‘I have no words’ said one of the young park rangers just after the total eclipse of the Sun in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. We were perched on the top of a mountain, up in the heavens, at Clingmans Dome. How lucky I was to be there as NASA’s solar specialist at a spectacular celebration with dancing, Cherokee story-telling, astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, and Emily Calandrelli. NASA 360 Live TV captured it all and broadcast it across the USA. More details about the eclipse can be found on NASA’s web pages: eclipse2017.nasa.gov .
I am very lucky to have seen three total eclipses of the Sun. Folk ask me ‘Which was the best?’, to which I reply ‘Like children, they are all very different, but have all been awesome’. For this one, the weather started off clear early in the morning, but then the clouds started to role in by mid-morning. Normally they would get heavier and it would rain. This time, they moved away leaving blue skies and a fantastic view of the eclipse, with a glow of pink sunset all around us in the distance. It was fabulous, with the mountains looking incredibly beautiful.
Everyone was so kind and welcoming, my park hosts, the rangers, the eclipse team and especially Sandra and Jay Aldich. We visited venues in the park and ran workshops for children and families using UV beads, bracelets, bookmarks, eclipse pastels. It was fabulous. We learnt that the Cherokee Indians believed that during a total eclipse, a frog eats the Sun. Wow!!
Feedback from those there was superb, such as ‘I want to express my gratitude to you and your staff for making our day at Clingman’s Dome to witness the eclipse a day we will never forget.’ ‘ I cannot say enough good things about a program that joined the science of the day with the arts. The music and dance were superb and the speakers interesting and inspiring. I loved the incorporation of the Cherokee tribe’s folklore and history. So appropriate! The astrophysicist and the astronaut were so educational and fascinating. I liked that the young girls in the audience saw that Helen Mason was a renowned scientist.’ ‘We were all united for a moment by an experience bigger than us all.’
‘This is a day that will live in my mind for many, many years to come.’