How do you throw an eclipse party?
The folks at NASA can help.
The federal space agency has launched a website (eclipse2017.nasa.gov) devoted to facts and fun activities to help earthlings celebrate the Great American Eclipse.
To be fair, NASA's space geeks don't call it the Great American Eclipse. Scientifically speaking, it's a total solar eclipse. It's possible to have two to four solar eclipses in a year, so as celestial events go, they're fairly common.
But this one is not "just" another solar eclipse, hence the pop-culture frenzy surrounding the Aug. 21 phenomenon. Unlike most solar eclipses, this one will be viewable, in partial or total form, by everyone in the contiguous United States, 391 million people by NASA's estimates. And it's the first continent-wide eclipse to be visible only from the United States since 1776.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun. For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun will be about two minutes and 40 seconds.
To see the total eclipse, you must be in the path of totality, a relatively thin band, about 70 miles wide, that will cross the U.S. from west to east, north to south. On a map, it sort of resembles the jet stream, but one fueled by darkness instead of wind.
According to NASA, the first point of contact in the United States will be at Lincoln Beach, Ore., at 9:05 a.m. PDT, and totality will begin there at 10:16 a.m. Over the next hour and a half, the total eclipse will cross Oregon into Idaho, moving southeastward through Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina before ending in South Carolina at 2:45 p.m. EDT and the lunar shadow leaving the United States at 4:09 p.m. EDT.
"Everyone in North America," NASA reports, "will be able to experience this eclipse."
Jeanette "Mimi" Esch of Soddy-Daisy will be ready. She and husband Joe have invited multiple guests — his fellow EPB retirees and associates of hers from the Daughters of the American Revolution, teachers organization Delta Kappa Gamma's Alpha Xi chapter, RAT Pack (Retired Art Teachers) and Sister Cities International, including friends from Hamm, Germany.
Many on the invitation list already had plans to watch the eclipse or are working, but the couple are expecting a crowd of about 30, including nine of their 11 grandchildren, to turn their eyes skyward — safety glasses on! — at their lakefront home.
Esch says she had the eclipse marked on her calendar but didn't get super excited until her optometrist talked it up at her recent vision checkup.
"I came home and looked it up and thought, 'Wow, this is really a big deal,'" she says. "Chances are the next time we're in the path like this again, I won't be alive."
For perspective, the last total eclipse in the United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979. The last total eclipse that crossed the entire continent occurred on June 8, 1918, and experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens on average about once in 375 years, according to NASA.
Esch says she and her daughters are "big party planners" anyway, so an out-of-this-world event like a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse means they're "planning and decorating elaborately."
Guests will decorate souvenir hats and visors (imprinted with "I Saw the Eclipse in 2017"), nosh on eclipse-centric food and drink (think SunChips and MoonPies) and enjoy themed decorations (tablecloths, for instance, are half yellow for the sun, half white for the moon).
She's also printing out eclipse-related handouts from the NASA website, because, well, she couldn't help herself. It's a holdover from her teaching days, she explains.
"All teachers want to give out handouts," she says, "even though I am retired."
Based on the maps she's seen, Esch estimates their location on the lake, between Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek, will see a couple minutes of totality, starting around 2:30 p.m.
The eclipse will continue for an hour or so after totality, she explains, as the moon moves away from the center of the sun.
Esch says her teacher friends "are really excited" about the eclipse. A recent gathering found them talking about the scientific lessons inherent in the phenomenon, such as the strange midafternoon darkness and how the animals would react — "really how everything on Earth in its path would react," Esch says.
"It's really a historical thing."
And a good reason for a party.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.
Give your guests the sun, moon and stars for snacking during the eclipse.
› Little Debbie Star Crunch or Cosmic Brownies
› Star fruit
› Any sun-dried fruit
› Milky Way and Mars candy bars
› Starburst fruit chews
› Reese’s Pieces (a nod to space traveler E.T.)
› StarKist tuna
› Crescent rolls
› Cheese (the moon’s main ingredient)
For the kids
› Sunkist soft drinks
For the adults
› Corona and Blue Moon beer
What to play
› “Moon Shadow,” Cat Stevens
› “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler
› “Eclipse,” Pink Floyd
› “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bill Withers
› “Moon Dance,” Van Morrison
› “Black Hole Sun,” Soundgarden
› “New Moon on Monday,” Duran Duran
› “Why Does the Sun Shine,” They Might Be Giants
› “Blister in the Sun,” Violent Femmes
› “Good Morning Moon,” Marian Call
› “Walking on the Sun,” Smash Mouth
› “Walking on Sunshine,” Katrina and the Waves
› “A Place in the Sun,” Stevie Wonder
› “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” George Michael and Elton John
› “Bad Moon Rising,” Creedence Clearwater Revival
› “Solar Eclipses,” Hollywood Princes, featuring Dr. Awkward
› “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles
› “Blue Moon,” Billie Holiday
› “Star Man,” David Bowie
› “Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay
› “Blinded by the Light,” Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
› “Let the Sunshine In,” Hair
› Anything by Michael Jackson (so you can moonwalk)
* Eclipse giveaway: Not the celestial kind. Local law firm Warren & Griffin will give away a 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible on Aug. 21. To enter the giveaway, you must like, share and comment on the image found on the firm’s Facebook page; sign up in person at either office (sixth floor of the Dome Building, 736 Georgia Ave. in Chattanooga or 300 W. Emery, Suite 108, in Dalton, Ga.).
* Golfing and eclipse watching: The Project Access Golf Classic at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club features wide open spaces along the Tennessee River for viewing the eclipse. The tournament’s shotgun start is at 1 p.m. Cost is $200 per individual player, $800 per four-member team. Proceeds support Project Access, a physician-led program that provides donated specialty medical care to low-income residents with no insurance.
* NASA megacast: Visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium, 1 Broad St., between noon and 3 p.m. are invited to watch NASA’s eclipse megacast in the auditorium of the River Journey Building, featuring images captured before, during and after the event by three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Regular admission: $29.95 adults, $8.95 children 3-12.
* Rock the Eclipse: Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patten Road, is touting Lover’s Leap as “the best vantage point in Chattanooga” to watch the eclipse. David Karnes and friends from J103 will be on-site from noon to 3 p.m. with activities and prizes. Safety glasses will be available for $2 while supplies last. Admission: $19.95 adults, $11.95 children 3-12. 706-820-2531.
* Viewing party: Guests will meet at 1 p.m. at GreenSpaces, 63 E. Main St., “to get jazzed up” for the eclipse then head to The Crash Pad, 29 Johnson St., for viewing at 2:30 p.m. Viewing glasses, snacks and beverages will be provided. Purchase a solar raffle ticket to win a $20,000 solar energy system. Free.
* View the eclipse: Purchase a membership or daily admission to Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center and receive a free pair of eclipse viewing glasses, while supplies last. Officials say the eclipse is partial but still highly visible from the property at 400 Garden Road and lasts from 1:02 to 3:58 p.m. 423-821-1160