The sun darkens to a rim of fire. Daylight takes on a spectral gray. The wind quits. Stars come out.

That's a rare total solar eclipse. And more than 1 million visitors are expected to descend on South Carolina to see it.

Areas around Charleston, Columbia and Greenville will see swarms of people Aug. 21 coming for a glimpse.

Events are planned or in the planning stages in most municipalities along the eclipse's path — a 70-mile wide stretch that will follow a line from the tiny town of Mountain Rest, in the hills near the Georgia state line, to McClellanville on the coast.

Around Charleston, one minute and 34 seconds of total eclipse is expected to start at 2:46 p.m. Further inland, the period of darkness will be as much as a minute longer.

During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes in perfect alignment between the Earth and sun, creating a shadow on the planet and spectacular effects in the sky. It is the only time you can see the sun’s corona, appearing as a dazzling ring of light around the moon’s silhouette.

The temperature drops 5 to 15 degrees. A 360-degree sunset appears around the entire horizon. The path will run from west to east.

While the list of events are evolving, here are some of the early options:

Around Charleston

More than 100 events already are scheduled. Your best bet might be along the banks of the Ashley River at the venue called The Bend where The Post and Courier and other hosts are putting together a free interactive festival featuring everything from free viewing safety glasses to the Grammy Award-winning, family friendly band Secret Agent 23 Skiddoo.

The Bend is an open, 17-acre expanse along the Ashley off Azalea Drive in North Charleston. The event is geared to get children of all ages to think about science by featuring activities that include 3D displays, paper airplane building projects and live demonstrations of a trebouchet, a huge catapult-like device.

The celebration runs from 12 noon to 4 p.m. It's also sponsored by the city of North Charleston and the Lowcountry Live STEM Collaborative, a multi-group educational outreach. The event and parking are free. Parking will be available at the Jenkins Institute for Children at 3923 Azalea Dr., The Church of Christ at 3950 Azalea Dr. and at the park at Wye Lane and Ferrara Drive with shuttle service to the event.

and parking on site are free.

The Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has created a “Go Dark Charleston” web page, listing all the hotel packages and festivities planned for eclipse day, including boat tours and beach parties.

Charleston, like other South Carolina cities, has a working group of tourism, science and law enforcement professionals trying to herd the day's events. They're expecting issues with traffic and parking and are encouraging residents to go to nearby parks.

"We're going to be stressing safety, but we also want people to enjoy themselves," said Mark Wilbert, the city's Emergency Management and Resilience director.

Other Lowcountry spots of note:

  • In McClellanville, the eclipse will be directly above the tiny village north of Charleston, a coastal fishing town of about 500 people, and the through-route U.S. 17 there is expected to be slammed. Nearby farms are looking at putting together events.

“Highway 17 will be gridlock,” said College of Charleston astrophysicist Laura Penny. “If you’re in the path of totality, you’re better off watching it right where you are. But if you’re in an area where the sun is even 99.9 percent covered, it won’t be the same thing. You have to get inside the path of totality to experience the phenomenon of darkness in the middle of the day.”

  • The College of Charleston is sending its team of 12 professional astronomers and 20 astrophysics majors to some two dozen venues from Mount Pleasant to West Ashley. Sites to be announced. 
  • The Charleston RiverDogs are hosting a pre-game solar eclipse viewing at Riley Park with special guests from NASA. The event is free with tickets to the game.
  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is bringing in its own expert — the chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — to talk about the phenomenon and answer questions. The first 3,000 visitors will receive free sunglasses with special filters. Adult tickets are $22.

Isle of Palms

A front beach eclipse viewing event 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. featuring musical performances including DJ NattyHeavy before and Plane Jane following the eclipse. Also, vendors and an interactive play area for children in the county park by the pier. A limited supply of special eclipse glasses will be available to those in attendance. The event is free.


The self-titled “Total Eclipse Capital of the East Coast,” more than 50 events are planned, some starting the weekend before the Monday eclipse. The State Museum is offering extended hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for four days of events, including an appearance on eclipse day by Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke, who was raised in South Carolina.

The museum has created a number of astronomy and space exhibits, educational pop-up stations and a special planetarium eclipse show titled “Shadows from Space.” 

The University of South Carolina plans to set up viewing stations on campus, primarily for students, but the campus is open to the public, a spokeswoman said. Two minutes and 30 seconds of total eclipse is expected. 


The lineup of offerings includes large public viewings with scientists at Clemson and Bob Jones universities. The heart of it might be the Roper Mountain Science Center, which is offering ticketed paid-viewing and events at its Daniel Observatory.


Clemson University is planning a “mega event” on campus near the banks of Lake Hartwell. The eclipse there will last two minutes, 37 seconds.

Marie McAden is a freelance contributor. 

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Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.