Eclipse 2017: What You Need to Know About Safety

T minus 18 days. On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse—when the disk of the moon completely covers the sun—will be visible in the United States along a path from central Oregon through Tennessee and on to South Carolina.

In Tennessee, many points to the south and southwest of Knoxville will experience a total eclipse. Knoxville, however, will have only a 99.75 percent partial eclipse.

UT experts are providing tips on how East Tennesseans can view the eclipse safely and protect their eyes, wherever they’re viewing.

Related: Everything You Need to Know about Eclipse 2017

The university will host a Solar Sun Day from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 6, on the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building. The event is free and open to the public. Participants will observe the sun through telescopes and will learn about the August 21 total eclipse and how to build devices for viewing the sun indirectly. They also will see an eclipse simulation in UT’s planetarium and receive a free pair of solar glasses.

“Do not consider sunglasses as a safety mechanism for looking at the sun,” said Paul Lewis, director of space science outreach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who will lead Solar Sun Day.

Sean Lindsay, astronomy coordinator and lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, noted that during the total eclipse, it goes from as bright as day to as dark as dark twilight in a matter of minutes.

“Your brain is not ready to handle this, because all of a sudden it is nighttime in the middle of the day,” Lindsay said. “You can see some of the bright stars. Even more strange is when you look up and where there used to be a sun, it literally looks like there is a black hole in the sky.”

Then comes the most important part of a total solar eclipse: the corona, which is a brilliantly glowing white light—almost like a halo—around the sun. It is the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere and never seen except during a total eclipse.

Up to this point, solar glasses are needed to view the eclipse safely, Lindsay said. The corona is the only part of a total solar eclipse that is safe to view with the naked eye. Solar glasses are also a requirement for those viewing a partial eclipse. The solar glasses are made up of black polymer that blocks out everything but the sun. Learn more about how to get solar glasses.

CONTACT:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)