Solar Eclipse 2017

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

– Psalm 19:1

My family and I were able to view the total solar eclipse on Monday from Clingmans Dome in Tennessee, which was one of the twelve official NASA viewing sites for the eclipse.  I bought the tickets back in March and was lucky enough to get through the on-line purchase process before they sold out.

We drove to Waynesville, North Carolina on Saturday, spending the weekend there and in Asheville.  Then, on Monday we left our hotel room at 8am to drive to a parking lot in Cherokee, NC to board the buses for Clingmans Dome.  It was about an hour ride up the mountain to the viewing area.  Hats off to the National Park Service for their handling of this event; the logistics were great, and the event was well-run.

The elevation where we viewed the eclipse was about 6600 feet above sea level.  We were treated to a beautiful panorama of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park down below us.  Of course, above us was the sun and – eventually – the moon as well.  We were a little worried in the morning, because there was some heavy cloud cover, but by the time the partial eclipse started most of the clouds had moved away.

This was the first time any of us had viewed a total solar eclipse in person, and it was amazing.  The best part was the brief moment of totality, which lasted about a minute and a half for us.  During the partial eclipse, we viewed the moon progressively moving across the face of the sun, with our eclipse glasses on.  Then, when totality occurred, the event organizers blew a whistle to alert everyone that it was now safe to view the eclipse without the protective glasses.  What I saw was amazing.

In the last moments of the partial eclipse, I saw what they call the “diamond ring.”  This is where the moon has almost completely obscured the sun, but large craters on the moon still allow some light to shine through on one side, creating a visual affect that looks like a diamond ring.  Then, the moon moves a bit more to completely block the sun.  Taking off my glasses at this point, the solar corona seemed to burst out from behind the sun, and I could see planets and other stars in the sky.  The temperature dropped as well, and it actually got very cool.  The shadows on the ground appeared to be very vivid and defined; it’s hard to describe.  The sky was a dark blue and purple.

Then, a few seconds before totality ended, the whistle blew again, and we put our glasses back on as the moon progressed across the other side of the sun for the remainder of the partial eclipse.

At this point, we stood in line to board the busses and got back to our car around 5pm.  Traffic heading back to the Atlanta area was awful.  What should have been a two and a half hour drive took us over five hours.  It was worth it, though!

It was a fun experience, and my kids seemed to really enjoy it.  There were learning sessions, speakers, and music during the event.  They even got to meet an astronaut.  I hope seeing the eclipse in person helps them appreciate the beauty and wonder of God’s creation even more.

Here are a few pictures:

Great Smokey Mountains
Great Smokey Mountains

 

Great Smokey Mountains
Great Smokey Mountains

 

Beginning of the Eclipse
Beginning of the Eclipse

 

During the Eclipse
During the Eclipse

 

Total Eclipse - the sun's corona bursts out from behind the moon
Total Eclipse – the sun’s corona bursts out from behind the moon.

 

Total Eclipse - the sky turned dark, and stars and planets could be seen
Total Eclipse – the sky turned dark, and stars and planets could be seen.

 

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