On Monday, Aug. 21, students will gather on Lipscomb University’s campus to attend the first day of classes for the fall semester.
As the new school year officially commences, Lipscomb students will have the opportunity to kick off the semester with a truly unique experience.
On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will pass over the United States, Nashville and Lipscomb’s campus. Dubbed 'The Great American Eclipse,' the Aug. 21 total eclipse will be the largest to cross the United States in almost a century.
“A solar eclipse is where the moon moves into the line between the sun and the earth, thus blocking the light from the sun,” said Alan Bradshaw, Lipscomb University physics professor. “On Aug. 21, at about noon in Nashville, the moon will begin moving in front of the sun and it will have completely crossed the path by about 3:00 p.m., so for three hours on that day, we'll experience the eclipse.”
While total solar eclipses aren’t uncommon, Bradshaw said, with one occurring somewhere on earth about every 18 months, actually viewing one is rare.
“A particular location on earth only sees a total eclipse every 375 years, on average,” he said. “Of course, that's only an average. For instance, Carbondale, Illinois, is in the path of totality along with Nashville for this eclipse and also in the path of totality for the next total eclipse in the US in 2024. On the other hand, Los Angeles, California won't see a total eclipse until the year 3290!”
For the 2017 eclipse, Nashville is the largest city wholly in the path of totality, which, although stretching from Oregon to West Virginia, only spans about 60-70 miles wide. However, an estimated 40 million people live within 100 miles of the path of totality, so The Great American Eclipse offers a very rare chance for many Americans to see a total eclipse, Bradshaw said.
At around 1:25 p.m., Nashville will experience an estimated total of 1 minute and 57 seconds of totality. During this time, the moon will completely block the sunlight and watchers will be able to look directly at the sun, no glasses required.
“In fact, you’ll have to take your glasses off,” Bradshaw said. “You won’t be able to see anything with the viewing glasses on. It will get as black as night outside and noticeably cooler.” Until totality begins, however, special glasses should be worn when looking at the partial eclipse.
Lipscomb students can count themselves among those lucky enough to view the 2017 total solar eclipse. While the eclipse does coincide with afternoon classes, Lipscomb’s provost Craig Bledsoe recently informed university students that 1:00 p.m. classes will be dismissed early on Aug. 21 so that students may view the total eclipse.
Special glasses will be provided to students for free, and special activities and presentations will also occur throughout the day to mark the special event. Details and times for the events will be announced in the coming weeks.
Pictures provided by NASA.gov