North Carolina’s 2017 Solar Eclipse – Where to View in the Smoky Mountains

The year of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse is upon us. On Aug. 21, 2017, the moon will completely blot out the sun in our far western reach of North Carolina, in the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States mainland since 1979. Enthusiasm is high for this event.

It’s “going to be the most observed, most filmed and photographed, most studied and documented, and, probably, the most appreciated of all eclipses in human history,” Lika Guhathakurta, lead scientist for the Living With a Star program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said. “A total solar eclipse, I would say, is widely regarded as probably one of the most breathtaking, amazing phenomena that you can observe from this planet Earth with your own eyes,” she said. “With unaided eyes, you can actually see the outer atmosphere of the sun.”

“All of a sudden, you see a 360-degree sunset all around you,” Guhathakurta said. “Stars appear. The temperature drops. You can actually hear chirping of grasshoppers. So, animals actually naturally go back to their nocturnal behavior.”

Graham County is in the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017! Observers here will see 2 minutes and 35 seconds of totality, starting at 2:34:19 PM (EDT). This includes the towns of Robbinsville, Fontana Dam, Lake Santeetlah, and Stecoah. Our mountain and its varying elevations make Graham County NC,  an appealing venue to watch the eclipse. From a high vantage, you’ll also have the chance to see the surrounding landscape darken and brighten again as totality races across. 

Here are some suggestions for prime viewing spots in Graham County for the August solar eclipse:

  • Anywhere along the Cherohala Skyway, with Huckleberry Knob being the best.  
  • Whigg Meadow – The trailhead to Whigg Meadow is at Mud Gap, mile post 3 on the North Carolina side of the Cherohala Skyway. This is a nice hike up the Benton MacKaye Trail for 1.7 miles (600 feet elevation gain) to Whigg Meadow at 5000 feet elevation. This is a big open meadow with 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.
  • Fontana Dam and Fontana Village – Eclipse Package
  • Stecoah Valley Center will have an event (details forthcoming)
  • Dr Jim Baker will have an area set up on the field at the Robbinsville High School.  

You can safely view the total solar eclipse without eye protection, but only during totality. And totality will be brief everywhere. So be very careful: Make absolutely sure the eclipse is in its total phase before raising your naked eye to the sky. At all other times — to view the unblocked sun, or the solar eclipse in its partial phase — you’ll need to use protection, such as special eclipse glasses or No. 14 welder’s glass (or solar filters, if you’re using a telescope.) Otherwise, serious and permanent eye damage can result.

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