NASA sets up at Clingmans Dome ahead of eclipse

The view from the parking area at Clingmans Dome. (PHOTO: Kristina Plaas/GSMNP)

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (WATE) – NASA arrived and started setting up at Clingmans Dome for Monday’s solar eclipse on Sunday.

“We’ve partnered up with Nasa for our event here at Clingmans Dome and we’re really excited about it,” said Molly Schroer with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “One of the neat things NASA is able to do is broadcast the entire program and the eclipse from Clingmans Dome to everybody back in their homes.”

NASA also sent special guest speaker and astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

“I have been fortunate enough to fly to the space station twice,” said Noguchi. “I’m hoping to talk to the young generation tomorrow about the conservation of the beautiful environment like here in the Great Smokies.”

Doug Morton, an earth scientist with NASA, is also a guest speaker for the event. He says if weather is right Monday, a sunset from all directions will be seen from Clingmans Dome.

“We’ll get about two minutes and 40 seconds where we are in the shadow of the moon,” said Morton. Then, if we’re lucky, we will see the sunlight racing behind that shadow at 15 hundred miles an hour catching back up to us as we put our glasses back on and the eclipse passes.”

Morton says studying these eclipses when they occur helps NASA learn more about the sun.

“The solar corona is the outer atmosphere of the sun,” said Morton. “It’s super hot. It’s a million degrees but the surface of the sun is only 10,000 degrees and we actually don’t fully understand why the corona is so hot. During the solar eclipse we will be trying to make a better measurement of the solar corona, to understand how our sun, our star, contributes to space weather and life here on earth.”

Dana Soehn with The Great Smoky Mountains National Park says there are several other places in the park to watch the eclipse but drivers should be mindful of heavy traffic.

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