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Next solar eclipse for Tennessee is 549 years away
Dr. David Weintraub, professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, says the partial eclipse will begin Monday at 12:01 p.m. local time with totality beginning at 1:30 p.m. and ending at 1:32.

Make the most of The Great American Eclipse this Monday. You won’t get a chance to see a total eclipse here ever again.
“Everyone who does not sleep under a rock knows the big eclipse is coming: The Great American Eclipse of 2017,” said Dr. David Weintraub. “Most people in the country are going to be terribly disappointed because they aren’t getting a total eclipse and they don’t understand that. You’re getting a total eclipse, so enjoy it. The last total eclipse visible in this part of Tennessee was 539 years ago. The next one will occur in 549 years. I wasn’t here for the first one. I won’t be here for the next one. I think that goes for everyone. This is your chance. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Weintraub was the guest speaker during Thursday’s Rotary Club of McMinnville luncheon. He did clear up some misconceptions.
“Solar eclipses are not rare,” Weintraub said. “They occur with great regularity. There were 228 solar eclipses that occurred in the 20th century alone. Most solar eclipses occur over the ocean because 75 percent of the planet is ocean and most of the rest of the solar eclipses occur over the desert. Eclipses rarely come to where we are. We are very fortunate.”
An eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and sun. Because the moon is significantly smaller than the earth, the moon’s shadow is not big enough to swallow the earth. The moon’s shadow is just big enough for the tip of the shadow to touch the earth. That shadow, also called a band, will be 75 miles wide. People living within that 75 miles will see a total solar eclipse, while those outside it will see a partial solar eclipse.
“People living at the center of that shadow will receive 2 minutes and 42 seconds of totality,” said Weintraub. “Those living at the edge of the shadow will have a fraction of the time. The closer to the center, the longer the total solar eclipse will last. McMinnville will have a little bit less than two minutes of totality, about 1 minute and 48 seconds by my calculations of totality.”
According to his calculations, the partial eclipse will begin at 12:01 p.m., totality (when the sun is completely covered) will begin at 1:30 p.m. and end at 1:32, the partial eclipse will continue for the next hour and a half as the moon slowly passes.
Weintraub says just prior to 1:30 p.m. and just after 1:32 p.m. will be the times to watch the sun disappear intently, but before that time and after, look around.
“During the partial eclipse, the hour and a half leading up to totality, you’re not going to want to stare at the sun through your eclipse glasses for an hour and a half. Believe me. Look up periodically to see how the sun changes but you should be looking down. One of the things you will see are the images on the ground because they are truly exciting to see.”
Right before a total eclipse, little snake-like shadows will appear to slither across the ground. Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes the phenomenon. Also, trees cast pinhole reflections of the eclipse with their leaves.
Look for Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Venus as they will be visible during the eclipse.
“This will be the only chance in most people’s lives to see Mercury,” said Weintraub. “Most have never seen it. Mercury is located to the left of the sun and Mars is located to right.”
As 1:30 p.m. draws near, look toward the eclipse. Just before and after totality, you might see:
• Bailey’s Beads, which are pearls of sunlight shining through the valleys and mountains of the moon. They are around the edges of the moon as it passes over the sun.
• Diamond ring effect. If only one Bailey’s Bead is visible, it looks like a diamond ring.
• Corona rainbows, which looks like a rainbow encircling the sun.
• Solar Corona, an aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other stars.
• Coronal loops, which are bright, curving structures that appear as arcs above the sun’s surface.
• Helmet streamers, which as bright loop-like structures which develop over active regions on the sun.
Weintraub urges the use of eclipse glasses in looking at a partial eclipse and the only safe time to remove them is during the 1 minute and 48 second totality.
“As soon as totality ends, you need to put the glasses back on,” said Weintraub. “This is the hard part. I think a lot of parents are scared their children will look up at the sun and blind themselves and they aren’t going to let the children take them off during totality. If they don’t, they will see nothing. You are completely safe to look at the sun with the naked eye during the minute and a half, but only during that time.”
Weintraub is a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University.