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August 2017

Get Ready!

The big day is almost here! On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse crosses the United States. Within the path of totality, the Moon will completely block the face of the Sun. Everyone in the continental U.S. is within a day’s drive of the path of totality. Outside of the path, observers will see only a partial eclipse. If at all possible, get to the path of totality. It’s an astronomical event you don’t want to miss!

Safety First

Staring at the Sun is a bad idea on any day. There’s nothing extra dangerous about a solar eclipse, except that people are naturally curious and will want to look at the Sun. Don’t do it!

While you wait for totality, use solar viewing glasses. There is no other safe way to look up at the Sun. Regular sunglasses are not safe. Do not use exposed film, CDs or any other home-made method. None of these will protect your eyes from the intense light. Do not combine solar glasses with telescopes or binoculars - the intensified light and heat will quickly burn through the filter material.

Try out the glasses before the eclipse. They are really, really dark. You will not be able to see anything with them on except for the Sun. If you detect scraches or holes in the glasses, throw them away and get a new pair.

Pinhole projection methods are another fun way to watch the eclipse progress. All you need to do is poke a small hole in a piece of thin cardboard, and let the sunlight pass through the hole onto another piece of cardboard. You’ll see an image of the partially eclipsed Sun. Or, grab a colander from the kitchen to see lots of tiny eclipses projected. You can even look at the shadow of a tree to see hundreds of eclipses projected through the gaps between leaves.

There is only one time it is safe to look right at the Sun: during totality. Take off the glasses to see the cosmic spectacle that people will travel around the world to see. With the Moon completely blocking out the face of the Sun, you’ll see the magnificent corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere. As soon as totality is over, put the glasses back on.

What Time?

The time and duration of the eclipse depend greatly on your location.

Here’s when it happens at Adventure Science Center:

Partial Eclipse from 11:58am until 1:27pm CDT

What’s Happening: The Moon slowly comes in between the Earth and the Sun. At the beginning of this time period, the Sun is completely visible; by the end, it will be blocked.

Total Eclipse from 1:27pm until 1:29pm CDT

What’s Happening: The Moon completely blocks the face of the Sun. The Sun’s corona, while usually blocked by the light of Earth’s atmosphere, will become visible. Totality is the only time that the Sun is safe to look at with your own eyes.

Partial Eclipse from 1:29pm until 2:54pm CDT

What’s Happening: The Moon slowly moves out of its position between the Earth and the Sun. At the beginning of this time period, the Sun is blocked; by the end, it will be completely visible.

To find times for your specific location, visit this interactive map. Times on the site are given in Universal Time (UT), which is useful in astronomy. For summer in Nashville, just subtract five hours from UT time to get Central Daylight Time.

If your location is out of the path of totality, you must use solar glasses or other safe observing methods at all times.

Learn More

Sudekum Planetarium’s original production Eclipse: The Sun Revealed runs every day through the end of August. Learn more about safe observing, and how and why eclipses occur.

The Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society will hold a free Total Solar Eclipse Panel Discussion in the Sudekum Planetarium on Wednesday, August 16. NASA Solar System Ambassador Theo Wellington, Dr. Spencer Buckner of Austin Peay State University, and Dr. Billy Teets of Vanderbilt University will discuss the eclipse and take your questions. Come early for an optional 6:00 pm presentation of ‘Eclipse: The Sun Revealed’ in the planetarium. Tickets for the planetarium show are $8. Please RSVP at Learn more about BSAS at

Tickets are still available for Adventure Science Center’s Music City Solar Eclipse Festival and Viewing Party, August 19, 20, and 21. The Festival will feature two days jam-packed with explorations into science and technology, fun activities and games with local organizations, live music from local musicians, chance to win great prizes, and awesome local food trucks, and the Viewing Party will cap off the fun with a chance to experience the total solar eclipse at Nashville’s premier science center. Learn more and get tickets at

After Sunset

Look in the northwest for the Big Dipper. As famous as the Dipper is, it’s not always easily visible from our latitude in Tennessee. In the spring and summer, the Dipper is easy to find shortly after sunset. As we approach autumn, it gradually appears lower to the northern horizon.

