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GSMA/NPS/NASA to host solar eclipse ‘dress rehearsal’ today

Posted by | 04.01.2017

April 1, 2017 -- To coincide with today’s re-opening to the driving public of Clingmans Dome Road and Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains Association and the National Park Service have scheduled a dress rehearsal for this summer’s total solar eclipse.

NASA astronauts prepare for their Clingmans Dome flyover.
- NASA photo

NPS has worked directly with NASA to position the International Space Station in such a way that it will create an eclipse-like shadow over a 2,000-meter area of Clingmans Dome beginning at noon today.

“We still have so many questions about exactly how the August 21 event will happen at Clingmans Dome,” a top NPS official said. “We hope this run-through will provide some of the answers.”

Some of these remaining questions include:

-How will the park’s wildlife react?

-How much protection will the eclipse glasses actually provide?

-If it’s dark, will people automatically think it’s time for dinner and be really hungry?

-How confused will Appalachian Trail thru-hikers become, since they are often without communication while on the trail?

-Like horses, can people fall asleep while standing up, or might they drop to the ground like fainting goats?

Clingmans Dome Road and Visitor Center reopens
to the driving public Saturday, April 1, just in time
for the eclipse dress rehearsal. - GSMA photo

The mini eclipse, which is expected to last for 17 minutes, may cause birds to stop and start singing as if it were sunset and dawn. Viewers from atop the Clingmans Dome tower should see the 1,000 mph shadow of the space station sweep across the mountains.

“GSMA has a long history of supporting this national park,” said Executive Director Laurel Rematore. “When they asked us to help them work out the logistical challenges the August 21 eclipse event could present, of course we said, ‘Yes.’”

NASA Astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough, commander of the International Space Station, says visitors to Clingmans Dome should definitely keep an eye toward the sky on Saturday. “At the same time that our ship’s shadow crosses over the park, astronaut Peggy Whitson will perform her ninth spacewalk, during which she will create some 25 shadow animals to enhance the viewers’ experience.”

Few know that the "Shadow of the Bear" that appears near Cashiers, N.C., is
actually a long-running NASA experiment
in enhanced viewing techniques from
space. - Sapphire Valley photo

“What we hope to learn from this experiment,” Whitson said, “is if those on the ground can distinguish between my red-tailed hawk and my raven. After hundreds of hours of practice, I hope they see the obvious difference.”

While tickets to the Clingmans Dome eclipse event in August have totally (get it?) sold out at this point, those without tickets are welcome to attend Saturday’s grand reopening of activity at the park’s highest point.

Last year’s $2 million donation brings GSMA’s total contribution to the national park during its 64-year history to $37,618,810. This year’s aid to the park is estimated to be $1.8 million, plus answering eclipse questions from the public all summer long, for which a dollar figure is currently impossible to tabulate.

A non-profit organization, Great Smoky Mountains Association derives its support primarily from sales of ranger-approved educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to enrich their Smokies experience are encouraged to “Get Rooted in the Smokies” through membership. For more information about GSMA, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org or call toll-free 888.898.9102.

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As a reward for getting this far into the joke, you're the first to gain access our award-winning regional map with an overlay of the REAL eclipse route. Park officials are expecting large crowds for the August 21, 2017, event throughout the park, especially in Cades Cove and the fields at Oconaluftee. This map will help you find other, potentially less-crowded places to plan your viewing day. 

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