Rare total solar eclipse coming to parts of NC9 viewing area in August
A lot of people in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area may not be aware of it yet, but a very rare astronomical event is coming to some of their doorsteps around noon on August 21st, 2017.
That's when NASA says there will be a total solar eclipse - with the complete totality of the longest duration viewable from many local communities in Hamilton, Rhea, Meigs, McMinn, Bradley, Polk, and Cherokee Counties.
Eclipses happen occasionally when the moon passes in front of the sun. The last time viewers near Chattanooga got near an opportunity like this one was on May 30th, 1984 - with the totality line moving north and east, but well to the south of Chattanooga.
August, 2017 will be a much more intense display for the Chattanooga area and points north and east.
You can check out where the eclipse falls by using this interactive map from NASA. Click on any point in the map, and it will tell you what you can expect to see from your location, how much of the eclipse you will see, and how long it will last.
There are two lucky communities near Chattanooga that are along the "greatest, longest totality" line: Spring City, Tennessee in Rhea County and Andrews, North Carolina, in Cherokee County. If the skies cooperate, people in those communities will get the full effect just after noon, and all they have to do is walk outside and look up. The sun will be most completely obscured and for the longest time: 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
Most of the rest of the viewing area will still see quite a show, though, with a near-total eclipse producing a 'diamond ring' effect. That includes Chattanooga and all points south. But many people who want to see the eclipses full effect will make a point of traveling north, into the totality zone. That zone's southern border will be just north of Soddy Daisy, and include Dunlap, Decatur, Athens, Cleveland, Ten Mile, Etowah, Ducktown, Sweetwater, and Murphy. The closest place in Georgia for the totality zone is Blue Ridge.
Again, though, provided skies cooperate, most everyone in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area will see some form of this once-in-a-generation event.
But what if it's cloudy? Well, there is a "bright side," if you want to call it that - because we'll be so close to the total eclipse, people will see it get much darker for noontime, even if there is cloud cover.
Here's how one Louisiana TV station covered the last total solar eclipse to go across the southeastern US back in May of 1984:
This site lists the "best places to view" the eclipse, and it includes Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.