The Big Dipper is not officially a constellation; it’s what astronomers sometimes call an asterism. The Big Dipper is a familiar name for this pattern of stars, especially known to observers in the United States, but it’s not one of the 88 constellations recognized by astronomers worldwide. Ursa Major the Great Bear is the official constellation here, but you’ll need dark skies to see its fainter stars.

Use the two stars at the end of the Dipper’s bowl to lead you to Polaris, also known as the North Star. Polaris is not a particularly bright star, but it does remain fixed in the sky throughout the night and throughout the year, When you face the North Star, you’re facing due north. Polaris is at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. This group of stars is also officially known as Ursa Minor the Little Bear.

As the Big Dipper appears lower in the northwestern sky night by night, Cassiopeia the Queen appears higher in the northeast. The central peak of this constellation’s W-shape also points you in the direction of Polaris.

Go back to the Big Dipper and follow its curved handle to trace an ‘arc’ to Arcturus, the orange colored star in Boötes the Herdsman. Then speed on to Spica, the single bright star in Virgo the Maiden. Neither of these constellations has any other bright stars. Even under dark skies away from city lights, it’s hard to imagine these mythological figures just by connecting the dots.

Not too far from Spica is the bright planet Jupiter. If you have binoculars, you may be able to see the giant planet’s four largest moons. Watch Jupiter’s moons over several nights to watch them orbit around their parent planet. If you have trouble steadying your binocular view on Jupiter, try leaning them up against the side of a building or another steady surface.

A small telescope not only shows the moons of Jupiter, but also its cloud bands. Jupiter has stripes! Look for a thin crescent Moon next to Jupiter on August 25. Watch as Jupiter sets slightly earlier every night.

Look almost straight overhead for the constellation Hercules and the globular cluster known as M-13. Four stars of Hercules make up a trapezoid shape many people call the Keystone. As the Keystone passes overhead, imagine it holding up the arch of the sky!

To the east, look for the three bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle. Low in the south you may find the bright red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion, and just to its left is the even brighter planet Saturn. A backyard telescope will easily reveal the rings of Saturn, but binoculars will only show the planet as looking slightly oval in shape. Under very dark skies, look for the Milky Way stretching from Scorpius through the Summer Triangle, Cassiopeia and on toward the northeast horizon.

Look to the east to for autumn constellations Pegasus the Flying Horse and Andromeda the Princess. Under dark skies, look for M-31, the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Try binoculars if you can’t see it with your unaided eyes. That faint smudge in the sky is a massive galaxy composed of hundreds of billions of stars, two million light years away from us.

Stay Up Late

As midnight approaches, the Big Dipper plunges towards the horizon and Cassiopeia rises higher. Pegasus and Andromeda rise higher, and the Milky Way magnificently stretches overhead.

A Look Ahead

As the Earth orbits the Sun throughout the year, the constellations rise and set just a little bit earlier every day. You won’t see much difference from night to night, but you will over the course of weeks or months. What we see in today’s pre-dawn sky is a preview of the early evening sky in later months. Go out before dawn this month for a look ahead at the early winter evening sky.

Just before dawn, our autumn constellations are high in the west.Winter constellation Orion the HunterTaurus the Bull, and Gemini the Twins are easily found in the east. Venus is now rising well before the Sun, and can be found in Gemini.

Perseid Meteor Shower

This month everyone may be focused on the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, but on the night of August 12 and morning of August 13, don’t miss the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseids typically put on a good show under dark skies, and this year the bright Moon rises late, near midnight. Even better, August 12 is a Saturday, so stay up late! Grab some lawn chairs, bug spray, and a few friends. Relax, face east, stargaze and meteor-watch! The darker the sky you’re under, the more ‘shooting stars’ you’ll see.

800 Fort Negley Blvd. Nashville, TN 37203
Hours: 10:00am - 5:00pm
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