Local scientists and science teachers are gearing up for what they see as the educational opportunity of a lifetime — a total eclipse of the sun headed our way on Aug. 21.
Planning is still early, but University of Georgia professors Julie Luft and atmospheric sciences professor John Knox have already launched a drive to provide special dark glasses to every single student in the Clarke County School District on that day, plus glasses for 2,000 or so students in lower-income schools in surrounding counties.
The UGA administration allowed them to post their project on the university’s “Georgia Funder” site, where students or workers are allowed to ask for private donations for projects.
In just a couple of days, they’ve raised $2,336, nearly 40 percent of the $6,000 it will cost for 17,000 pairs of the special glasses to view the eclipse without risking eye damage, said Luft, a professor in the UGA College of Education’s science and math education department.
Athens is just outside the path of total eclipse, but will see more than 99 percent of the sun blocked out when the eclipse is at its height. Astronomers calculate 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 zone of total eclipse will be just a few miles away from Athens — to the north, around Toccoa.
But it will be just as spectacular in the immediate Athens area as the skies darken, the winds die down and birds, fooled by the gathering darkness, settle down for what they believe is the arrival of nightfall.
At 99 percent, only a thin sliver of sun will peer out from behind the moon, explained Knox, a professor in UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, a member of the Clarke County Board of Education and the state of Georgia’s 2014 College Professor of the Year.
Even as far south into Georgia as Valdosta, 90 percent of the sun will be blocked out, said science evangelist Maurice Snook, who’s launched his own campaign to educate the public about the upcoming eclipse.
Snook, locally famous for his spectacular science shows in area schools, has scheduled a series of talks at libraries and other venues, including the Oconee County Library on April 10, the Nicholson Library on April 25 and the Athens-Clarke County Library on May 17. He’ll also have a display at the Winterville Marigold Festival May 20.
Snook, a chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Athens, is also working with the Sandy Creek Nature Center to get ready for Aug. 21, he said.
Eclipse glasses are already on sale at the nature center.
Luft also plans to get UGA students knowledgeable about what’s going on in an eclipse out to every Clarke County school on that day to help young students understand the event.
UGA scientists have even approached the UGA Athletic Association about the possibility of opening up Sanford Stadium and its giant video screen on that day.
It’s too early to know if it can happen, but he’s hopeful about the response he’s gotten thus far, Knox said at a Monday planning meeting.