled crowd, and no lingering post-eclipse sensation of certainty that you have just done one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in your life.

Unless you are in the path of totality, the sky will remain blue and you'll miss one of the most amazing things a total solar eclipse lets you experience: during totality, you can safely view the Sun's corona with your naked eye.

You might even get to see a prominence, an eruption of gas many times the size of the Earth extending from the surface of the Sun.

You've been warned.

3. If you think you've seen a total solar eclipse before but you're not sure...

You haven't seen one.

If you saw crescent-shaped shadows on the ground in elementary school and you think that's what viewing a total solar eclipse is, check out this account from Eclipse2017.org, or compare your memories to what's described above in #2.

4. If you haven't made travel plans, make them now

Hotels and other rentals are filling up, and driving conditions the day of might not be ideal with plenty of people on the road to see the eclipse.

"Traffic, along with weather, will be the chief challenges for people wanting to see the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017," writes EarthSky.

Ideally, it says, you want to be near your totality-watching site of choice 1-2 days before the eclipse even happens. If hotels are booked, consider a campsite.

RELATED | NCDOT: What to expect if you hit the road for the solar eclipse

Check out more excellent eclipse-prep tips from EarthSky here.

5. Prepare for the possibility of congested roads on eclipse day

As advised above, be in your eclipse spot 1-2 days early if you can. If you can't, be prepared for more traffic as others head west and south to see the show.

Get updated traffic information from News 13 here.

6. Get your eclipse-viewing glasses now, too

It's not safe to look at the Sun until totality (but then, stare away)! Be sure to buy your viewing glasses in advance.

Get them online, at some Ingles locations, some Lowe's locations, online from PARI, or at the Asheville Museum of Science gift shop while supplies last.

7. It's on a Monday, so ask for the day off!

If you're serious about viewing totality, you'll need to plan to be at least as far west as Brevard (or in the path of totality in South Carolina) on Monday, August 21.

8. If it's cloudy, you might need to view from another spot

Weather in the mountains can be tricky, and your chosen spot might be cloudy. Plan ahead, follow weather radar and forecasts and be ready to view from a different spot with clearer skies.

9. There will be weird things happening around totality

Not supernatural weird things. Just some strange natural things you can only see during a total solar eclipse.

Just before the eclipse begins, you might be able to see the moon's shadow racing toward you at over 1000 miles per hour.

Crescent-shaped shadows will form under the trees.

You can also look for Baily's beads and the "diamond ring." You might see shadow bands on the ground immediately before and after totality.

During totality, the brief phase of the eclipse when the sky darkens and the moon covers the Sun, you can safely take your eclipse-watching glasses off. And you want to, because during this time you can see the Sun's corona with the naked eye.

Locally, the eclipse will start at about 1 p.m., reach totality at about 2:30 (staying there for around two minutes), and be all done by 4 p.m.

See you August 21 for the "Great American Eclipse"!


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