The Lazy Man’s Guide to Viewing the Great American Eclipse.
Here at Blank Newspaper, we pride ourselves on knowing our audience. We know our audience can be lazy sometimes because we are lazier than you can imagine and – just like you – we weren’t as … proactive as possible in preparing for the Great American Eclipse that will be here on Monday, August 21. We all meant to wake up back in February and buy one of the 1,325 tickets that went on sale to watch the eclipse on Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain’s National Park but, you know, we hit the snooze button once or twice and since the event sold out in under five minutes, that was that. In Tennessee, the event is visible at eighteen state parks and camping has long been sold out at all eighteen. Riverboat cruises on the Tennessee River, rafting on the Hiawassee, horseback trips and motorcycle rides, all long sold out.
However, have no fear. There are still plenty of events available and even if you choose to see it alone, there are worse things to do than grabbing a moon pie and a bottle of Cheerwine and finding a nice country road to park yourself along. Here is a FAQ with all the information you need to help plan your trip.
Did you get the part about “lazy?” Can’t I just watch the next one?
It’s an option I suppose but you will have to wait eight years for 2024 when a total eclipse will occur again. That one runs a path from central Texas through New England. In 2045, there is another eclipse similar to this one but with a path about five-hundred miles further south. In 2052, an eclipse will just skirt the southeast, visible only in a small path from Pensacola to Charleston and if you can hang on until 2079, you can witness an eclipse in Times Square. But, none of those pass through our fair state. If you want to witness an eclipse in our beloved Smokies or on the Plateau or anywhere else in the prettiest state in the union, this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Aight. I get it. I’ve gotta see it. So, when and where is it?
In Tennessee, the eclipse will cut a path through the center of the state, from NE of Nashville at Clarkesville, through Nashville, Smyrna, Hendersonville, Crossville, Louden and Cleveland. Nashville is the only large city in the path of totality. Chattanooga and Knoxville will both see partial eclipses with downtown at Knoxville at 99.8% totality. Western Knox county, Concorde and Farragut, are just inside the path of totality. Here are some start and totality times for some popular cities:
Nashville: Partial starts at 11:58 AM (CDT). Totality starts at 1:27 PM (CDT) and will last for 1:55s.
Cookeville: Partial starts at 12:01 PM (CDT). Totality starts at 1:29 PM (CDT) and will last for 2:33s.
Farragut: Partial starts at 1:04 PM (EDT). Totality starts at 2:33 PM (EDT) and will last for 1:20s.
Maryville: Partial starts at 1:04 PM (EDT). Totality starts at 2:33 (EDT) and will last for 1:36s.
Athens: Partial starts at 1:03 PM (EDT). Totality starts at 2:32 PM (EDT) and will last for 2:35s.
Note, that where you are can make a one minute difference in how much totality you get to see and, as your eyes will need a few moment to adjust, it may be important to you to maximize that time.
One more note that everyone has already seen but let’s be careful here: It’s the @#$% sun, dude. It’s bright. Don’t look straight at it.
Dude. Lazy. If I can see 99.8% of the thing from Knoxville, why travel?
We struggled with this also. The idea of watching the eclipse from a rooftop or quarry and avoiding all that mess to the south is appealing. But, seeing 99% of an eclipse is like losing your virginity by 99%: It just ain’t the same. The point of a total eclipse is to see totality, the period when the moon’s shadow completely eclipses the sun completely and the corona, the highlight around the sun, is visible. In this period, you can see stars and planets in the sky with the sun and with binoculars or a telescope, you can see lighting effects from the sun such as the Diamond Ring and Bailey’s Beads.
The fact is that it is hard for us to imagine how bright the sun is, even though it is sustaining life on our planet from 93 million miles away. Therefore, even the tiniest bit of the sun is still extraordinarily bright. At 99% totality, the sun is 10,000 times brighter than at totality. Even at 99.9% totality, it is still 1,000 times brighter than a full moon. There is no substitute for seeing full totality and if you miss it, then I’m afraid you didn’t see a total eclipse.
You want to watch this no matter what, so if you are working or can’t get away, by all means go see it from the rooftop of the Preservation Pub or anywhere else you can get to clear ground. But, you aren’t really going to see the full effect unless you get south or west a bit.
I’ve seen a lot of predictions about traffic jams and wrath of god apocalypse stuff. Is this just Y2K all over again? How bad will it be?
