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Two Solar Eclipses on the Way


Two Solar Eclipses on the Way

By Adventure Science Center

Many of you will remember the last total solar eclipse in the U.S., on August 21, 2017. If you were standing in just the right spot at just the right time, you would have seen the Moon covering up the face of the Sun, leaving nothing but the outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, visible.

The path of totality, where the Moon cast a shadow on the Earth, passed right through Nashville on that day. As it turned out, here at Adventure Science Center, not only was the Sun covered up by the Moon, but also by a very poorly timed, puffy grey cloud. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the corona. But, we did see the Sun reduced to an extremely thin crescent. As totality began, the weather cooled, we saw a bright star or two appear, and we heard birds and insects react to the unusually early dark sky. It was an incredible event, even if we missed the corona. Many other people from around Middle Tennessee and beyond saw an unforgettable sight.

There are two more solar eclipses on the way. The first will be Saturday, October 14, 2023. This eclipse is called an ‘annular’ solar eclipse. It would be total, except for the fact that the Moon will be just a little too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. From the right spot, you’ll see an ‘annulus’ – the Sun will look like a ring of light, with the Moon blocking out just the center.

To see the annulus, you’ll definitely have to travel from Tennessee. The path stretches from Oregon to Texas. From Nashville, we will see only 52% of the Sun blocked by the Moon. It will still be an amazing event worth your attention, but it won’t be like 2017.

But, mark your calendars! Another total solar eclipse is on the way to North America. The total solar eclipse of Monday, April 8, 2024 won’t be total in Nashville. We will see 95% of the Sun’s face covered by the Moon. That’s nearly total – but if you want the full experience (and believe us, you do), you’ll have to do some traveling to a spot along the path of totality. The path stretches from Mexico to Texas to Maine, and on to parts of northeastern Canada.

Learning how to view solar eclipses safely is very important. When the Sun is completely blocked by the Moon, and only the corona remains visible, it is safe to watch with your own eyes. In fact, it’s one of the most spectacular sights in nature.

But, if any portion of the brilliant surface of the Sun is visible, you need proper eye protection, like eclipse glasses. Or, you can project the image of the partially covered sun onto a piece of paper or on the ground. Remember: it's never safe to look directly at the Sun's surface, whether it's during an eclipse or not. This will be true for both eclipses as seen from Nashville.

In April and May this year, visit Adventure Science Center to see Sudekum Planetarium’s own production, Eclipse: The Sun Revealed, to learn more about eclipses, and how to watch them safely. As we get closer to the next two eclipse days, you’ll hear more from us about eclipse glasses and other safe viewing techniques, and events we’ll have planned for both eclipse days. We hope to see you in the shadow of the Moon!

Additional Resources:

Image credits: NASA/Scientific Visualization Studio/Michala Garrison; eclipse calculations by Ernie Wright, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center




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