As both a physics professor and science guy, Dr. Bob Marlowe is pretty wired about next week’s total solar eclipse.
The “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and “historical moment” is so special, in fact, he and Jack Pitkin, operations manager at UTC’s Clarence T. Jones Observatory, are heading to the campus of Tennessee Wesleyan University in Athens, Tenn., for the event.
The school is one of the spots in Tennessee where the eclipse will be 100 percent, meaning the entire sun will be blocked by the moon. Chattanooga, in comparison, is expected to be about 99 percent.
Any student majoring or minoring physics is invited, he says.
“We will be taking our telescopes, which are small but with good solar filters,” Marlowe says.
In most parts of Southeast Tennessee, the total eclipse will start about 2:30 p.m. and last about two minutes and 40 seconds. But the moon will start creeping onto the sun from the left a little over an hour prior to that, then creep off the right side in another hour or so.
For physics students, there won’t be a whole lot of information to be learned from the eclipse, Marlowe says. It’ll just be really cool to see.
With any luck, the 100 percent eclipse will produce Baily’s beads and a “diamond ring,” he explains.
As the total eclipse dissipates, sunlight will course through the mountains, valleys and canyons of the moon, often creating random dots of light along its edge. The dots are known as Baily’s beads, named after English astronomer Francis Baily, who first made note of them in 1836.
And sometimes, one of the beads will erupt into a single flash of light and, with the rest of the sun’s corona still peeking around the moon’s edge, it looks like a diamond on a ring.