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Total Eclipse - Bays Mountain Park unveils new planetarium show

Matthew Lane • May 7, 2017 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT – The last time a total solar eclipse stretched across the entirety of the United States, Kingsport was a little over one year old.

Now, it’s going to happen again later this summer and to coincide with this rare stellar event, Bays Mountain Park has released its latest planetarium show - “Totality” - a 35 minute show that looks at all of the wonders of eclipses, especially total solar eclipses.

“It’s a topic that can be covered at any time and it great for all ages,” said Adam Thanz, planetarium director at Bays Mountain Park. “Because of the event coming up and with the path of totality close to the Tri-Cities, that makes it much more topical. We want to get people prepared.”

“Totality” examines what eclipses are, how and when they occur, and what wonderful sights they create. Thanz said the program also looks back to a fascinating period in scientific discovery when general relativity was proven with the photographic recording of a total solar eclipse.

The production includes a variety of styles from spectacular space environments to humorous pop-up books. One part of the show relates, in a very human way Thanz said to what happens when you are caught in the shadow of the Moon and the Sun is plunged into a total solar eclipse.

The staff of the planetarium and exhibits departments at Bays Mountain produced this program. Thanz said the park has already distributed the show to more than 20 other planetariums and theaters.

During May, the show will be offered at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. During the months of June through August, the show will be offered at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“Totality” is followed with an update on the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse and a brief tour of the current night sky.

The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the United States from coast to coast was June 8, 1918. The path of the August eclipse is roughly the same as then.

For East Tennessee, the best viewing spot for the eclipse will be about a four-hour drive to the south. East Tennessee will be at about 96 percent obscuration, where 96 percent of the sun’s surface will be blocked by the moon. Thanz said our region will not see the corona, but the temperature will drop and daylight will become an eerie, silvery tone.

In general, Thanz said totality will take place around 2:30 p.m. and last for approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

For those in the path, if the weather is clear, will see the corona being revealed as well as the brighter stars and planets. Even though our region will be at 96 percent obscuration, Thanz said you will still need to use solar glasses.

Bays Mountain Park ordered more than 3,000 pairs of solar glasses for the August eclipse and are selling those for $2 each.

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