David Dundee

David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer

CARTERSVILLE — The solar eclipse on Aug. 21 will start in the Rome and Cartersville area at 1:04 p.m., reaching maximum eclipse at 2:35 p.m.

“Then the moon will begin to move off the sun. At 4 o’clock, everything is over,” Tellus astronomer David Dundee said Wednesday.

More than 400 people attended Dundee’s “Lunch and Learn” lecture at the Cartersville science museum to hear how the sun, moon and earth align to cause an eclipse and how to observe the upcoming event.

A 71-mile-wide arc of totality — where the moon appears to completely blot out the sun — will stretch across the United States, but this area will only see about 97-percent coverage. When the eclipse starts, it will “look like the Cookie Monster taking bites out of the sun,” Dundee told the crowd of children and adults. A tiny sliver will remain.

“It will not go pitch black here,” he said. “It will go kind of twilight-y here.”

A swath of Northeast Georgia is in the arc, including Clayton, Toccoa and Hiawassee. But Dundee said the weather in the mountains tends to be cloudy, so anyone planning to travel to experience totality should think about heading to places like Clemson or Columbia, South Carolina, or toward Nashville, Tennessee.

But plan now, he added, since about 22 million people are expected to be on the road that day.

“Be patient, have a full tank of gas and be careful … some hotels are charging four to five times their regular prices,” Dundee said.

He also repeated a viewing caution several times: The only time it’s safe to look directly at the sun is during a total eclipse.

“Never, ever, ever look at the sun with your eyes, binoculars or a telescope without protection,” he said. “It’s OK at 100 percent but 99 percent is unsafe.”

How to watch

It took Dundee about two minutes to demonstrate how to make a pinhole projector to safely view an eclipse:

Start with a cardboard box that fits over your head. Tape a sheet of white paper inside as the screen and cut a square out of the opposite side.

Tape aluminum foil over the hole, poke a pin through the center of the foil, place the contraption on your head with the pinhole facing toward the sun.

Keep your head out of the way and the eclipse will be projected onto the paper.

“No batteries, no rebooting … it’s ready to roll,” Dundee said.

There are other options. Solar glasses are widely available -- they're $2 each at Tellus -- and anyone near trees might see the leaves reflecting the eclipse onto the sidewalk or the wall of a building.

Dundee said a telescope also can be set up to project the eclipse onto a sheet of paper, but he pointed out that the beam will be hot — and could even melt the glue inside inexpensive telescopes.

Tellus has a number of activities planned from 1 to 4 p.m.

Small telescopes, with protected lenses, will be set up outside the observatory and the large telescope inside also will be available. The Bentley Planetarium also will have eclipse-related shows.

There will be a live feed in the theater from the best possible location in the total eclipse path, with Dundee and WSB-TV meteorologist Glenn Burns.

The feed also will be broadcast on television, but Dundee said they would be sending additional images back to the theater.

And if it’s cloudy, the museum is prepared to run the NASA feed.

“One way or another, unless the entire country is under a cloud, we will see the eclipse at Tellus,” Dundee said.

Admission to the museum is $15.95 plus tax for adults, $13.95 for ages 65 and older and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 17 and students with ID. Active duty military get in free and their dependents are half-price with ID.

Planetarium tickets are another $3.50 plus tax.

Tellus marketing director Shelly Redd said Dundee has another pre-eclipse lecture scheduled for Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. — as part of a special SCIence FRIday Night event running from 5 to 9 p.m.

“That particular lecture will have some of the same information regarding how to view the eclipse and where to see it, but David will also share information such as why eclipses are important to astronomers and the history of eclipses,” she said.

The event will include free planetarium showings of “Totality,” a short film about eclipses, and kids will be able to make a necklace to take home.