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UNG professor offers tips for watching total solar eclipse
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Visitors to the University of North Georgia's Coleman Planetarium watch a short film about the sun Sunday afternoon during the university's eclipse public education event. Visitors got a chance to use a telescope to look at the sun and learn various methods of viewing the eclipse. - photo by Scott Rogers

DAHLONEGA — Members of the Childs family know where they’ll be during today’s solar eclipse — home in Jefferson.

And they’ll be actively watching the skies, Dan Childs said as he helped his children build a solar eclipse viewer out of cereal boxes Sunday at the University of North Georgia’s solar eclipse program.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Childs said. “I’ve seen it and (the children) have seen it on TV, so we can (watch it together) and know what’s happening.”

Many others will be hitting the road, traveling to places in 100 percent totality — such as Blairsville and Clayton — to view the celestial wonder. Hall County is between 98 and 99 percent.

Gregory Feiden, assistant professor of astronomy speaking at the program, had special tips for those wanting to view the eclipse at 2:36 p.m.:

Choose your location, leave early

The eclipse will look different depending on where you are, depending on percentage of totality.

In parts of metro Atlanta, “it will appear to be a very cloudy day,” Feiden said.

If you’re heading to the totality region, prepare for traffic — lots of it. Some people are making a mini-vacation of the experience, with rooms booked solid.

“If you want to drive some back roads (Monday), you could make it work,” Feiden said.

If you’re staying home, or close to home, try to find an open field or any area “devoid of trees.”

Check the weather

Sky conditions will vary depending on the weather. As of Sunday, sunny skies were in store for Blairsville.

“Of course, that could change and it could downpour 5 minutes before the eclipse,” Feiden said.

The outlook for Clayton was a little dicier, with a chance of thunderstorms around 4 p.m.

However, “as far as I can tell from Georgia weather, 4 p.m. means anytime between 8 a.m. and midnight,” Feiden said.

Pack food and water, entertainment and eye protection

Not only are roads and hotels expected to be full, restaurants likely will be swamped as well.

Bring food and drinks “just to be safe,” Feiden said. “Make a picnic out of it. … In the middle of the picnic, you get to see a total solar eclipse, so it’s a pretty good deal.”

If you arrive particularly early, boredom is likely to set in, so bringing some lawn games or other fun items is suggested.

Most importantly, bring protective eyewear. Glasses made especially for eclipses should work fine. Regular sunglasses will not — wearers could suffer permanent eye damage.

Enjoy

Sounds simple enough, but the rarity of a total solar eclipse at a particular location is something to consider. It happens about once every 375 years.

The next one will take place in 2024, but over the Midwest.

“Whatever is going on, just stop for a moment and enjoy the moment,” Feiden said. “Whatever the stress is, just set it aside.”

Regardless of your plans, getting to your destination — eclipse or otherwise — could be challenging Monday.

An estimated 53,000 motorists are expected in extreme Northeast Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation estimates.

The DOT expects many people will rely Ga. 15/U.S. 441 and Ga. 2/U.S. 76 to reach eclipse destinations in Rabun, White, Habersham, Towns and Union counties.

“Travelers need to be aware that delays along these corridors are inevitable and pulling over or parking on the shoulder is unsafe,” district engineer Brent Cook said.

“We will treat that day similar to a holiday travel weekend due to the volume that will be traveling into and back out of the mountain areas for various eclipse events.”

The DOT also advises to turn on headlights if you’re driving during the eclipse, as “it will be similar to nighttime travel.”

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