NASA ambassador details August eclipse

Jake Old • Jun 20, 2017 at 5:46 PM

Theo Wellington, a NASA ambassador, explained Tuesday some of the details surrounding the total solar eclipse that will happen Aug. 21 as a guest speaker at the Lebanon Noon Rotary Club. 

A total solar eclipse means the moon will pass between the sun and the earth, casting a shadow over a significant portion of the earth.

Wilson County is along the total eclipse sight path, a 70-mile line that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. According to Wellington, Wilson County will see the total eclipse for about two-and-a-half minutes, while the process of the moon passing before the sun will take about 90 minutes.

The process will begin just before noon and total eclipse will be at about 1:27 p.m. Depending on the distance from the direct line of sight, the amount of time for the total eclipse will vary.

Other surrounding areas will see a partial eclipse, with unique shadows including crescent-shaped shadows, Wellington said.

For those interested in seeing the eclipse, special glasses are needed. These glasses will shut out all light, so only the sun can be seen. Once the eclipse enters the totality phase, the glasses will not be needed.

The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in Tennessee was 1869, Wellington said. Reports of sightings before the science was fully understood were interesting, she said.

“It’s very odd-looking, because it’s getting dark, but the sun is shining and there are no clouds, so you’re thinking ‘what in the world?’” she said.

“In the span of 10 minutes, it gets dark and you look back and the sun is just gone. There’s a black hole drilled into the sky with ethereal light shining in the sky.”

People would scream and shout at the sight, Wellington said.

“That has become a tradition now, to make noise when it happens,” she said.

Animals have a tendency to act unusual during an eclipse event, but the subject has not been intensely studied, Wellington said.

“People have seen dogs curl up like they’re going to sleep, chickens come in to roost,” Wellington said.

Wellington is passionate about science education and has been an assistant Science Olympiad coach for 12 years. She joined the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society in 2003. She has worked part time at Western Kentucky University, coordinating eclipse events for Kentucky kindergarten-12th grade students.

The next opportunity for Americans to see a total solar eclipse will be 2024, though the path will not come through Tennessee. It will stretch from Mexico through Arkansas and up into Illinois. The town of Carbondale, Ill., will be the only spot in America to be in the path of both eclipses.


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