The Great American Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, is the first total solar eclipse to be seen in the United States since 1979 and the only one since the nation’s founding to be visible only in the United States.
The path of totality arcs from Oregon to South Carolina, crossing Georgia only in Rabun County in the state’s northeastern corner.
Rabun authorities expect 50,000 visitors to join the county’s 16,000 residents for events that have been booked since last year. People are coming from around the world to experience two minutes and 34 seconds of Georgia darkness at 2:35 p.m. in a county that is more than 70 percent forested, enhancing the natural atmosphere for viewing the eclipse.
Camp Ramah Darom sits on 122 acres in the Rabun town of Clayton. Ramah began planning a weekend of celestial festivities, including an eclipse Shabbat, more than a year ago and is fully booked, said Emily Kaiman, the program coordinator at Ramah Darom.
“It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for people,” she said. “You can see the planets, stars and amazing things happen. People just want to be a part of that.”
During the total eclipse, which will last about 2½ minutes in Rabun, the sky will go dark. Weather permitting, visitors will see stars, the corona of the sun, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Venus.
“We will be exploring the connection between Judaism and astronomy, and eclipses can be a spiritual event as well,” Kaiman said. “Our retreat is going to have something for everyone.”
The festivities include the band Sunmoon Pie leading the spiritual Kabbalat Shabbat service and playing by the fire during Havdalah service. The lake will be open for swimming and boating. Astronomer Alan Gersch from the University of Maryland and atmospheric scientist Morris Cohen from Georgia Tech will speak during the weekend.
Cohen is bringing students to launch a balloon during the eclipse to capture the atmosphere.
“We’ll be creating a festival on the football field,” Kaiman said. “We are very blessed that Ramah Darom is in Rabun County.”
Only those in the path of totality can safely look directly at the sun during the eclipse, but during the hour and a half it takes for the moon to slide in front of the sun, Teka Earnhardt, the executive director of Explore Rabun County, advises people to wear the special glasses that will be handed out during the OutaSight celebration at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School.
The event on the football field will include the Rabun County High School marching band, 3D buses with virtual reality stations, food trucks and more. NASA will stream the eclipse on a Jumbotron screen.
“We’ll be watching the eclipse go across the country, starting in Oregon,” Earnhardt said. “It’s really cool because we’ll get to watch it come toward us.”
Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School pushed the start of school back two days to Aug. 23 because of the eclipse, and Rabun’s public schools are closing at noon Aug. 21 because of the heavy traffic, Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark Jones said.
“From my understanding, people are going to be everywhere,” he said. “The lakes are going to be full of boats, and it’s a small area for the event.”