Kidseclipse, SouthBrooklyn and the Great American Eclipse
Kidseclipse, SouthBrooklyn and the Great American Eclipse
By Mark D Phillips
The Great American Eclipse of 2017 lived up to the hype. Here are my favorites:
In 1998, I launched kidseclipse.com for my trip to Aruba to witness my first Total Solar Eclipse. The website was geared to teaching elementary students what makes an eclipse happen. It received incredible numbers of viewers and media attention.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Great American Eclipse to take place on August 21, 2017. You can't even blink without seeing a story or sale of equipment for viewing and photographing the eclipse. I predict that America will pretty much stop for that day. It is a once in a lifetime experience for most Americans. I will be traveling to Andrews, North Carolina, for the Great American Eclipse, situated on the centerline of the totality band in far, western North Carolina.
Even though Total Solar Eclipses occur every 18 months somewhere in the world, most are in remote locations or in the ocean. There are eclipse chasers, a group of people who go to every eclipse that occurs no matter how remote or difficult to travel to. I met several over the years and they all say the same thing. Those few minutes of totality are mystical, magical and life-changing.
To view the "Hole-In-The-Sky" is like nothing you have ever seen before. Your first time makes you want more. The spectacle of totality is as close to spiritual as anything I have ever experienced.
Baily's beads with flare; Aruba; Photo by Mark D. Phillips
When I began building kidseclipse.com, I went to one of the premier eclipse scientists in the world. Jay Pasachoff is the Chair of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Eclipses, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College, and a Visitor in Planetary Science at Caltech. The February 26, 1998 Total Solar Eclipse in Aruba was his 26th solar eclipse, viewing his first in 1959, the year I was born. Now with 60 solar eclipses in his viewing history, he is one of the premier authorities on the subject.
And he shares that knowledge everywhere he can. In Aruba, he gave talks to elementary students in advance of the eclipse so they could better understand what was occurring and have a better understanding of all the celestial mechanics that make an eclipse happen.
“The strangest location I have ever visited for an eclipse was the Hula Peninsula of Papua New Guinea for the 1994 eclipse. It was beautifully clear, though the eclipse was less than a minute long. My whole visit to Papua New Guinea, including touring in the Sepik River Valley and the Highlands, was fascinating,” said Pasachoff.
For children, he is the author of the Peterson First Guide to Astronomy, Second Edition and the Peterson First Guide to the Solar System, available at many bookstores. He has published more than 20 books in his career.
Pasachoff had this to say about the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse:
On August 21, 2017, the band of totality will stretch from Oregon through parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois Kentucky, and even the Carolinas on the East coast! On the whole, based on the statistics from looking at a couple of decades of satellite photos showing cloudiness, the general forecast is clearer in the western United States than in the midwest or southeast for that day of the year.
Off to the sides of the band of totality, people will see a partial eclipse, though then they will need to look through special eye-protection filters that let only about one-millionth of the solar brightness through. Filters like that can be gotten for about a dollar. The sun’s diameter will be about 75% covered in New York City, about 85% in Washington, DC, and about 90% in Chicago.
Total eclipses are both fantastically exciting things to see and also very scientifically valuable. Only on the days of eclipses can we astronomers study the full sun, from its surface through the lower corona and out into space; the current satellites leave a gap that we fill. And the excitement of seeing the sky go dark in the daytime and the changing phenomena around the sun’s disk as it is covered and uncovered by the moon is unparalleled in human experience.
Why did I choose Andrews, North Carolina, as my location to view this remarkable event?
I moved to Andrews in 1971 at the wonderful age of 12. Little did I know how much I would learn to love this remote tip of the tarheel state in the Great Smoky Mountains. And I never could have predicted that the building of a new road would make it accessible as a weekend playground for Atlanta, Georgia. And those residents are expected to flood into this one-time remote area to witness totality first hand.
Andrews has a population of 1,798, and the town is bracing for up to 25,000 eclipse viewers. How will they deal with it?
Andrews is the only place in North Carolina where the very centerline of the eclipse's path travels right through the center of town. Given the moniker Totality Town, NC, there will be a Heritage Park Star Party the night before, and vendors will line the closed Main Street all day Monday, the 21st, on Eclipse Day to give the event an even more festive feeling. First contact begins at 1:05:44 pm leading to totality at 2:34:26 pm on August 21, 2017, lasting 2 minute 38 seconds. The moon completes its transit across the sun at 4:00:14 pm.
"For all of the businesses in Andrews, It could be positive or negative," said Anthony El-Khouri of Salon El-Khouri, a sophisticated hair salon and spa located on Main Street in Andrews. "Even on the Saturday before, we're not sure if our clients can even get to us."
"The restaurants and food stores are going to love it," he said. "They are treating it like when w have a snowstorm. Milk, bread - extra - but we're not going to buy an exhorbidant amount of stock. The gas stations are telling us to fill up by Wednesday, and filling our 5-gallon tanks as well beforehand. We don't know if it's going to be 5,000 or 30,000 people."
At the Andrews Middle School, they are renting out 500 camping spaces on the grounds and as of Friday, August 11th, there were 200 spaces left.
"We have some guests from all over the country, even across seas, that are coming. We have groups of astronomers. I was just in contact with someone from Penn State yesterday and they're bringing a group of meteorologists and geologists down to camp out," 6th grade teacher Amber Ledford told WTVC NewsChannel 9 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school plans to use the money raised towards their robotics and STEM programs, among other things.
Growing up in this small town, I can't even imagine what it will be like during this once in a lifetime event. I knew right from the minute I saw Andrews on the totality line that this is where I was meant to be.
I can't wait.