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Jul. 17, 2018
3:23 am


North Georgia plans full celebration of total eclipse

By Jane Harrison
Festivals, wine-tastings, and tailgating parties will celebrate the darkening of the sun in North Georgia Aug. 21 during a total solar eclipse. But, those wanting to see the stars twinkle in the middle of the day will have to head northeast of Lake Lanier. Viewers in Toccoa, Blairsville, Clayton, Dillard, Rabun Gap and Hiawassee will experience nighttime darkness for about 2 minutes around 2:30 p.m. While there may be some partial parties around Lake Lanier, folks near Lake Chatuge will be in total celebration phase with boat raft-ups and “I Blacked Out on Lake Chatuge” t-shirts.
All the hoopla is worth it, said Lesley Simanton-Coogan, astronomy professor at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus. “At any single spot on earth, a total eclipse can only be seen every 375 years,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting. It’s a pretty big deal.”
Simanton-Coogan, director of the Coleman Planetarium on the Dahlonega campus, explained that as the moon moves between the earth and sun, the lunar shadow will fall on a narrow strip of land. Luckily, that path lies “in our backyard,” she added.
Celebrants may not even notice the nearly imperceptible start of the show around 1 p.m. when the moon edges into its starring role. To safely view the action, observers need to wear protective glasses certified for looking at the sun. Welders’ Grade 14 glasses will substitute, Simanton-Coogan noted.
It is also possible to create a pin-hole box projector to beam the eclipse image onto the ground or white paper. But don’t look directly at the sun to set it up.
 Regular sunglasses won’t project eyes against solar burns that can damage vision. Sun spectators without proper safety glasses won’t feel the burn, since the eye’s retina has no pain receptors. Organizers of most eclipse events offer free or cheap protective eyewear.
Eclipse watchers around Lake Lanier will experience about a 99 percent eclipse, which will create a “gloomy day” appearance, Simanton-Coogan said. The sliver of the sun shining behind the moon will still emit light, but it will be notably dimmer than full strength. Those looking at the sun with protective glasses can actually see the moon infringing on the sun’s face. Interesting crescent shaped-shadows on tree leaves can mirror the celestial activity. Human shadows may appear alien.
In the path of totality, “it will be completely dark … stars will come out,” Simanton-Coogan said. Katydids and crickets may start chirping. Other wildlife, especially birds, may confusedly begin nocturnal rituals. The temperature may drop 10-20 degrees.
During the 2-minute full eclipse, through safety eyewear, observers will be able to see the sun’s corona blazing behind the moon. It is only during that brief window that viewers can take off protective glasses and look directly at the fully eclipsed disk of orange. With glasses back on, they can watch the sun regain its reign.
Clouds or rain could hide the show, but darkness will still descend in mid-afternoon.
Simanton-Coogan thinks it’s “really cool” that North Georgia has caught eclipse fever. She plans to watch it in Toccoa with a celebratory trek to a waterfall. She’s thrilled that the rare happening has excited folks about astronomy and “our place in the solar system.”
“We’re just a big rock orbiting the sun,” she said. People get so caught up in things, they don’t see earth’s perspective among the orbs surrounding the blazing center.

Viewing the total eclipse
The last total solar eclipse viewed from contiguous United States was on Feb. 26, 1979 whose path passed through the northwestern U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. After the August 2017 total solar eclipse, the next annular solar eclipse that can be seen in the continental United States will be on October 14, 2023 which will be visible from Northern California to Florida. Following this, we will have a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 visible from Texas to Maine. Visit NASA website: See for additional eclipse information.
Pre-Eclipse Events
  • Totally Eclipsed, Young Harris. Planetarium shows explain what happens during eclipse, 8 p.m. Aug. 11; 7 & 8 p.m. Aug.18 & 10, Rollins Planetarium, Young Harris College, 1 College St. $5 adults, $3 children and students. Purchase tickets in advance.
  • Elachee Solar Eclipse Festival, Gainesville. Astronomy lessons on safe viewing of solar eclipse, children’s crafts, visit to Starlab and more; free solar eclipse safety glasses while supplies last, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 19, Elachee Nature Science Center, 2125 Elachee Dr. $10 per person age 2 and older; $5 Elachee members., 770-535-1976.
  • Solar Eclipse Program, Dahlonega. Educational program with planetarium show, talks by university professors, and views of sun by telescope, 1-5 p.m. Aug. 20, Coleman Planetarium, Room 234, Health and Natural Sciences Building, 159 Sunset Dr., 706-864-1471.
Day of Eclipse Events
  • Solar Eclipse by Kayak, Gainesville. Join park naturalist to see landscape darken in the afternoon in partial eclipse visible from Lake Lanier; limited number of protective glasses provided, 1-3 p.m. Aug. 21, Don Carter State Park 5000 N. Browning Bridge Rd. $30 with rental, $20 with personal kayak, plus $5 parking. Register in advance. 678-450-7726,
  • Smithgall Solar Eclipse, Helen. See total solar eclipse with Celestron telescope and through provided eclipse glasses, 1-3 p.m. Aug. 21, Smithgall Woods State Park, 61 Tsalaki Trl. $10, plus $5 parking., 706-878-3087.
  • Totally Toccoa. Street party with food, music, and eclipse-watching safety glasses, plus livestream from NASA in Historic Ritz Theatre, noon-3 p.m. Aug. 21, First Citizens parking lot, Downtown Toccoa.
  • Solar Eclipse Festival, Tallulah Falls. See total eclipse from spectacular vantage points and at Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center, 1-3 p.m. Aug. 21, Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Dr. Eclipse viewing glasses available while supplies last. $5 parking., 706-754-7981.
  • Total Eclipse of the Park, Blairsville. View solar eclipse in direct path of totality in festival with eclipse education, crafts for kids, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug 21, Vogel State Park, 405 Vogel State Park Rd. $5., 706-745-2628.
  • Blairsville Eclipse Experience. Solar eclipse t-shirts, viewing glasses available at Welcome Center, plus  talk by NASA astronaut Leroy Chaio the day before the eclipse at time and place to be announced; partial phase begins at 1:05 p.m., totality at 2:34 p.m. Aug. 21. Union County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center, 129 Union County Recreation Rd. $2 eclipse viewing glasses., 706-745-5789.
  • Great American Eclipse Tailgating Party, Hiawassee. Live band, eclipse expert, vendors, food, games for kids, noon-4 p.m. Aug. 21, Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Parking Lot, 1311 Music Hall Rd. Bring a tent, chairs, picnic lunch. $5 per car.
  • Total Eclipse Celebration, Rabun County. County-wide celebration in path of total solar eclipse with parties, camping, lectures, music, golf and wine-tasting in Clayton, Dillard and Rabun Gap. Various times Aug. 20 & 21.
  • Solar Eclipse Paddle, Elberton. Paddle on Lake Russell to view total eclipse, limited to 10 participants, 1-3 p.m. Aug. 21, Richard B. Russell State Park, 2650 Russell State Park Dr. $25, $5 parking. Register in advance., 706-213-2045.

Note: The solar eclipse program and viewing from Georgia’s highest peak, Brasstown Bald, are for ticket-holders only. The road and trails up the mountain will be closed except to ticket holders. The event is sold out.

Posted online 7/31/17
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