July 23, 2014

Week 5: Down the (Future) Path of Totality.

The author & friends at the DoubleTree Hotel in

downtown Charleston, South Carolina!

(All pics by author).

It’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to solar eclipses. Week five of our southeastern sojourn saw us travel down the same path that the 2017 total solar eclipse will take over the Carolinas. We left the solitude and dark skies of the Appalachians as chronicled in Week 4 of the great American Road trip and headed back into civilization… and what a welcome it was!

Our first stop was Belmont, North Carolina just on the outskirts of Charlotte. A charming ‘burg, Belmont is home of the spectacular Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens as well as a fine Belmont Abbey well suited to contemplation, both astronomical and otherwise. This contemporary chapel on the college grounds was a fine blend on the natural and the modern;

A fine chapel…

And don’t miss out on the popcorn culinary delights of Tastebuds in town!

Continuing our southward trek, we crossed back into South Carolina for a whirlwind tour of the capitol, Columbia. Our first day saw us sailing with Brian Adams (not THAT Bryan Adams) of the Lanier Sailing Academy on Lake Murray where we had a confirmed home observatory sighting;

Want! The future of Astroguyz HQ?

Sigh… someday, an observatory of our own… but we were in for a pleasant surprise; Columbia is a southern mecca for astronomers and science.  This became apparent as we toured the South Carolina State Museum. (Follow em’ on Twitter @SCStateMuseum) Great things are in store in the coming year, with a new planetarium and public observatory to feature no less than this fine 12 3/8” refractor built in 1926 by Alvan & Clark & Sons;

A grand refractor…

The South Carolina State Museum also has one of the largest collections of antique refractors in the world, a collection that will be on display with the opening of said planetarium as well! Talk about a telescope-lovers nirvana!

And a tour of Columbia isn’t complete without a stop at the Columbia Museum of Art. In addition to the Kress and numerous rotating collections, they have a fascinating series of paintings crossing nearly every history and period. We were captivated by their collection of paintings by such American artists as Ralph Albert Blakelock, an artist who clearly loved the Moon as much as we do. And of course, our astronomical eye was caught by a set of medieval celestial globes;

Celestial Globe constructed by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, c. 1700.

Is that Quadrans Muralis I spy?

After a night of celebrating all that is Mayan and the ushering in yet another new Baktun at the South Carolina State Museum, it was off to the Melton Memorial Observatory. Founded in 1817, the Melton observatory houses a fine 16” Cassegrain reflector;

A very red reflector!

The Melton observatory is open for public viewing every Monday night from 8-10PM EST, weather permitting. The observatory is also a fine blend of the old and new, featuring streaming views downstairs via the telescope on the big screen and scope mounting wedges on the observatory terrace.   The observatory is also the nexus for the local Midlands Astronomy Club of Columbia.

Our next stop in South Carolina saw us stay at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Charleston. The State Museum in Columbia has a display and replica of the Civil War submarine the Hunley; in Charleston, you can see the remains of the original. For lunch, be sure to head to the Butcher & Bee for a fine dining experience in a unique location of the outskirts of the city hub. And of course, we just had to go on a sunrise run for a confirmed sundial sighting (a recliner, no less!) in The Battery section of downtown Charleston;

Sundial spotting in Charleston!

All in all, we found South Carolina to be an undiscovered Gem of the South; heck, we’re already making plans for where we’ll position ourselves along the center-line for the total solar eclipse in 2017;

Where will YOU be in 2017?

Tune in next week for week 6 and our final installment of our southeastern odyssey!

 

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  1. [...] as for us, we’re planning on mocking the weather forecasts and viewing the eclipse from the Melton Memorial Observatory in Columbia, South Carolina. Why? Because hubris [...]

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