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Roundup: Eclipse events

Brandon Paykamian • Aug 16, 2017 at 11:11 PM

The last time the United States witnessed a total solar eclipse was Feb. 26, 1979.

But on Aug. 21, millions will once again get a chance to experience a full solar eclipse. In Northeast Tennessee the eclipse will reach 97 percent totality, while residents in the Nashville area will experience a total eclipse at 1:27 p.m.

The path of full totality, which goes from Oregon to South Carolina, is as close as Athens, Sweetwater, Townsend, Maryville, Farragut and Cherokee, North Carolina. The Knoxville area will also be closer to the path of totality around 2:35 p.m., and many are traveling to other places such as Cleveland, Tennessee, to witness the eclipse from high elevation at the Cherokee National Forest, which is preparing for an influx of visitors looking to catch a glimpse of this astronomical event.

There will be a few viewing parties and events across the region, but since many schools will be closing early, families will also get the chance to travel closer to the point of totality.

Wherever families choose to witness the eclipse, it is important to note that protective eyewear is a must. NASA recommends wearing ISO 12312-2 compliant and CE certified viewing glasses — not regular sunglasses. If not, it could be the last thing you witness, as the harsh ultraviolet rays that emanate from the eclipse could potentially cause viewers to go blind.

Luckily, there are many local events where attendees will have free access to these viewing glasses to safely view this historic astronomical spectacle. Here is a roundup of some of these events and school schedules.

Johnson City and Washington County Area

The Johnson City area will experience the eclipse around 2:36 p.m.

• Johnson City Schools will be in session on Aug. 21 to use the eclipse as a “teachable moment.” Protective eyewear will be provided to students and staff members. Students who choose to view the eclipse with their parents will receive an excused absence.

• Johnson City Public Library will distribute a limited supply of free protective viewing glasses, limited to one per person. They will also hold a viewing party in the grassy area across the street. Glasses will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis until Aug. 21. On Aug. 17 at 6 p.m., the library will host East Tennessee State University Astrophysicist Dr. Richard Ignace, who will explain how and why solar eclipses occur.

• There will be a “solar eclipse block party” set for the afternoon in downtown Jonesborough with live music, yoga in the park, arts and crafts and face painting.

• Washington County Schools will be dismissed early so students and faculty can view the eclipse with their families and attend the block party in Jonesborough or other eclipse events.

Elizabethton and Carter County Area

• Carter County Schools will be dismissed early, giving students the opportunity to view the eclipse at other events throughout the county. Director of Schools Kevin Ward said the schools will serve lunch and begin dismissing students beginning at 11:30 a.m.

• Sycamore Shoals State Park will provide protective eyewear for the first 125 people who show up to witness the eclipse, which is predicted to be at its maximum point at 2:37 p.m. Attendees will also get a chance to learn more about the cultural history of eclipses.

• For Solar Eclipse of the Park, meet the Elizabethton Library staff at the Elizabethton Twins field to get viewing glasses the day prior to the main event. This event will be in conjunction with the Elizabethton Twins baseball game from 5-8 p.m.

• At the Boots Off Campground and Hostel, attendees will get a chance to paddle on Watauga Lake to view the eclipse from the water. Everyone is encouraged to organize and meet each other at the campground at 10 a.m. before going to the water at noon. Lunch will be served at the event. Equipment rentals are $30 per person. 

• At Kiwanis Park, Carter County Drug Prevention and the Elizabethton Library will be holding a free viewing party with food, games and other activities.

Sullivan County

• Sullivan County Schools will be closed on the day of the eclipse, giving students a chance to view the event with their families, or go to the various events across the region that are providing protective eyewear.

• Bristol City Schools will be in session, extending the school day by an hour. Protective glasses will be provided to students grades 4-12, while grades K-3 will have special activities planned inside.

• Kingsport City Schools will be in session and will provide viewing glasses for students who wish to view the eclipse.

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