East Tennessee experts answer questions about total solar eclipse

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – East Tennessee is two weeks away from experiencing a total solar eclipse, the first one since 1869.

“What they’re going to see, words can’t even explain,” UT Professor Mark Littmann, Ph.D, said. “Neither can the pictures.”

Not everyone in the area will be soaking in the full event.

“Knoxville is very close to totality. It is a 99.9 percent, depending on where you are, partial eclipse,” UT Astronomy Coordinator Sean Lindsay, Ph.D., said. “And a partial eclipse versus a total eclipse, even if it’s 99.9 partial eclipse, is a day to night difference and you really want the night here.”

More: Map tells you exactly when, how long you’ll see total solar eclipse of 2017

Experts say all people have to do is drive 20 minutes for the experience to go from partial eclipse to a total one. Observers in Maryville and Farragut, for example, will view a total solar eclipse for 90 seconds or more.

As people prepare for the historic event, they are gathering their eye protection. Experts say it’s important to get the proper eyewear to protect their eyes from the sun.

“Sunglasses are not useful for protecting your eyes from the partial eclipse of the sun, even sunglasses on top of sunglasses, not nearly enough to protect your eyes,” Littmann said. “These eclipse glasses block out about 10,000 times as much light as they let in.”

As the moon moves across the sun, observers will notice something unique: what experts call the “diamond ring effect.”

“This eclipse, as any total eclipse will, will produce a diamond ring effect,” Littmann said. “So like a wedding ring or an engagement ring effect, where a bright jewel is there at the edge of the moon covering the sun.”

Though the main event will only last a few minutes, those who have experienced an eclipse before say it’s a memory that will last a lifetime.

“Getting to see a total solar eclipse is one of those rare opportunities for pretty much everybody,” Lindsay said. “Seeing one is truly a life-changing experience. This one of the items that should be near the top of your bucket list.”

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