By Ashley Day, Editor-in-Chief
*UPDATE* Classes have been canceled on Aug. 21 “to allow faculty, staff and students to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event” according to an official release from UTC officials.
On August 21, millions of Americans will be able to view the first total solar eclipse visible in the United States since 1979. The total eclipse will move from Oregon to South Carolina and will be visible 14 states, including Tennessee. A partial eclipse will be visible in 48 states.
What to expect
A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves directly in between the earth and the sun, and the earth moves into the moon’s shadow. The sun’s light is blocked out during this time, causing it to get dark for a brief period. For this particular eclipse, the moon will block out the sun for up to two minutes and 40 seconds.
As the eclipse nears totality, watchers can expect the temperature to drop and the sky to suddenly darken.
In Chattanooga, the entire process will last about three hours. Starting at about 1 p.m., the moon will begin to cast a shadow over part of the sun. The shadow will grow until about 2:32 p.m. when the eclipse reaches its maximum point. On UTC’S campus, 99.6% of the sun’s rays will be blocked out at the maximum time.
Where to go
The path in which the moon’s shadow moves across the earth is known as the line of totality. Chattanooga is just outside this line, so to catch the best view of the eclipse, viewers must travel about 20-30 miles northeast.
Jack Pitkin, lab manager at UTC, recommends that students take the time to drive to an area in the line of totality to view the event. Pitkin is taking a group of physics students to view the eclipse in Athens, Tennessee. Other cities in the path include Dayton, Cleveland, Nashville and Knoxville.
August 21 is also the first day of classes at UTC, which does not seem to be stopping students from going to see the eclipse.
Junior Ryan LeFever, from Murfreesboro, will be traveling to Gatlinburg with some friends to make the most of the event. He said he thinks it’s worth missing classes because it happens so infrequently.
“I think they should postpone classes until Wednesday, that way everyone has a fair opportunity to see it,” LeFever said. “It’s so rare that you almost have to go see it.”
Several school districts in Tennessee, including Hamilton County, have already canceled school for that day.
While many people do have specific viewing plans, Pitkin said he thinks it’s best to be flexible because bad weather could possibly block the eclipse.
“A lot of it has to do with Chattanooga weather, which is one of the least predictable things there are,” Pitkin said. “If it’s bad, it’ll get dark, but that’ll be about all you can tell.”
Weather-permitting, viewers will be able to see the process of the moon moving in front of the sun, even in Chattanooga. However, viewers must wear solar eclipse glasses to view the event safely. These glasses are available at stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s, or online.
The eclipse will be a new experience not just for most people, but for animals as well. Both the Chattanooga and Nashville Zoos will be studying the way different animals react to the sudden darkness.
Eclipse viewing events
With the line of totality so close to the city, many groups will host viewing events in the Chattanooga area. The Echo has compiled a list of the best events around town.
Did we miss anything? Let us know where you’ll be watching the eclipse in the comments below!
- Visitors can bring blankets or lawn chairs and watch the eclipse in the zoo.
- Students can get in for $7.95 with a valid ID.
- Visitors can view the eclipse from a raft on the Ocoee River
- Tickets are $70 and include a rafting trip, eclipse glasses, dinner, live music and camping
- Hang-gliders will be flying during the eclipse at Tennessee Tree Toppers Henson Gap, in the line of totality.
- Fall Creek Falls will host a viewing party complete with activities and designated viewing areas in the line of totality.
- Mayfield Pastures will open up a field for a viewing party in Athens, Tennessee. Tickets include a pulled pork lunch and eclipse glasses