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Why You Should Go See The Next Total Solar Eclipse

Where will you be August 21 of next year? That’s when the next total solar eclipse will be in the United Sates. One retired Florida couple already knows their plans. They spent the summer driving some 11,000 miles around the country telling people about the cosmic event and where to go for the best view.

Bonnie and Chap Percivalare self-proclaimed eclipse chasers. They travel the country and parts of the world to experience the astronomical event. They've seen five total solar eclipses on four continents. 

This past summer, with a very small camper attached to their car, they traveled the path of the next total solar eclipse to occur in the United States, which is now less than a year away. It may sound a little early to plan, but not for this couple who is all about spreading the good word on the eclipse viewing experience.

They visited classrooms and stopped by hotels and chambers of commerce to leave information about the eclipse.

"I want as many people as possible to see this total solar eclipse especially school age children, to see it safely, and with understanding," said Chap Percival.

Chap taught various science related subjects throughout his 41-year teaching career, so he’s really only retired in theory. The t-shirt he wears on the road helps get some attention as well. It has all the towns listed that are in the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse. 

Credit www.nasa.gov
The path of the August, 21 2017 total solar eclipse.

That moment of totality is the reason they love the chase. That's when the sun, moon, and earth are in alignment. 

"Birds go to roost, streetlights come on if you’re in town, it’s just eerie," said Bonnie Percival. 

"You are actually looking at a black hole in the sky surrounded by pearly plumes radiating in a pattern that is unique for every eclipse, it’s just jaw dropping. For most people this is a once in a life time event and a real memory maker for your family," said Chap Percival. 

He points out you do need some protective eyewear when waiting for that moment of totality. The bad news for people in Charlotte is if you stay in the city, you’ll miss the moment of totality since we’re not technically in the path. That's still a 98 percent partial eclipse which Chap admits, is still pretty amazing. 

That doesn’t sound that bad. But for those in Charlotte and many of the cities the couple visited, that moment of eerie peace is only a short drive away. For the full experience, Bonnie and Chap suggest people in Charlotte head about 90 minutes down the interstate to Columbia, South Carolina. Part of the eclipse will touch the very western part of North Carolina.

Bonnie and Chap will view the eclipse in Cookville, Tennessee. It’s a within a day’s drive from where they live and gives them a good back up plan in case of bad weather.

"If we wake up that morning and the forecast is for clouds where we are but clear skies 50 miles west, I’m going to drive 50 miles west so I’m in a place where it’s going to be clear," Chap Percival said. 

Credit www.nasa.gov
The path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse which does not include North Carolina.

Chap points out there will be another total solar eclipse in the United States in 2024. But here’s the thing—its path, goes nowhere near North Carolina. So maybe it’s time to take a note from the Pervical's and start making plans for August 21, 2017. There’s less than 11 months to go.

Watch a total eclipse that occurred in Turkey in 2006.


Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.