About 40 years ago Reba McEntire had a hit song, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” In keeping with that thought we are about to have the day the light either goes out or grows very dim in Georgia as we experience a total eclipse of the sun. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, Newton County will experience close to a total eclipse with about 98 percent of the sun’s light being blocked by the moon getting between the earth and the sun.
Astronomers are calling this phenomenon “The Great American Eclipse.” The last total eclipse in any part of the continental U.S. was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House on Feb. 26, 1979. The next one will be in 2024 and will travel from Texas to Maine.
In our area, the effect for this time will begin at 1:08 p.m. with the most effect coming about 2:40 p.m. The show will be all over just after 4:00 p.m. For the first time since 1918, the eclipse will travel from coast to coast in the United States. It will start in Oregon and end in South Carolina. The total eclipse will take only about an hour and half to go across our country.
Parts of Northeast Georgia will fall in the path that will experience the total effect. Clayton, Blairsville and Dahlonega are expecting thousands of visitors. All the motel and hotel rooms in these and neighboring town are already booked. This is happening in many places along the path the eclipse will follow.
Some local schools in our area will keep students a little longer on the day of the eclipse. There is a need to be careful in how one tries to experience the eclipse. NASA has issued a warning about viewing the eclipse. They caution against using ordinary sun glasses or homemade filters to view the sun.
Glasses to view the eclipse will be given out free at the Newton County Library. These are especially designed for viewing. They will be available at the Porter Memorial Branch on Browns Bridge Road beginning tomorrow, August 7, and Tuesday, August 8 at the Covington Branch. They will be free, one per person, and on a first come, first served availability. Special glasses are also available for sale on line.
Brasstown Bald, the highest point in our state, is already booked out despite increasing its admission charge from $5 to $30 dollars. I am not sure why being a few feet higher will improve the experience any.
If you decide to travel east to experience the total effect you can expect very heavy traffic. I, for one, will be content to experience the 98 percent we will have here. Though some places such as Nashville TN and Columbia SC are planning festivals to help draw a crowd.
A total eclipse happens every year or so somewhere in the world. But having it happen where you are is very rare. That is what makes what is happening on Aug. 21 so special.
Many myths have gorwn up over the centuries about what happens with an eclipse. Though the animal blamed varied around the world, ancients thought some mystic being was trying to eat the sun. These varied form Viking Sky Wolves to Korean Fire Dogs. Some would bang pots and pans to scare away whatever would be eating the sun. Save the risk of damaging you pots and pans, it will be over in a matter of minutes.
There was also a fear of what the impact would have on women who were pregnant and of course there is not such risk. There was even a belief by some that any food cooked during an eclipse would be poison. Of course again, there is no basis to this. But the unknown is always frightening.
For most of us, this will be the one time this occurs where we are in our life time. I look forward someday to telling my great grandchildren about the day that the light went dim in Georgia. Truly this is one of those rare moments in life.