(Photo: murfreesborotn.gov)

The Great Tennessee Eclipse at Middle Tennessee State University Aug. 21 will bring thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors to campus for the highly anticipated midday to early afternoon 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 (http://www.mtsu.edu/parking/documents/parking-map.pdf).

Live music on stage, live NASA and MTSU telescope feeds, solar eclipse education, safety tips, science building tours and more 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 http://www.mtsu.edu/eclipse/.

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 totality (total eclipse) will be able to view the sun’s corona. Observers outside the path will view a partial eclipse.

To learn how to safely view the eclipse, associate professor Chuck Higgins provides instructions by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEzgZJIr72Y.

Many are calling the eclipse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. MTSU is considered an “Official NASA Community Event” for people to view the eclipse.

“This eclipse is unusual, very unusual, in that it’s cutting right through populated areas,” said 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.

Physics and Astronomy Chair Ron Henderson delivered 10,000 glasses recently to Murfreesboro City and 50,000 to Rutherford County schools’ main offices for students’ use. Located at registration inside the Science Building, about 10,000 additional pairs of glasses will be available for free and while they last at 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,” Nicholson added.

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, both reopening January 2017.

Physics and Astronomy faculty held eclipse training for K-6 educators and principals of the Murfreesboro City School system during 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 MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment’s student-run label, Match Records. Student bands/performers include ones led by Brittney Spencer, Natalie Madigan and Jordyn Stoddard.

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

While the formal program will end around 2 p.m., students and visitors are 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.

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