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Total solar eclipse to be summer highlight

Posted on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm


Kali Bradford and


Elena Cawley


The upcoming solar eclipse is one of the most anticipated events of the summer. Many are marking their calendars and making plans for this rare celestial event.

The event has also attracted a dedicated following of eclipse super fans who have made it their mission to learn as much about the eclipse as possible and to share their eclipse dedication with others.

Joanna Keohane is one such dedicated individual. For more than a year, she has researched the Aug. 21 event.

Keohane, a member of the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society in Nashville, will bring her knowledge to the Aug. 16 meeting of Lunch and Learn, to be held at D.W. Wilson Community Center.

She will be touching on several aspects of the eclipse.

“I will be talking about the basics of size, scale and distance of the earth, the moon and sun and what has to line-up for an eclipse to occur,” she said.

“I will also be discussing eye safety. Normally, we don’t have a strong inclination to look up at the sun, but for the eclipse, there will be a serious temptation to look up at the sky. They could do some serious damage to their eyes if they don’t practice caution.”

Keohane added that ancient cultures and their interpretation of the eclipse is what helped lead to modern astronomy.

“While many ancient cultures have equated it to some creature or animal “eating” the sun, what’s interesting is that the mythology of the solar eclipse is what led them to start noticing patterns and keeping records,” she said. “It was essentially what led to modern astronomy. It’s interesting to make the connection that ancient cultures had and how that led us to understand the science behind it.”


Starry beginnings

Keohane said her love of the sky began as a child. However, living in such as a highly populated area as New York did not allow her to discover much through her telescope other than the moon.

“I’ve always had an interest in night sky observing,” she said.  “My parents got my twin sister and me a telescope around the age of 10. However, we lived just outside of Manhattan, so our dark sky situation was not very good at all. While we could see the moon, which was great, that was about all we were able to discover.

“Three years ago when we moved to Tennessee, just on a whim, I took the telescope out and starting looking. We found Saturn and at that point Saturn was at a 20-percent tilt. We were able to see Saturn’s rings so clearly that I was left speechless. It was such an amazing site and it kind of rekindled my love of looking at the sky as a child.”

Keohane’s devotion and interest in the upcoming eclipse has gone into overdrive.

“I’m pretty new to all of this, she said. “I’ve never really witnessed a total eclipse. I didn’t know about the total eclipse until about two years ago. I then started to get really excited about it. The solar eclipse has been a major focus for me for the past year and a half. I’ve talked to as many people as I can, doing as much research as I can and understanding as much as I can about the eclipse.”

She has also invited friends and family to attend a full-viewing party from the comfort of her backyard in Coopertown, just south of Clarksville.

“A year and a half ago I sent out an invite to all of my friends and family to join me in viewing my eclipse,” she said. “From my home, I’m pretty close to the center line. Seeing others experience the eclipse is also something I’m really looking forward to and seeing how people react to what is one of the most amazing acts of nature.”

What Keohane would like the public to know about the eclipse is how much has to go right for total eclipse to happen.

“The distance between the earth, the moon and sun has to be just right,” she said. “The moon is circling the earth at a certain orbit and it has to be correct for the shadow to even fall on the earth. Otherwise, it could just go about or below. Also, it’s important to recognize and try to understand the amazing works of the universe. Everything has come together for us to enjoy a few minutes of this amazing site. I think people should make the drive, however long, to get as close as they can to view the eclipse.”

The Lunch and Learn will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 16 at D.W. Wilson Community Center. Cost to attend is $8.75 and includes a buffet lunch.

For more information, call 455-1122.


NASA scientist learns from eclipses

Mitzi Adams, a solar scientist for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, attended the Aug. 4 meeting of the Rotary Club of Tullahoma to discuss the upcoming event.

During the solar eclipse, the sun will disappear behind the moon. People across America will see day turn into twilight. The solar eclipse will darken skies from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land of 70 miles wide. Locally, the path of the eclipse will fall around the Coffee and Warren county line, where the totality will last around 60 seconds.

Adams studies the magnetic field of the sun and how it affects the upper layer of the solar atmosphere, known as the corona.

Originally from Atlanta, she has always been interested in astronomy and geology.

“In high school, I started to make decisions about careers,” Adams said. “I wanted to be an astronaut, and, I thought, in the year of 2001, I would be working for NASA and my office would be on the moon. Well, in 2001, I started working for NASA, but, unfortunately, my office is not on the moon.”

With the sun being the focus of her science attention, Adams has seen several solar eclipses.

