With total solar eclipse nearing, MTSU ready for A...

With total solar eclipse nearing, MTSU ready for Aug. 21 event

From assembling a large stage to providing live musicians performing on it and from hot dogs to safety precautions, Middle Tennessee State University is anticipating thousands of total solar eclipse enthusiasts descending upon campus Monday, Aug. 21.

MTSU will entertain visitors attending the Great Tennessee Eclipse, an official NASA viewing site for the Greater Nashville Area from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. in the green space along the Science Corridor of Innovation in the heart of campus.

The free public event will feature a main stage with video screens, musical performances and eclipse-related presentations on stage and around the grounds. Hot and mostly sunny weather is being forecast for viewing the 1 minute and 5 seconds of total eclipse around 1:29 p.m. and the partial eclipse before and after.

Kindergarten teacher Jeania Smith uses special lens filter binoculars and holds the special glasses for the Great Tennessee Eclipse event Aug. 21 on the MTSU campus.

Jeania Smith, a kindergarten teacher at David Youree Elementary School in Smyrna, Tenn., uses special lens filter binoculars to view the sun and holds the special glasses that will be available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21, for the Great Tennessee Eclipse event on campus. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

The coast-to-coast path of the total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The last one to pass through the region was nearly 540 years ago; the next one is 549 years away.

The website features plenty of information. The site includes a map of the event site and another showing the approximately 70-mile wide path of the total eclipse as it crosses from Kentucky into Tennessee.

Those unable to come to MTSU to see the Great Tennessee Eclipse event in person can watch it on Facebook Live at and Livestream at

It also will be broadcast on TV from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the following areas:

  • Comcast Channel 9 in Rutherford County.
  • ATT U-Verse Channel 99 in Middle Tennessee.
  • DTC Communications Channel 195 in Alexandria, Tennessee.
  • United Communication Channel 206 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
  • Roku in the PEG.TV community television section (click on MTSU in the Education row).

Nearly 20 additional areas across the country — from Stow, Massachusetts, to Yuma, Arizona, George Mason University and others — have requested and will receive live coverage through TelVue.

Five television stations across the state — WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, WKRN-TV News 2 and WTVF NewsChannel5 in Nashville, WRCB-TV in Chattanooga and WCYB-TV in Tri-Cities — have requested and plan to air live HD satellite feeds from MTSU and its Mobile Production Truck in the College of Media and Entertainment.

MTSU’s Audio/Visual Services and the Education Resource Channel (Channel 9) in MTSU’s Center for Educational Media in the College of Education are supplying satellite and distribution to broadcasters and the center’s feed to TelVue.

A timeline for the day’s events includes:

  • 8 a.m. — Campus opens to the public.
  • 11 a.m. — Event activities begin along with safety-glasses distribution at registration areas outside the Science Building and near the main stage. (Please note that no eclipse glasses will be distributed before 11 a.m.) A map and eclipse schedule will be available. NASA and MTSU telescope feeds will be on the main stage screen. Four groups from the College of Media and Entertainment’s Match Records will provide music.
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Self-guided tours in the science buildings. Watch the eclipse on telescopes. Eclipse-related presentations will be available in Science Building Room 1006. They include “The End Has Come … Again: Apocalypticism in American Religious History” with Andy Polk; “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars: A Brief Cultural History” with Susan Myers-Shirk; and “Ancient Greek Astronomy and the Invention of Philosophy” with Ron Bombardi.
  • 12:30 p.m. — Welcome and other information from the main stage.
  • 12:45 to 1:15 p.m. — Department of Physics and Astronomy chair Ron Henderson and faculty members Chuck Higgins and John Wallin will share eclipse history, facts, safety information and have a question-and-answer dialogue from the main stage.
  • 1:15 p.m. — Final safety reminders will lead into a total eclipse countdowns from the stage.
  • 1:29 p.m. — Total solar eclipse begins.
  • 1:35 to 1:40 p.m. — Wrap-up and discussions from the main stage.

Safety, food and drink, parking and more

MTSU officials encourage the public to bring water and food, wear sunscreen and use only approved safety glasses. No special glasses will needed during the minute-long total eclipse. The public’s also welcome to bring chairs and picnic blankets to sit on the grassy areas around the event.

