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Viewing the Total Eclipse of the Sun in Athens

August 9, 2017

Athens is just outside the path of total eclipse, but will see more than 99% of the sun blocked out when the eclipse is at its height.

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During the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2017, Athens will see a near-total eclipse of the sun, and the University of Georgia and its UGA Athletic Association are opening up the stadium to the public for eclipse-viewing on that day.

UGA geography professor John Knox, who teaches in UGA’s atmospheric sciences program, along with Marshall Shepherd, the program's head and former NASA scientist, approached Athletic Association officials in March about staging an eclipse event in the stadium. They agreed almost immediately when the two explained the significance of this eclipse.

The eclipse will begin locally at about 1 p.m. and conclude at about 4 p.m. as the moon passes between Earth and the sun. The path of total darkness is slightly to the north of Athens, but it’s still going to be spectacular in town, where 99.1 percent of the sun will be blocked out at the eclipse’s peak at about 2:39 p.m.

Since it is not safe to watch the eclipse without special glasses, UGA will give away eclipse glasses to the first 5,000 people who come to the event.

Images of the eclipse and people watching it as it passes across the continent will be shown on the stadium’s giant video screen. People in the stadium will also be able to watch the eclipse live as it passes over Athens on the big screen, thanks in part to Maurice Snook, known to thousands of area schoolchildren as Mr. Science because of the spectacular chemical magic shows he performs regularly in Athens-area elementary schools. Snook got together with athletic association technicians who operate the video cameras that feed live action shots from UGA football games onto the big video screen and helped them test out a special filter that will allow them to show the eclipse’s progress over Athens on the screen.

The UGA Department of Geography, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the UGA Atmospheric Sciences program and faculty in the College of Education are planning related learning activities and lining up guests for the event.

Tentative emcees include Knox, Shepherd, UGA Physics and Astronomy professor Craig Weigert and UGA climatologist Pam Knox, John Knox’s wife, who is a former astronomy teacher and former Wisconsin state climatologist.

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