“I have seen four eclipses,” she said. “The first one was on March 7, 1970. I was in high school, and my mother drove me to Savannah, Georgia. Unfortunately, it was completely overcast, but the experience was amazing. Even if it’s completely overcast, the experience of the darkness that occurs when an eclipse happens is unlike any other darkness you have ever experienced.”

To watch the next three eclipses, Adams went to Chile in 1994, to Romania in 1999, and to Zambia in 2001.


Lessons learned

Scientists have made leaps of progress studying the sun when the moon is directly in front of it.

“One of the big questions about the sun is why the corona is so hot,” Adams said.

The corona is the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, said Adams.

“In most cases, when you have a heat source, the farther you are from the heat source, the cooler it gets,” she said. “That works with the sun too, up to a point. But, then, the temperature starts to go up.”

Scientists need to understand how energy is transferred from the surface of the sun, called photosphere, up through the middle layer of the atmosphere, called chromosphere, and into the corona, said Adams.

“We can study the corona of the sun in multiple wavelengths all the time, with resources in space,” she said. “But we can’t see the visible light corona, which is what you see during an eclipse. There is a little piece of that visible light corona that we miss. So during this particular solar eclipse, we will have telescopes stationed all over on the path of totality, and, hopefully, we can put together a 90-minute movie of the visible light corona and stitch it together with all these other wavelengths to build up a complete three-dimensional picture.”

One of the most notable minds throughout history of science, Albert Einstein, also observed solar eclipse events to prove some of his theories.

According to Einstein’s theories, light would be bent close to a very massive source of matter, said Adams.

“So around a star, which has a lot of mass, light would be bent,” she said. “What they tried to do was to observe far stars – their positions six months before the eclipse. Then, during the eclipse, they would measure the locations, as accurately as possible, and, if the position was different, then the light had been bent. And that meant Einstein’s theory was correct. Well, that’s exactly what happened.”


Seeing the eclipse locally

“Tullahoma is not in the path of totality, but Cookeville and McMinnville are,” Adams said. “The closer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer the duration will be.”

In Tullahoma, the magnitude of the eclipse will be 99 percent, starting at noon and lasting through 2:56 p.m. The maximum of coverage will occur at 1:30 p.m.

In Franklin, Tennessee, the sun will be covered 99 percent, beginning at 11:58 a.m. and ending at 2:54, with maximum of the sun being darkened from 11:58 a.m. until 1:28 p.m.

In Nashville, the sun will be covered 100 percent. The eclipse will start at 11:58 a.m. and will end at 2:54 p.m. Totality will begin at 1:27 p.m. and will end at 1:29 p.m.

“This eclipse is going to traverse the entire country, and the last time this happened was 99 years ago,” Adams said. “Not only that, but this eclipse is probably the most accurately predicted, which means we know the size of the path of totality.”

If you have a chance to see the star being totally covered, don’t miss it, even if that means driving for hours to reach a place that offers such a view, said Adams.

The next total solar eclipse visible over the continental United States will be on April 8, 2024. Tennesseans won’t have a chance to view the event from their home state until 2566.

“If you are outside of the path of totality, even if you are where the eclipse is 99 percent, that’s not good enough,” Adams said. “That one percent is very important. Being in the path of the totality means you will see the corona, and that’s what a solar eclipse is all about. If you can go to the path of totality, go.”

Though not offering a view of the corona, watching the eclipse outside of the path of totality will still be impressive.

“If you are not in the path of totality, you will see the sun slowly being taken a bite out of,” she said. “This is what some people throughout history thought was happening. The ancient Chinese thought a giant dragon was taking a bite out of the sun.”


Protecting your eyes

“We want everybody to be safe, so during the partial phases, you have to use protection for your eyes,” Adams said.

During totality, though, you can take the eclipse glasses off, said Adams.

“If you are looking at the sun, just before totality, you will see the diamond ring effect,” she said. “After the diamond ring effect is over, then the last little bit of light disappears, and you will see nothing through the eclipse glasses. Then, it is safe to take them off. You have to keep up with the time to make sure the eclipse doesn’t end before you can put the glasses back on.”


What to watch for

In addition to the sky show, pay attention to the nature around you, said Adams.

“Try to see what animals and birds are doing,” she said. “Look at the event at the sky, and look around at the horizon.”

The animals will also act in an unusual way.

“If affects animals,” she said. “Birds will go to roost, and crickets will start chirping.”

To see an interactive map with locations, time and duration of the eclipse, go to www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.


Where to view the eclipse

Parts of the Volunteer State will be in or close to the path of totality, allowing for a once-in-a-lifetime view of the eclipse.

A total eclipse will be visible across a mere 70- mile swath through Tennessee; the rest of the state will still be treated to a minimum 90 percent eclipse experience.

