CLINGMANS DOME (WATE) – The total solar eclipse was a monumental event and NASA set up shop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Clingmans Dome.
The sky went dark at 2:35 p.m. over the mountains and the crowd went quiet during the first few seconds of totality.
“It was like a moment of silence, then everybody started freaking out,” said Gabrielle Bean from North Carolina. “It was an elated feeling. Just all of the years and waiting for this. I was actually able to look through the telescope as it was happening. It’s an overwhelming experience. Total body experience.”
The total body experience that only lasted for a minute and 26 seconds, but that was enough time for young stargazers to remember the moment for the rest of their lives.
The line of darkness moving across the mountains is what made Clingmans Dome a prime viewing spot for the eclipse.
Molly Schroer, Great Smoky National Park: “We’ve gotten a lot of attention. A lot of people are really excited to be here. So we’re happy to be hosting this event with NASA,” said Molly Schroer with the park.
The event sold out quickly and around 1,300 people came out.
“We’ve got that elevation. We’ve got those view points and we can watch that shadow of the sun coming across the landscape and see that beautiful sunset,” said Schroer.
“You can see these broad sweeping views to the west. What’s magical about that is having the elevation, the clear sky when totality comes, the shadow comes from the west,” said Matt Cass, with Southwestern Community College in North Carolina.
“The clouds moved out and there was complete darkness at Clingmans Dome as visitors took in the solar eclipse.
The experience is visceral. You feel it in your bones. People are just overwhelmed with emotion,” said Cass.
It’s an awe inspiring moment that Cass with Southwestern Community College has been ready for with his students.
“We brought up close telescopes so people could get up close images of the sun. And just show people that this is accessible, let them get up close and personal with the experience before totality, after totality,” said Cass.
Broadcasting the phenomenon live, NASA chose this as one of their prime locations to capture the 1,700 mph shadow sweep across the Great Smoky Mountains.
“The NASA360 team is here on the mountains. We’re at the highest point of anybody covering it,” said Becky Jaramillo with NASA360. “Clingmans Dome is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. It’s a great place for both scientists and for people to experience and see the eclipse. Figure out what the natural landscape is going to look like. ”
Stargazers like Matt McLean were also documented the astrological phenomenon.
“I have a cable release so I don’t have to touch the camera to take the pictures because some of the features shoeing totality you have to use slow shutter speeds,” said McLean.
While the photo equipment slowly snapped away at the dark sky, the path of totality moved quickly. Many are just happy to have witnessed this spectacle.
“I can go back and look at the pictures anytime and see that I got it,” said McLean.
NASA and the national park hope this experience will inspire people to continue their interest in science and nature.