Sanford Stadium will be open for students to view the eclipse on Aug. 21. (Photo Courtesy UGA Sports Comm, Photo Illustration by Matthew Couper)

On August 21, 2017, 48 of the 50 states will have the opportunity to see a total solar eclipse stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, therefore, earning the name “The Great American Eclipse.” For Athens, this solar eclipse will be the first in almost a century. The last coast-to-coast eclipse that could be seen from Athens was June 8, 1918. The University of Georgia and several other venues in Athens plan on taking advantage of the historical event by hosting viewing spots and educational opportunities around the city. 

What to know about the total solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the Moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth. When the Moon passes, it then blocks the sun for an hour or longer, creating a solar eclipse. For this eclipse specifically, the longest time the moon is expected to completely block the sun is two minutes and 40 seconds, according to NASA. The upcoming August event is a total eclipse considering there will be 99.1% darkness during that time frame.   

The celestial event will begin in Government Point, Oregon, at approximately 10:15 a.m. PDT and end in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The path of which the total solar eclipse will follow, from Oregon to South Carolina, is known as the path of totality. In Athens, the eclipse is expected to reach its peak at 2:38 p.m. EDT. 

The path of totality is the path that the Moon’s shadow casts on the Earth during a total solar eclipse. The celestial event is expected to last for approximately an hour and half, but for those who wish to witness the event on the ground, they will only have about two and a half minutes, according to a NASA press release on June 12. Though close, Athens itself will not fall within this range of the total eclipse.

According to NASA, the best viewing areas for the total eclipse will depend on the elevation that then will affect the shadow that the solar eclipse will cast. Due to the jagged shape of the moon’s shadow, a variety of elevations across the path of totality, and the axis of the earth, the viewing experience will differ largely across the country.

“Standing at the edge of the Moon’s shadow, or umbra, the difference between seeing a total eclipse and a partial eclipse comes down to elevation—mountains and valleys both on Earth and on the moon—which affect where the shadow lands,” according to the NASA press release. 

Athens takes advantage of the solar eclipse

For Katie Summey, a senior computer systems engineering major from Carrollton, she plans on traveling to the path of totality to witness the rare experience.

“I’ve been planning it since I first heard about the eclipse,” Summey said. “I’ll be driving from Athens up to South Carolina the morning of the eclipse. Hotels along the path of totality have been booked for months, so we’re making a day trip.”  

If you’re not able to see the eclipse from the path of totality first hand, Athens is the next best choice. As of now, Sanford Stadium, City Hall, the State Botanical Garden, Southern Brewing Company and Terrapin are planning on hosting events and viewing areas for the eclipse. 

On campus, Sanford Stadium will host the “Eclipse Blackout between the Hedges” from 1:00 p.m.– 4:00 p.m. The Eclipse Blackout Between the Hedges will give free viewing glasses to the first 10,000 attendees. The sponsoring partners for the event are Georgia Athletic Association, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. John Knox, UGA Atmospheric Sciences Program, Department of Geography and Professor Karl Espelie.

Knox, the organizer of the event, says he thought that Sanford Stadium would be an excellent venue for the event since it sits from East to West.

“At the college level, I thought it would be interesting to have an event in Sanford Stadium since the stadium is laid out perfectly,” Knox said. “The stadium sits from East to West, whereas, unlike almost any other football stadium you’ve gone to.”

Most students will agree that every sunny football game, the sun is bound to shine in your face, but for this event, Knox said the layout of the stadium is beneficial since it gives a clear view of the eclipse and will not require special equipment to observe the eclipse. 

“It’s laid out that way because the valley. Most stadiums are from North to South,” Knox said. “Anybody who has sat in the student section will understand because you always get the sun in your eyes.”

In addition, the event will offer several activities such as trivia questions, guest speakers, snacks and games. Knox said to expect a similar experience as the games featured on the jumbotron at a football game. 

The University of Georgia will also  provide eclipse glasses to every K-12 student in the Athens-Clarke County Public School System, according to Knox. 

Athens-Clarke County also plans to host “Eclipsenic” from 1–3 p.m. on August 21 at City Hall. Sandy Creek Nature Center will provide 21 telescopes. 

Additionally, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia has opened registration for the event. The venue will offer eclipse glasses, snacks, beverages, live music and activities in the air-conditioned horticultural conservatory, according to the State Botanical Garden’s event webpage. 

If you are looking to kick back, relax, and enjoy a cold beverage, Terrapin is planning their “Blackout Bash” for August 21. The event will offer beer tasting for $12, in addition to a commemorative glass for the first 240 customers.

Also, the Southern Brewing Company is hosting “Solar Brewclipse” on its 15 acre lawn. The event will have beer tour tastings if attendees have a valid ID. 


Safety first: Properly viewing the eclipse 

If you’re planning on catching a glimpse of the spectacular event, remember to wear eye protection. NASA warns observers to wear ‘eclipse glasses’ or solar filters for the event. 

“The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury,” according to NASA safety recommendations. 

NASA also warns to not use any unfiltered lenses when viewing the eclipse.

“Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device,” according to a NASA Total Eclipse webpage. “Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer.”

The only time that is safe to look at the eclipse is during the totality phase where the moon completely blocks the sight of the sun.

According to the NASA Total Eclipse safety webpage, even within the path of totality it is only safe to remove eyewear when completely dark. Even when darkness has fallen during the totality of the eclipse, viewers should be ready to quickly replace their eyewear as the sun begins to reappear, preparing them to witness the partial phases of the eclipse once again.