Across Tennessee, preparation is being made by local governments, businesses, schools and individuals to make the most of the brief eclipse.

Check out the following spots that will offer viewing for the upcoming eclipse.


Tennessee Farms and Wineries

While any open area is a great place to enjoy the eclipse, many of Tennessee’s farms and all of Tennessee’s wineries are ready to share their space with spectators who want to celebrate the phenomenon.

A rural location is a good compromise between seeing the eclipse in totality and navigating parking and crowds in areas where major events are planned.

A few places, like Tsali Notch Vineyard near Madisonville, are at the center line of the eclipse path.

The vineyard has been chosen by National Geographic as its location to record and report this rare occurrence.

With no admittance fee, the vineyard will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will offer live music.  Visitors may bring a picnic or purchase lunch from food trucks. Wine will also be available for purchase in the winery tasting room.

Shade Tree Farm and Orchard in Robertson County is also near the center line, with 2 minutes and 38 seconds of total eclipse visible from the farm. The orchard will open at 9 a.m. on Aug. 21 with free admission.

Orchard owners Tom and Sarah Head will have a solar telescope on site and eclipse glasses available for purchase. The orchard store will be open, featuring cider slushies in souvenir cups, and apples may be ready to pick.

The Grove at Williamson Place has teamed with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the celestial event, opening for lunch with food trucks.

Nashville’s Green Door Gourmet will have Hattie B’s hot chicken and Jeni’s Splendid Ice cream on site, as well as the requisite eclipse eyewear.

Leslie Liles of Hayshed Farms in Kingston Springs said that they will host a party that day, and Amber Falls Winery in Hampshire will be open and looking for company to join them as they watch the skies. All of Tennessee’s 70 wineries will be open for visitors on Aug. 21.



MTSU has been designated by NASA as one of its six official viewing sites in the greater Nashville area.

The Great Tennessee Eclipse will be held at the university with a public open house on campus to discuss and watch the eclipse on Aug. 21.

MTSU’s event, which will be held in the green space in front of the new Science Building, will include a music stage featuring student bands from Match Records, the student label in the College of Media and Entertainment, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; self-guided tours of the three-building Science Corridor of Innovation; and various science-information tents on the grounds with activities run by our faculty.

From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., the music stage will feature a science show with professors prepping the crowd for the solar phenomenon. The totality will be at 1:29 p.m. and last about a minute.

Protective eclipse-viewing glasses will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for free at the event.

Information about parking, event site access and other important details for the event can be found at http://www.mtsu.edu/eclipse.


Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee State Parks are inviting eclipse viewers for “Total Eclipse in the Park” celebrations the weekend prior and to stick around for viewing celebrations on Aug. 21.

Locally, Tims Ford State Park will host an eclipse celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park softball field and picnic shelter No. 2.

While not in the line of totality, Winchester and Tims Ford Lake will experience 95.55 percent of totality.

Refreshments will be provided, along with a series of lectures and activities about the solar eclipse, what it is, and how best to enjoy it as the park counts down for the main event at 1:30 p.m.

Attendees are asked to bring a chair or blanket enjoy the show.

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester will also host eclipse-themed events.

The park will experience maximum coverage at 1:30 p.m.

An eclipse event will be held beginning at noon, with the first 100 visitors to register will receive a free pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses on the day of the event.

Park visitors may bring blankets or lawn chairs for their comfort.



What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon lines up perfectly in front of the sun. This creates a silhouette effect that covers the sun from view and casts the moon’s shadow on the earth. Over the course of several hours on Monday, Aug. 21, the moon and sun will slowly pass one another, with the moon covering more and more of the sun until it climaxes with a total eclipse.


What is the ‘path of totality’?

The “path of totality” is the section of the earth where the moon will completely block the view of the sun for a short period of time.

In addition to the visual spectacle of the eclipse, those standing in the path of totality will notice some phenomenal natural responses. Stars and planets will be visible, animals will quiet down, birds will return to their roosts, and the temperature will drop by 12 degrees or more.


What to see if you are not in the path of totality?

Those who do not make it into the path of totality will not experience the full natural and celestial spectacle. However, the partial eclipse will be visible everywhere in the United States.

What equipment do you need to view the eclipse?

It is very important that viewers use special eclipse sunglasses to view the eclipsing sun. Only during the total eclipse, when no part of the sun is visible, can viewers remove the glasses. Failure to use special eclipse sunglasses during the eclipse can result in serious eye damage. Tennessee State Parks will have limited quantities of glasses on hand for viewing the eclipse. These glasses meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for safe viewing.

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