NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — April 8th marks two years from another chance to watch a total solar eclipse in North America.
Middle Tennesseans and hundreds of thousands of visitors witnessed the rare phenomenon August 21, 2017.
Janet Ivey of Janet’s Planet was News 2’s eclipse expert. She once again has answered some questions about the next total solar eclipse.
“The first thing people should know about a total solar eclipse is that it entirely lives up to the hype, and it’s a phenomenal celestial event to witness,” Ivey told News 2. “After the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, I had a lady come up to me and say, ‘I kept thinking, what is all the fuss about? Until I saw it first hand, I thought this was more than I could have imagined I would see, sense and feel.'”
A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and Sun. “An eclipse doesn’t happen every month because the moon’s orbit is tilted about 5 degrees above or below the ecliptic plane of the Earth’s orbit,” explained Ivey.
She continued, “A total solar eclipse happens when a NEW moon happens to be on the same ecliptic plane of the Earth and then is able to block the Sun’s light.”
Ivey said it takes about 375 years for a total solar eclipse to happen again at the same location. “By comparison, a total lunar eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon, can be seen from any location approximately every 2.5 years.”
In 2024, however, the line of totality will not cross through the Volunteer State. The line of totality is when the entire sun is covered by the moon. That’s also when it’s safe to remove protective glasses and view the Sun’s corona for a few minutes.
Any Tennesseans wanting to experience the unforgettable event will have to travel to get a glimpse of the ring of fire. “To see two eclipses within seven years is lucky, but to have two eclipses grace the same cities and towns with the path of totality is really out of this world!” said Ivey.
According to Ivey, the overlap of the paths of totality of the 2017 and 2024 eclipses lies in three states: Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky.
But, she said Carbondale, Illinois seems to be especially celestially favored. In 2017, the city experienced 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality. In 2024, the area is expected to have 4 minutes and 9 seconds of totality.
“That’s truly amazing. From this point, both eclipses happen at almost the same time of day, with the sun in almost the same spot in the sky but with the totality nearly being double that of 2017,” Ivey said.
The eclipse will travel through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
“We will only have partial solar eclipse in Middle Tennessee on April 8, 2024, so go ahead and pick where you want to view it from.” Ivey added, “For me, I’m going to head South to Austin. More likelihood of sun and good weather!”
Ivey also shared what she remembered from covering the historic event back in 2017. “My favorite memory of that day is racing to the loading dock during a commercial break and literally feeling the wind from the flap of a flock of birds flying to roost, as if night had fallen. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the feel of the wind from those birds hurrying to nest, and the sharp 20-25 degree drop in temperature was amazing. I remember hearing crickets and the world had gone DARK in the middle of the day.”
She also fondly remembered answering questions at a gas station before heading to News 2 that day. “The clerk at the Circle K comes out and says, ‘You are that lady that keeps talking about the eclipse. Come inside I have questions.’ When I walked in and started to tell her that you must wear glasses prior to totality, but that it is safe to view the corona and the hole where the Sun should be during totality. I had suddenly amassed an audience and kept answering questions. It was a lovely moment when people were engaged about an event that we would all share even for a few minutes and share a bit of collective AWE.”
Ivey added, “I felt like the best science communicator ever that day all because the New Moon’s tilt was just right, to block out the Sun, and get everybody to look up and have a moment of wonder. Unforgettable.”
Following the 2024 event, the next time a total solar eclipse takes place over North America will be August 12, 2026.
Take a look back at the 2017 total solar eclipse
Check out these videos from viewers in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky who witnessed the eclipse of a lifetime on Monday, August 21, 2017.
You can learn more about the 2024 total solar eclipse by clicking on this link.