Nashville’s Turner Construction, which built the Science Building that opened in 2014, sponsored the safety glasses distributed to city and county school students and those that will be distributed on-site Monday.

Murfreesboro Fire/Rescue and Police and Rutherford County Sheriff’s personnel will join MTSU police in providing safety and security.

All campus buildings will be open for the public to use restrooms and water fountains. Portable restrooms will be located between Keathley University Center and the McWherter Learning Resources Center and near the science buildings.

In the KUC Grill, MT Dining will sell hot dogs, chips, water and soft drinks. Food venues will be open in the Student Union. The KUC Theater will serve as a cooling area where NASA Television will be shown on the screen. Other cooling areas include Room 102 in the Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Room 100 in the Davis Science Building.

Public parking will be available in the Champion Way and MTSU Boulevard garages and in the Cummings, Greenhouse/Student Union, and Softball lots. The MTSU and Rutherford lots, which border Rutherford Boulevard, will be available if needed.

The public should enter campus from Rutherford Boulevard at Alumni Drive on the east side of campus.

To find free parking and the event site, a printable campus map is available at

— Randy Weiler (

An MTSU professor’s 10 tips for viewing the solar eclipse

Dr. Chuck Higgins

Dr. Chuck Higgins

MTSU Department of Physics and Astronomy associate professor Chuck Higgins provides 10 tips for viewing the Monday, Aug. 21, total solar eclipse. He encourages people to have a fun but safe experience.

  1. Approved solar eclipse glasses must be worn anytime when looking directly at the sun — except during the total solar eclipse. You have from about noon to 1:28 p.m. to watch the slowly changing partial eclipse. You will have from 1:30 to 2:55 p.m. after totality to look at the partial phases of the sun. Again, put those glasses on!
  2. Obviously, if you are not looking directly at the sun you don’t need these glasses.
  3. During the partial phases, look at the shadows cast by the trees. Trees act like a pinhole camera, and you will see hundreds of crescent suns cast onto the ground. That’s cool!
  4. Put the solar eclipse glasses over any normal glasses you are wearing, i.e., solar glasses on the outside of your normal vision glasses. As soon as the last “blob” of light disappears on the edge of the sun, you can take your solar eclipse glasses off.
  5. Totality (the total eclipse). Yes, look directly at the sun without eclipse glasses during the approximately 1 minute, 5 seconds of totality. It is safe.
  6. Right before totality and without the glasses on, look away from the sun at the distant sky in the west. You may notice the shadow of the moon moving toward you in the sky. This is very cool to see. It will come from the northwest toward the southeast.
  7. During totality, look for planets and stars out in the sky. Venus is the brightest object to the right and Jupiter is out to the left. Look at the halo of light around the sun (the corona). It is beautiful. Notice the sun looks like a black hole in the sky. Amazing and so strange!
  8. Also during totality, notice how the temperature cools off. Notice what the animals are doing. Birds will stop chirping and go silent as if at evening roost. You might hear people screaming with delight in the distance.
  9. It is safe to take pictures with your cellphone during totality but not before or after. Don’t try to take pictures — they will not turn out very well and you will miss the great experience. Enjoy the one minute of awesomeness!
  10. As soon as the first “blob” of light comes back, put the eclipse glasses back on. Again, you may notice the shadow of the moon rushing away from you in the sky.

NASA names MTSU among official viewing sites for Aug. 21 solar eclipse

The Great Tennessee Eclipse at MTSU, a public open house on campus to discuss and watch the Aug. 21 solar totality, has been designated by NASA as one of its six official viewing sites in the greater Nashville area.

In a letter announcing the selection, C. Alex Young, principal investigator of the agency’s Total Solar Eclipse 2017 efforts, thanked the university for “collaborating with NASA to engage your audience in activities and observation.”

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

NASA will provide MTSU with materials that the university will use and distribute at its Aug. 21 event, organized by the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and presented by Turner Construction. You can read about NASA’s efforts at

“We are pleased our viewing event has earned notice from NASA,” said President Sidney A. McPhee. “This will be a remarkable opportunity for visitors on our campus to learn about this phenomenon and gain the insight of our faculty from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.”

