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The Adventure Science Center Blog

ASC Science Educators and guest authors exploring our world and the science and technology that connects us

 

WHY IS THE SOLAR ECLIPSE A BIG DEAL? by Marcin Chojnowski, ASC Eclipse Intern

Imagine yourself living thousands of years ago, harvesting crops in a field on a bright sunny day. You think it’s just like any other day, but suddenly the sky starts getting dark. As you look over the horizon, you see a dark sweeping shadow racing towards you. You look up at the sky as absolute darkness begins to engulf the sun and normally invisible stars begin to shine. 

The sun, your daily provider of light and warmth, is replaced with a pitch-black circle surrounded by a white halo. Why is this happening? Is the world coming to an end? For a few brief minutes, the everyday world as you have known it turns upside down. 

Then, just as quickly as it began, the process undoes itself – the sun begins to peek out of the darkness and the shadow previously seen at one horizon, races away from you towards the other until everything is back to normal again.

For thousands of years, this was the scary reality for people across the globe. The great uncertainty of solar eclipses and the science behind them was still very much unknown. A full solar eclipse was a rare sight for people back then, very much a once-in-a-lifetime event, and they didn’t quite know what to make it out to be.

Fast forward to the present day. What was once frightening and mysterious has become the crown jewel of astronomical events. Thanks to the advancements in Physics and Astronomy in recent times, we possess more knowledge about what happens during a solar eclipse than ever before. We know that the world is, in fact, not coming to an end, and that the phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse happens because the moon crosses between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow onto the Earth. The white halo seen on the outside of the black moon is known as the corona – the outermost layer of the Sun that can only been seen during a total solar eclipse.

Fortunately for us, we live in a time when this shadow will carve a path across the United States once again on Monday, August 21, 2017. The last time a total eclipse was visible from the 48 contiguous states was in the year 1979, proving that this is truly a once in a lifetime event.

Astronomy enthusiasts will travel from all across the United States and all corners of the world to get a glimpse of the rare total solar eclipse. For most people, simply staying at home and waiting for a total solar eclipse to come to their hometown is extremely uncommon, thus making travel usually necessary to view it in all of its glory. Luckily for us here in Nashville, the path of totality will pass right through our backyards at the end of the summer.

Mark your calendars for the next total solar eclipse expected to hit Nashville… Saturday, Aug. 16, 2566!

- Marcin Chojnowski, ASC Eclipse Intern

Posted by Molly Hornbuckle at 2:00 PM
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Comments

6/4/2017 at 11:41 AM by Rob Grud

Well written article showing a lot of research and knowledge by Marcin Chojnowski


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