WRITTEN BY JENNIFER PORTERFIELD | ECLIPSE PHOTO BY DR. PAUL LEWIS
When was the last time you saw a total solar eclipse?
Chances are, your answer to this question is going to be, “Never.” Even if you have seen a solar eclipse, the likelihood of it having been a total solar eclipse is very slim. But on August 21st, those within what is called the “path of totality” will have a chance to witness a historic event with their own (properly shielded) eyes. And it just so happens this narrow path stretching from Pacific to Atlantic runs right through Sweetwater, Tennessee.
A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, fully or partially blocking the sun’s light. According to UT Professor and Director of Space Science Outreach, Paul Lewis, what makes a total solar eclipse so special is the sun’s corona. All of those wispy trails of heat, much hotter than the surface of the sun itself, are only visible to the naked eye during a total eclipse!
The folks in Sweetwater are not taking this momentous occasion lightly—they have created an entire festival around the eclipse. Tens of thousands of people will witness history while enjoying local vendors, including crafters, artists, food vendors and much more. Souvenir t-shirts and viewing glasses will also be available. All the hotels in the area are already booked for the event, with visitors coming from all over the world to share in the spectacle. Jessica Morgan, who works for the City of Sweetwater, is excited about what this event means for the Sweetwater area. “We are looking forward to tourism dollars to spur economic development, and it’s an educational experience for students locally and regionally, something we will never forget.”
The next total solar eclipse will not happen for another seven years, and there are no guarantees the path of totality will be this close again. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to witness a scientific phenomenon, make new friends, peruse some local businesses and enjoy a fun-filled day out in Sweetwater, Tennessee.
The Solar Eclipse festival in Sweetwater is from 10am to 5pm on August 21st. Totality will begin around 2:35pm in Sweetwater and typically only lasts a couple of minutes. For more information, visit: www.sweetwatereclipse.com.
Eclipse Safety Tips
Whether you choose to watch the eclipse out in Sweetwater or from your own home, remember to always properly protect your eyes. You should never look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse. Viewing packages, which include a t-shirt and certified glasses, are available at http://www.sweetwatertn.net/eclipse.html. If you’re feeling crafty, you can make your own homemade viewing device using household items, like a mirror and an envelope. Resources for homemade viewers can be found at the NASA website: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/resources.