Overflow crowd at Town eclipse lecture

“About 1:04 in the afternoon here in Farragut, you’ll see the moon begin to edge the sun. It will be like someone eating a moon pie,” said Mark Littmann, solar eclipse expert and journalism and electronic media professor at The University of Tennessee. He is author of a number of books on the topics of eclipses, astronomy and space.

At 2:33 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, — if it’s not too cloudy — Farragut area residents will experience a total ecli-pse, with the moon blocking the sun. Knox County Schools officials decided last week to close schools Aug. 21.

Farragut resident Lin Budlong already has made plans for the big event.

“We’re going to an eclipse party down in Tellico at a friend’s house,” he said before the lecture began. “I’ve seen a partial eclipse before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a total eclipse.”

Budlong was part of an overflow crowd that poured into the Farragut Town Hall at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 12, to hear Littmann talk about the total eclipse that will darken the area. People were seated to the back wall in the board room while others who couldn’t get seats either left or stayed to watch a live stream of the lecture on a television screen in the hallway.

According to www.eclipse2017.org, the last total eclipse in the lower 48 states was in 1979.

Littmann spoke for a little more than an hour about the definition of eclipses, the lore of eclipses in different cultures and what Farragut area residents can expect. He ended with a question-and-answer session.

“In the last 15 minutes, you’ll notice the sky will still be blue, but will be a steely blue. The grass will be a steely green color … the cows will march back to the barn on their own and nighttime animals will begin to emerge.

“As the eclipse is approaching totality, off in the west will be a mound of darkness that will continue to grow bigger and bigger. That’s the shadow of the moon approaching. In the last few seconds before the eclipse becomes total, you’ll have the diamond ring effect.”

He said Farragut will get about 1 minute and 24 seconds of totality at the Town Hall, 1 minute, 43 seconds at the intersection of Choto Road and Northshore Drive. Oak Ridge, on the other hand, will get just seven seconds.

If you go a little south of here, he said, you can build your time up.

According to www.eclipse2017.org, Madisonville is expecting 2 minutes, 28 seconds; the Clarksville area will have 2 minutes and 18 seconds of total darkness; those in Carbondale, Illinois, will enjoy about 2 minutes, 37 seconds.

“Downtown Knoxville will get a 99 percent partial eclipse,” Littmann said. “Imagine your favorite event … you’ve got perfect tickets and you go to the theater or auditorium and stand in the lobby. You can sense there’s excitement, but you’ve missed the main event.

“Watch the reaction of people if the skies are nice and clear and we get to see a total eclipse,” he added. “There’s a gasp like you’ve never heard before. Then when the eclipse is over, people will scream, yell, applaud — and they cry. The first thing people will say is ‘When is the next one?’”

Littmann took questions at the end of his lecture.

“How can you protect your eyes?” asked one attendee.

“The only time you need to protect your eyes is during the partial [phases] for about an hour-and-a-half,” Littmann responded, adding that viewers should wear eclipse glasses during that time.

Members of the audience volunteered that eclipse glasses are available locally at Mast General Store for about $2 and online at eBay and Amazon.

Town of Farragut is sponsoring an eclipse event beginning at 1 p.m., Aug. 21, at McFee Park. The partial phase of the eclipse is expected to begin at 1:04 p.m., with totality beginning at 2:33 p.m. The first 300 participants will receive free eclipse glasses that will allow them to safely witness this awe-inspiring event. Other activities will include children’s crafts and cookie decorating.

At The Cove, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will lead a viewing party. That event starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 3:30 p.m.

Littmann said the next total eclipses will be over Chile in 2019 then over Argentina in 2020.

The next total eclipse over the United States will be in 2024.