Oakwood students to travel hundreds of miles to see total eclipse

Staff photo by Allen Eyestone
Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

More than 50 Oakwood High School juniors and seniors will travel to witness an event of a lifetime, when they travel to Tennessee to witness the Great American Eclipse.

RELATED: What you need to know about the 2017 solar eclipse

Mark Brooks Hedstrom, astronomy teacher at Oakwood, said he will be the lone chaperone when he and about 55 current and former astronomy students travel 337 miles to Spring City, Tenn. (in the Tennessee Valley) Aug. 21 to witness 100 percent of the rare Great American Eclipse.

Hedstrom said Spring City organizers were gracious enough to allow the group parking space (no pun intended) once they reached their destination.

“I hope it will be a landmark event in these kid’s lives and development,” Hedstrom said.

RELATED: 7 things to know about the rare total solar eclipse

The “Great American Eclipse” will occur when the moon passes directly over the sun, completely covering it.

There are usually two and up to five solar eclipses every year, but they are usually not a total eclipse, meaning they will not be completely covered.

Spring City is about 63 miles from Knoxville and directly in the path where viewers can see a total eclipse and will experience about 2 mins and 39 seconds of totality. Those in the Miami Valley, for example, will witness about 88 percent of a total eclipse, according to Hedstrom.

It will take the moon almost three hours to cross the face of the sun, from one side to the other.

Hedstrom, who received his Master’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago, said having his students witness the event is more about understanding a “bigger universe” than a simple science lesson.

Explore You can find the specific timing of the start, max and end of the eclipse in YOUR city by clicking here.

“I’ll encourage them to take pictures, but I don’t want them with their heads down,” he said. “They should have their heads up, jaws dropped at a spectacular event.”

“That’s the value of the event. For the kids to feel a larger connection with the world around them.”

Hedstrom said students will board a bus around 5 a.m. Aug. 21 for Tennessee, and arrive back in Oakwood around 11 p.m. Several things could go wrong for Hedstrom’s group including unreasonably cloudy skies which could block their view, or other travelers who have the same idea of visiting Spring City to witness the natural phenomena.

“A lot of people will travel to get into totality,” he said. “Who knows how bad traffic will be.”

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