Short answer? No one really knows. This hasn’t happened since 1979 when “I Will Survive” was on the radio, some guy named Michael Jackson was releasing his first solo record and some dude who made movies with a monkey was running for President. However, this eclipse is, outside of Nashville, almost exclusively viewable in small towns like Sweetwater and Athens. Every hotel and campground in those areas has been sold out for months. Anecdotal evidence is that folks are driving and flying in from all over the country and there is a good bit of international travel also, especially to the GSMNP and other such places. Even most rental car companies are booked for the weekend. Since most of these towns are served by only one interstate and one two-lane road, it’s possible that traffic will be quite difficult. I am absolutely certain that Newfound Gap Road and the Cade’s Cove loop road will close at some point that day. The cove, for example, is completely booked Fri-Mon and rangers are even letting some school groups camp inside the cove itself. Be prepared. There is a good chance cell towers will be overwhelmed so bring something paper to read, bring lots of water, food, etc. Heck, I’d even bring toilet paper in case rest stops are overwhelmed. It’s not fun for lazy folks like ourselves to get up early and rush to a spot and have to wait for three hours because there was no traffic, but it beats watching the eclipse from mile marker 42 on some interstate.
OK. You’ve convinced me to go out of town. So, where should I watch it?
Since the period of totality is around 2:30 (EDT), the sun will be quite high in the sky and slightly to the SW. That means that – as long as it isn’t cloudy – you should be able to see the sun from most places, even paths or streets. But, part of an eclipse is seeing the landscape and the sky so you want to be in an open area if at all possible. In the GSMNP, the path of totality is (very roughly) split by 441, the road highway from Gatlinburg to Cherokee. So, the Foothills parkway on the Western side is in the path but Foothills on the eastern side is not. The viewing areas along 441 and at newfound Gap will be excellent but also very crowded. Cade’s cove will be packed but it also one of the single best places to see it. One could get to the cove early, get to Parson’s Branch road and hike to Gregory Bald. It’s a tough hike but, in theory, one will avoid the worst traffic and be rewarded by seeing the eclipse from one of the most beautiful spots in the park. Please note that Andrew’s Bald will be inaccessible as you will need a ticket to enter Clingman’s Dome road. Outside of the park, there are blad’s in many of the national forests. State parks like Rock Island, Ozone Falls, Cummin’s Falls and Burgess Falls are all in the path of totality. I think seeing the eclipse fall over the Gorge at Fall Creek or over the horse shoe falls at Rock Island would be spectacular.
If you want to be around other folks, here are some viewing parties to consider that still have tickets or are open to all:
Total eclipse Music Festival – Three day festival at Red River Campground in Adams
Athens – Total Eclipse in the Park. Food trucks, vendors and music.
Solar Eclipse Ocoee River – Rafting trip with Big Frog expeditions in Benton
Big South Fork National River and recreation Area – Viewing party at Bandy Creek Visitor Center
Blount County Public Library – Arrive early to make a pinhole viewer.
Solar Sip and See – Morris Vineyard and Winery, Charleston, TN
Dark Side of the Moon – Three day party in Crossville
Etowah Eclipse – At the L & N depot downtown
Great American Eclipse Viewing Party – Harmony Family Center, Maryville
Total Eclipse of the Park – Kingston, with disc golf tournament
Kingston Fort Southwest Point Viewing
Buckaroo Solar Eclipse Soiree – two day party with music, drum circles, etc at Buckeye Farm
Lenoir City Viewing Party – Fireworks after
Total Eclipse on the Farm – Castelton farm, Louden
Madisonville – Total eclipse of the Park, picnic, music and vendors.
The Freat Tennessee Eclipse at MTSU – Science building, Murfreesboro
Obed Wild Scenic River – Events at Visitor Center, Wartburg and Lily Bluff Overlook
Roane State Community College Viewing
City of Sweetwater Street Festival
Sweetwater Valley Farm Eclipse Watch
Tailgating in Totality – Pellissippi State’s Blount County campus in Friendsville
Tellico Plains – Charles Hall Museum
TKA Glimpse at the Eclipse – The King’s Academy, Seymour
Total eclipse Solar Party – Dancing Bear Lodge, Townshend
Tsali Notch Vineyard – Madisonville
I’m just too lazy to get out of town? What can I do here?
Blount Mansion Viewing Party – Viewing id free. RSVP for a ten buck box lunch
The Cove at Concorde Park – Join Knox County Mayor Time Burchett with music and food trucks.
Town of Farragut Eclipse Party
McClung Museum of National History – 9-11 AM for educational opportunities and crafts
Oak Ridge Eclipse Viewing – American Museum of Science and Energy
University of Tennessee Arboretum – Illinois Av in Oak Ridge
Knoxville Community Darkroom Viewing party
Preservation Pub – Rooftop viewing party
I Guess I Feel Like not Being Lazy. What Else Can I do to Be Involved?
Life Responds – Download an app and help the California Academy of Science observe animals during the eclipse (scared dogs, birds flocking, etc).
Eclipse Soundscapes – Help NASA and the NPS capture the sounds of the eclipse.
Globe Observer – Help scientists by reporting temperature and cloud cover before and after the eclipse.
NASA has put together another list of projects you can participate in at: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/citizen-science