On Aug. 21, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun for the first time since 1979. However, the path of totality, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s corona, can only be seen along a band that stretches from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, and includes Nashville, Murfreesboro and other Middle Tennessee communities.

Click the image to view the interactive map showing NASA’s official viewing sites of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. (Courtesy of NASA)

Click the image to view the interactive map showing NASA’s official viewing sites of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. (Courtesy of NASA)

MTSU’s event, which will be held in the green space in front of the new Science Building, will include a music stage featuring student bands from Match Records, the student label in the College of Media and Entertainment, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; self-guided tours of the three-building Science Corridor of Innovation; and various science-information tents on the grounds with activities run by our faculty.

From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., the music stage will feature a science show with professors prepping the crowd for the solar phenomenon. The totality will be at 1:29 p.m. and last about a minute.

Protective eclipse-viewing glasses, provided by Turner, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for free at the event. Turner, which oversaw construction of the Science Building and the renovation of other buildings along the MTSU Science Corridor of Innovation, donated 50,000 pairs of eclipse glasses to students in the Murfreesboro City and Rutherford County school systems.

Information about parking, event site access and other important details for the event can be found at

— Andrew Oppmann (

With thousands expected, MTSU to host Great Tennessee Eclipse Aug. 21

July 26, 2017

The Great Tennessee Eclipse at Middle Tennessee State University, set Wednesday, Aug. 21, will bring thousands of youngsters and other visitors to campus for the highly anticipated natural phenomenon.

MTSU, the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and its Department of Physics and Astronomy will host a four-hour solar eclipse observing party.

Thousands of Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools students have been invited to attend the event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, in the green space along the Science Corridor of Innovation in the heart of campus. A parking map is available at

Live music on stage, live NASA and MTSU telescope feeds, solar eclipse education, safety tips and Science Building tours will be on the agenda as attendees await the anticipated 1-minute, 5-second total solar eclipse — weather permitting — just before 1:30.

For more on the Great Tennessee Eclipse, including campus events, teacher resources, solar eclipse science and frequently asked questions, visit

Great Tennessee Solar Eclipse

The path of the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, passes through Murfreesboro. MTSU hosts the Great Tennessee Eclipse party on campus. (Map provided by NASA)

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon casts a shadow on Earth, blocking the sun’s light in some areas. Observers within the path of the total eclipse will be able to view the sun’s corona. Observers outside the path will view a partial eclipse.

MTSU associate professor Chuck Higgins provides safe viewing instructions in the video above.

Many are calling the eclipse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. MTSU’s day of activities are an “Official NASA Community Event” for safe and fun eclipse viewing.

Dr. Bud Fischer

Dr. Mark Byrnes

Dr. Mark Byrnes

“This eclipse is unusual, very unusual, in that it’s cutting right through populated areas,” said Dr. Bud Fischer, dean of the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences. “Frankly, if you don’t make the effort to experience it, you will miss the event of a lifetime.”

MTSU interim Provost Mark Byrnes said the university is “excited to host local schoolchildren and community members, as well as our own students and employees, to witness this incredibly rare eclipse.

“We will have faculty experts on hand to give context to the event and will offer other fun, educational activities,” he added. “Aug. 21 will be a great day on campus.”

Byrnes and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee will be among those welcoming visitors to campus.

Corporate sponsor Turner Construction of Nashville purchased 70,000 eclipse-viewing safety glasses to distribute to visitors on eclipse day.

Dr. Ron Henderson, chair of physics and astronomy at MTSU, delivered 10,000 glasses recently to Murfreesboro City Schools and 50,000 to Rutherford County Schools’ main offices for students’ use. About 10,000 additional pairs of glasses will be available free, while they last, at registration inside the Science Building for the campus viewing party.

“We value our longstanding relationship with MTSU and the opportunity to serve as a trusted construction partner of the university,” said Matt Nicholson, Turner Construction manager of business development. “That relationship extends beyond our construction projects as we enjoy opportunities to support MTSU through various events that benefit the university.”

