Vanderbilt class preps students for rare total eclipse in Nashvi - WSMV News 4

Vanderbilt class preps students for rare total eclipse in Nashville

Posted: Updated: Jun 06, 2017 11:14 PM
(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)

For the first time in 99 years, the United States will experience a total eclipse of the sun. 

Last time Nashville was not in its path. This time, we're front and center.

The rare event happens Aug. 21. The moon will pass in front of the sun, blocking its light for up to two minutes and 42 seconds. 

Everyone in the U.S. will at least experience a partial eclipse, but the speed of the eclipse's shadow slows down near Nashville.

If you live in the area between the two blue lines on this chart, consider yourselves lucky. You will see a total solar eclipse. The closer you are to the red line, the longer you get to experience total darkness.

"The greatest duration of the entire eclipse is two minutes, 40.2 seconds," said Dr. Susan Stewart, adjoint assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. "So we are only .2 seconds off of that here in Nashville. That's why it's such a big draw. You get your most time in the darkness in this area of the country."

Stewart is teaching a short-term class on the eclipse at Vanderbilt, part of the university's efforts to maximize this momentous experience for students.

"They're very rarely over such populated places, which is why it's so exciting," Stewart added.

"At about 1:27 p.m, whatever the weather it is that day, maybe it's bright out," said student Josh Philips. "All of a sudden it will go pitch black for about a minute and a half. If I was here, I'd probably have a panic attack. Then a minute and a half later, it'll be bright again. That just sounds pretty crazy."

"It's going to get dark," Stewart said. "We're gonna see stars. The animals are going to start roosting. The winds will slack, and the temperatures will drop. It's going to be really exciting."

An astronomer with the US Naval Observatory, Stewart will also help a Vanderbilt engineering team launch a high altitude balloon, one of 52 teams selected by NASA to help live stream the eclipse from 100,000 feet on the edge of space.

"If we get good weather that day and this maximum duration for this eclipse, it's going to be wonderful," Stewart said. "It will stop people in their tracks for sure."

The event will starts around noon, and it will slowly get darker as the moon covers the sun.

Totality, meaning the sun is completely covered, which is very rare, starts at 1:27 p.m.

In Nashville, totality will last a minute and a half. A little farther north into Kentucky, totality will last a full two minutes, 39 seconds.

The whole event will end around 2:50 p.m.

Viewers will need special glasses to safely experience the eclipse.

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