The solar eclipse is coming

News of the upcoming solar eclipse has been hard for Western North Carolinians to avoid this season, and the big day is coming up Monday, Aug. 21, when the moon will cover the sun for one to two minutes during the 2 p.m. hour — exact times and durations vary by location.

Get educated on the phenomenon

• Eclipse expert Enrique Gomez will discuss his experiences viewing eclipses at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin. Gomez, an associate professor of physics at Western Carolina University, has previously witnessed two total solar eclipses — one in Mexico City in 1991 and the other in Austria in 1999.

• The ultimate solar eclipse will be offered at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Jackson County Public Library. Randi Neff, WNCnext and Morehead Planetarium will present the program with lunar geologist Amy Fagan and physicist Enrique Gomez offering a Q&A afterward. Free solar glasses will be distributed. Free, and co-sponsored by Friends of the Jackson County Public Library.

• The 21-minute planetarium show “Secrets of the Sun” will explore the sun’s role in the life of our solar system on Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin. Showings are at 1:45, 2:30 and 3:15 p.m. Free, with tickets given from the library’s reference desk beginning at 1 p.m.

• Christi Whitworth, director of learning experiences at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Brevard, will give the Highlands area an overview of what to expect during the solar eclipse with a lecture at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Highlands Nature Center.

Whitworth will discuss the science behind eclipses, what to expect, safety measures and equipment. The lecture is part of the nature center’s Zahner Conservation Lecture Series, free lectures offered weekly through Sept. 3. The Aug. 17 lecture is sponsored by Ruth and Tom Claiborne.

Clingmans Dome Road to close

The access road to the popular Clingmans Dome Parking Area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will close 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, through the evening of Monday, Aug. 21, following the solar eclipse event there.

All backcountry trails, campsites and shelters will remain open, but backpackers should consider the closure when planning their itineraries. All vehicles must leave the area by 11 p.m. Aug. 19.

High traffic volume is expected throughout the day Aug. 21. Vehicles cannot stop in the roadway and must park in designated parking areas. If roads become congested to the point of causing a safety concern, rangers may temporarily close them to additional inbound traffic. Temporary road closures are likely throughout the day.

Visitors are encouraged to investigate eclipse viewing sites outside the park rather than risking traffic congestion in the park.

An interactive map showing backcountry campsites within the path of totality is available at

National forest visitation to be high

With extremely high visitation levels Aug. 18-21, recreation sites in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest are expected to be crowded and campgrounds are likely to be full Aug. 21 and the weekend preceding it.

Visitors should plan ahead, filling gas tanks before the eclipse weekend and bringing layers of clothing, food, water and a map rather than a GPS unit. Safety alerts and closure information will be posted at

Make your plans

Several options are available for those who would like to enjoy the eclipse while also spending time in the outdoors.

See it in Gorges

Gorges State Park in Sapphire will pre-game for the eclipse with events throughout the day Aug. 19-20. Aug. 19 will focus on nature programs, with hands-on educational presentations on the history of eclipses, a birds of prey program and ranger-guided hikes. Aug. 20 will be a fun-focused day, with face painting, live music, food vendors and more eclipse programs.

The day of the eclipse — Monday, Aug. 21 — will start early with the park opening at 5 a.m. and visitors recommended to select a viewing spot by 11 a.m. Food trucks will be on site. The eclipse will start at 1:07 p.m. with totality starting at 2:36 p.m. and lasting for more than two minutes. The sky will return to normal by 4:01 p.m.

Gorges is an official 2017 Carolinas Solar Eclipse Party through a joint effort of North and South Carolina coordinated by the Morehead Planetarium and funded by the N.C. Space Grant and S.C. Space.

Eclipse riverside

The beautiful Rainbow Springs Conserved Property near Franklin will be the site of an eclipse celebration hosted by Mainspring Conservation Trust Monday, Aug. 21.

On property along the Nantahala River, Mainspring will provide restrooms, yard games, eclipse-viewing glasses and water.

Free, with space limited. Sharon Burdette, 828.524.2711, ext. 301.

Close enough at the Arboretum

The N.C. Arboretum in Asheville will be just outside the path of totality but will throw a big celebration of the natural phenomena with an event 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21.

The Arboretum grounds will see a 99 percent eclipse, with the full eclipse occurring at 2:35 p.m. The first 250 cars will receive a free pair of solar eclipse glasses. Per-car regular admission is $14 for the day.

Hundreds to gather at PARI

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute will be full with 800 dignitaries and guests for the facility’s sold-out eclipse event. NASA teams will conduct two different eclipse experiments while the celestial event unfolds, with about 300 amateur astronomers coming from as far away as Italy.

In addition, more than 200 GO trailer owners will gather at PARI for Camp Dark Sky the weekend of the eclipse, joining all those NASA scientists as the sun disappears. The GO is a lightweight, multiuse recreation trailer made by Brevard-based SylvanSport. Proceeds from the weekend will be donated to PARI.

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