“Our sponsorship of the solar eclipse event is another great example of our commitment to partner with MTSU by engaging in this exciting event for the campus community.”

Turner Construction oversaw the construction of the $147 million Science Building that opened in fall 2014 and the $20 million in renovations for Davis Science Building and Wiser-Patten Science Hall. Davis and Wiser-Patten science facilities reopened in January 2017.

Physics and Astronomy Chair Ron Henderson

Dr. Ron Henderson

Physics and astronomy faculty conducted eclipse training for K-6 educators and principals of the Murfreesboro City School system in June and will have additional on-campus training Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

MTSU faculty and students also have developed lesson plans for K-12 teachers and made that curriculum freely available. Lesson plans and teacher training details are available at the MTSU eclipse website.

Six telescopes, two hydrogen alpha telescopes and two pair of binoculars will be available for visitors to use.

Music will be provided by the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment’s student-run label, Match Records. Student bands/performers scheduled to appear include groups led by Brittney Spencer, Natalie Madigan and Jordyn Stoddard.

Light snacks and water will be sold on-site. All events and parking are free. Visitors driving cars to campus should follow the signs for parking.

The formal program will end around 2 p.m., but students and visitors will be welcome to stay until 3 p.m. and visit the observatory and talk to MTSU’s astronomy experts.

A panel of astronomy experts will discuss the eclipse starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, in Science Building Room 1006. The public is invited.

Special 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 solar eclipse-related Friday Star Parties will be held in McWherter Learning Resources Center Room 221. The public is welcome to attend.

For more information, call 615-898-2130.

— Randy Weiler (


Special August MTSU Star Parties, panel  discussion planned before eclipse

In anticipation of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is planning two special Friday Star Parties and an on-campus panel discussion with leading U.S. astronomers one day before the natural phenomenon occurs.

The Star Parties will be held starting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 in McWherter Learning Resources Center Room 221. Because of the heightened interest in the total solar eclipse, both are at a special time and location.

The 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, panel discussion will be held in Science Building Room 1006.

Dr. Irina Perevalova

Irina Perevalova

To find the LRC, Science Building and parking, visit

The public is invited to all three events. MTSU Star Parties are a way for the department to bring the campus, Murfreesboro and surrounding communities together, with faculty sharing about planets, the sun and moon and other celestial objects and phenomena.

For more on campus events related to the Great Tennessee Eclipse, visit To learn how to safely view the eclipse from associate professor Chuck Higgins, visit

Lecturer Irina Perevalova will discuss “History and Science of Solar Eclipses” during her Friday, Aug. 4, Star Party. A Russia native, Perevalova earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Alabama. She secured lunar rock samples that were shown at MTSU in 2013.

Dr. John Wallin

Professor John Wallin will share “Observing and Photographing the Solar Eclipse” in his Friday, Aug. 11, talk.

“Bring your cameras, tripods and binoculars for a hands-on practice session,” said Wallin, an astrophysicist who studies interacting galaxies and the gravitational force of objects at the edge of our solar system. He also is director in MTSU’s Ph.D. in Computational Science program.

Dr. Robert Neimeroff

Dr. Robert Neimeroff

“If you can take a good picture of a full moon, you can take a good picture of the eclipse,” said Wallin, who will also discuss what to expect during the total eclipse.

Weather permitting, Star Party attendees will later move to the observatory.

Robert “Bob” Nemiroff, professor of physics at Michigan Technological University, will headline a virtual “all-star” field participating in the panel discussion. He is one of the creators and editors of the Astronomy Picture of the Day website,

Other expected panelists include Jim Thieman, a retired NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientist and researcher; and the husband-and-wife tandem of Thomas Beach from the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and Joyce Guzik, lab fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

— Randy Weiler (

The Nov. 3, 2013, total solar eclipse, as taken in Gabon, Africa. Middle Tennessee will be in direct line for the Monday, Aug. 21, total eclipse. MTSU has events leading up to the solar eclipse. (File photo by Jay Pasachoff, Allen Davis, Vojtech Rusin and Miloslav Druckmüller)