1970 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN GEORGIA RESULTS 2022-07-21T15:21:41-05:00


by Paul D. Maley, NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society

Eclipse path over the southeast USA. Courtesy X. Jubier.

Circumstances (approximate) at our site.  Courtesy X. Jubier.

                                        Route of travel from TX to GA

The total solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 was my first attempt to organize a travel expedition to see such an event with another person, J. Wesley Simpson. It was also my first expedition since moving from undergraduate school to my first job at the NASA Johnson Space Center as a contract employee for Lockheed Electronics Co.

It took us about 12 hours to drive directly there without a plan for contingency in case the weather soured. In fact that is exactly what it did and we were unsuccessful in terms of seeing it under clear sky.


Our eclipse gear set up next to a chicken coop

We settled on Valdosta, Georgia as the site for reasons I cannot recollect. It was definitely not on the center line as can be seen in the next image.

                                                                                                        Our eclipse site in relation to the blue central line

But then for those who think you have to be exactly on the center line of the eclipse path in order to get the maximum amount of total eclipse, that is not correct. If the sky had been clear we would have seen 2minutes 49 seconds as opposed to being on the precise central line where 3 minutes 08 seconds would have been seen. Weather in the area had been problematic but we sensed there was a chance that the sky might cooperate. Continuing northeast toward Georgia was the only other option since the Gulf of Mexico lay to the southwest of us. But because the eclipse occurred on a Saturday, it would then have been impossible for both of us to have left work a day or two earlier given the rigid schedules for work back then.

Valdosta was a relatively small town but with enough residents and eclipse watchers from around the area having been lured there by the local television networks. We set up in a designated open area with more than enough onlookers who were there not only to see the eclipse itself but to see the effect on the chickens!  

As totality approached it began to rain and so we were pretty much destined not to see it. Even with the press and local people around, nobody appeared to have left. The sky did get dark and that was interesting but not to us.