Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

CCI Total Eclipse Retrospective

Totality 2017Surrounded by family and about 500 hundred other enthusiasts, JEM Professor Mark Littmann experienced the total solar eclipse from Fort Fetterman near Douglas, Wyoming on Monday, August 21, 2017. Littmann selected the state historic site because it offered a high probability of clear skies and a wide open, unobstructed view of the eclipse.

Littmann’s book on experiencing the eclipse, Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024, kept him in great demand for weeks leading up to the solar event. He was an East Tennessee eclipse rock star giving numerous talks and media interviews both locally and across the nation.

Littmann reminded those wanting to photograph the eclipse to not “get so caught up in capturing the eclipse that you forget to enjoy and experience it.” He encouraged everyone to notice the sights and sounds as totality approached – “listen to the cicadas, the birds, and notice the changing shadows.”

Littmann shared a story from his own eclipse experience in Wyoming. “As totality neared and darkness began to descend, the youngest among our group, a 2 ½ year old, got his blanket and climbed into his stroller saying, ‘nap time.’ He was startled awake by the adults exclaiming over totality a short while later.”

In addition to the adult version of his book, Littmann published a children’s version, which contained suggested projects to replicate what occurs during an eclipse. He also shared stories about the beliefs held by different cultures about past eclipses. One local Knoxville teacher used the book in the days approaching the eclipse to help her students fully immerse themselves in this rare event. “Dr. Littmann’s book was especially helpful as we prepared lesson plans for several subjects during the week prior to the eclipse,” said Katherine Officer. “His work helped us to creatively inject eclipse facts into our science, math, social studies and art lesson plans.”

Because the weather in East Tennessee was mostly sunny and clear and the path of totality actually brushed west Knoxville, many CCI faculty, staff, students and alumni were able to experience, photograph and video record the event. One CCI staffer video recorded the event from the top of a ridge shooting toward downtown and UT’s campus. In the clipped seven minute video, the cicadas can be heard increasing in volume as a lone cloud over the mountains becomes increasingly visible with the backlighting from the sun. In the distance, streetlights can be seen coming on progressively down Kingston Pike toward the buildings downtown in the spreading darkness. As light begins to reappear on the ridge, UT’s campus can be seen in the distance still in darkness with the streetlights burning (to view this video, click

What was your eclipse experience? Did you travel to the path of totality? Feel free to share your experiences with CCI on the social media sites linked below.

Here’s a recap of some of Professor Mark Littmann’s media coverage:

Los Angeles Times –

WTOP, Washington DC –

Tennessee Today recap –