TDOT: Plan Ahead, Stay off the Road to WatchStillman and Friedland want you to enjoy this upcoming rare and spectacular event safely. It is a great way to connect with your kids and teach them about basic astronomy in a fun and hands-on way. Remember to put safety first!
In the last day TDOT and NASA have both issued safety warnings in advance of next month’s total eclipse of the sun. Nashville is in the eclipse’s 70-mile-wide “totality path” and will experience 100% coverage of the sun. It is also the only major Tennessee city—and in the U.S.—which lies on the totality path. The moon will block the sun for nearly two minutes (1:56 to be exact). This will occur on at 1:27 p.m. CDT on Monday, August 21st.
State and Federal authorities want you to be prepared as the skies darken in midday and many take the time to watch the event. TDOT reminds everyone not to watch while driving nor to pull over on the side of the road, but to plan ahead and watch from a safe location.
Once you are outside getting ready to watch the eclipse, make sure everyone has the appropriate gear for observing the moon’s transit across the face of the sun. There are numerous companies offering eclipse glasses and viewers.
In a quick clip the TDOT also points out that you should not wear “eclipse glasses” while driving. We hope it is obvious that wearing these very dark glasses during an eclipse is like wearing sunglasses for night driving.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS), part of the National Science Foundation offers key safety tips so that you can watch the eclipse safely—without damaging your eyes. The AAS notes that only five (5) companies produce safety glasses and handheld devices which meet the criteria for eclipse viewing. If you buy, buy only approved devices, and use them alone. Do not double up and use safety glasses plus binoculars or any other lens. Do not use eclipse glasses if they are old or scratched.
Note that you can look directly at the totality without special eye protection, but must use it again once the totality ends. The beginning and end of the totality are apparent when you see the diamond ring effect—a corona of light around the moon with a “jewel” at one side—first disappear and afterwards reappear. During the totality it will be so dark that you will be able to see the stars!
If you do not want to lay out a lot of money for this brief event, you can use several other interesting indirect ways of viewing the eclipse.
• Pinhole viewing: Take two pieces of cardboard, and in one piece cut out a 2” hole, then tape a square of aluminum foil over it and make a pinhole in the foil. This is your viewer. The other piece is your screen. Stand with your back to the sun, and holding the pinhole viewer in front of you, let the light stream though to the screen. You will see a projection of the eclipse. Using a larger screen and holding it farther away will give you a larger image.
• Even your interlaced fingers will create pinhole viewers that project several eclipse images. Remember to keep your back to the sun.
• The spaces between leaves in trees are also pinhole viewers. If you stand in the shade of a large tree, multiple eclipse images can be seen projected on the ground.
• Lastly, if it is just too hot, stay cool! Austin Peay State University, in conjunction with NASA will be live-streaming coverage, so tune in and watch in comfort. There is also a high altitude balloon project involving 50 balloons which will follow and broadcast the path of moon shadow across the U.S.
Tennessee Tip: Outside the 70-mile path of the eclipse, the eclipse will be partial. However, Clarksville is the town which will see the longest total coverage in Tennessee, for 2:17 minutes. In fact, Clarksville is expecting a tourist crush of about 200,000 visitors just for the eclipse. There will be special events in Clarksville for the viewing including a talk by Murfreesboro native, astronaut Dr. Rhea Seddon on August 20th, the day before the eclipse. Information for viewing parties and other events are available here and here. If you plan on visiting friends or relatives for the event, prepare for heavy traffic and not a lot of free parking; some viewing parties include parking with entrance fees, free events may not offer parking, or it is on a first-come basis with no guarantee of a spot.
Don’t Forget: If you bring your kids to a big event, have a clear plan in case anyone gets lost.
Enjoy safe driving and safe viewing for this special experience!