The eclipse on the 21st starts on the west coast of the US and cuts all the way across to exit the continent in South Carolina. The path of totality is only about 50 miles across, and it is estimated that between 1.85 and 7.4 million Americans will be traveling to this dark band to witness the event (https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/statistics/). Our team of 7 will be among this crowd. We have two observing sites picked out: one in Tennessee and one in South Carolina.
The reason for the two sites? Different weather systems. The eclipse is awesome, but if it’s cloudy or raining, all this work will be for naught. That’s the name of the game for all of astronomy. In a few days we will start getting extended forecasts for both of our sites which will ultimately determine which we visit. The final decision won’t be made until Friday morning, when we begin the trek.
We visited the two parks in May to scope out the lay of the land.
Cumberland Mountain State Park:
Located in Crossville TN, this site is halfway between Nashville and Knoxville. Since the state park itself has lots of trees that may obscure the view, observers are directed towards the golf course 5 minutes away. We will be setting up our equipment on the 17th green, while on the 18th there is a whole slew of activities. The golf club is throwing an ‘eclipse party’, where there will be food vendors, bounce houses, and an astronaut from NASA.
Devils Fork State Park:
High in the Smoky Mountains, this site is located on the eastern side of the Appalachian range. Salem, SC is much more remote than Tennessee. It’s beautiful, but the park rangers don’t expect much traffic at their park on the 21st because their schools will be in session. This site has a couple wide fields where we will be able to set up, with plenty of room to see the event. The sun will be roughly 60 degrees above the horizon, above where that white truck is parked.
Less than two weeks to go!