Although meteor showers and comets are undoubtedly captivating to observe, no celestial occurrence is as stunning as a total solar eclipse. This is largely due to the infrequency of such an event compared to other types of eclipses. The forthcoming 2024 total solar eclipse is anticipated to be exceptionally remarkable and awe-inspiring.
Given that the total solar eclipse will only pass over a small portion of Northwest Tennessee, just a handful of locations are optimal for observing this incredible phenomenon.
Whether you are a Tennesseean or a visitor, this guide provides all the necessary details about the eclipse, including when and where to witness the 2024 total solar eclipse in the Volunteer State.
On April 8, 2024, the total solar eclipse is set to cross over Tennessee starting at approximately 2:59 p.m. EDT and concluding at 3:00 p.m. EDT. It is important to note that the partial eclipse will begin earlier and end later than the total eclipse.
What Is an Eclipse?
An eclipse occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth align, causing a change in the appearance of the sun and moon as viewed from Earth. Our planet’s position in the solar system enables us to observe this intriguing celestial event.
Regrettably, eclipses — especially total solar eclipses — are becoming increasingly rare over time. This is due to the gradual movement of the moon away from Earth, resulting in less of the sun being blocked when the moon passes between it and our planet. In the distant future, total solar eclipses will eventually cease to occur altogether.
Interesting Eclipse Facts
We have gathered some of the most captivating facts about eclipses, among the countless ones to discover:
- The term “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “the darkening of a heavenly body,” “the downfall,” or “the abandonment.”
- The oldest known record of an eclipse dates back to 3340 B.C. and is found on circular stone carvings in Meath Ireland.
- A total eclipse occurs approximately every 1.5 years, but on average, it only occurs once every 360 years at the same location.
- If the moon’s orbit were perfectly circular, a total solar eclipse would happen during every new moon.
- Only partial solar eclipses can be seen from the North and South Poles.
- The longest total solar eclipse on record lasted almost 7.5 minutes and occurred on June 15, 743 B.C.
- Despite traveling the world for 50 years in search of eclipses, Canadian astronomer J.W. Campbell never witnessed one due to cloudy skies.
- Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of Feb. 29, 1504, to persuade the natives of Jamaica to help him, threatening to cut off the moon’s light if they refused.
When & Where Is the 2024 Path of Totality in Tennessee?
On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse is set to occur. The path of totality pertains to the region where the moon’s shadow blocks out the sun entirely. And even cities situated near but outside of this path will still witness a partial solar eclipse. Here are all the details about when and where to go.
Where to Go
NOTE: Pulling over on the side of TN-22 or one of its side roads may be the best option to see the 2024 total solar eclipse in Tennessee.
Upon departing from Missouri and crossing the Mississippi River, the eastern/southern boundary of the total eclipse path will pass over a strangely shaped piece of Tennessee and Kentucky lands created by the river’s curves. It’s only about a 4-mile stretch across the Volunteer State before it returns to Missouri and then Kentucky again.
When it comes to roadways, the eastern/southern line of the path of totality will cross over the intersection of TN-22 and Pea Ridge Road. So, anywhere through Slough Landing Neck and to the north will have ideal totality conditions. The sides of the road are pretty clear of trees, so you won’t have trouble finding a clear view of the phenomenon.
The closest town to this area is Tiptonville, whose center is actually south of the path of totality. Downtown has Bean Me Up for coffee, tea, sandwiches, snacks, and more to take with you on the drive north.
If you want to stay in the area, a few campgrounds and resorts are located along the Blue Basin to the east of Tiptonville. Staying overnight will give you a chance to explore Reelfoot Lake State Park — a flooded forest of Cypress trees with boating, fishing, hiking trails, camping, wildlife viewing, and events throughout the year, such as deep swamp canoe trips during spring.
Also, Tiptonville is home to several stops on the Great River Road Trail — a scenic trail of natural areas and high bluffs in West Tennessee, as well as small towns with Civil War and other dramatic stories. The Tiptonville stops include memorials, parks, historic buildings, and museums.
When to Go
The partial eclipse will start in this northwest corner of Tennessee at 1:41 p.m. and will end at 4:16 p.m. Then, totality will begin at 2:58 p.m. (almost 2:59 p.m.). The duration of totality will be about 1 minute and 10 seconds before it ends at 3:00 p.m. The closer that you get to the northern border with Kentucky, the longer that totality will last, but the difference is only seconds.
NOTE: It’s worth noting that the partial eclipse will happen over an hour before totality. To ensure a stress-free and enjoyable experience, we recommend arriving at your chosen destination well in advance.
What Makes the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse So Exceptional?
Despite the United States witnessing a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, the 2024 total solar eclipse is particularly remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, total solar eclipses typically do not occur so closely together or pass over as many regions and states.
And before the 2017 eclipse, the last coast-to-coast eclipse took place on June 8, 1918. After the 2024 eclipse, the next coast-to-coast eclipse will not occur until Aug. 12, 2045.
Thirdly, the 2024 eclipse will cross 13 states, entering from Southern Texas and exiting from Aroostook County Maine. This will provide people in states that did not witness the 2017 eclipse with the chance to observe this extraordinary cosmic event.
Moreover, the 2024 eclipse will pass over several major cities across North America, with totality lasting up to 4 minutes and 27 seconds — almost double the duration of the 2017 eclipse. In most cities, the eclipse will last between 3.5 to 4 minutes.
Lastly, the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse will span three countries — Mexico, the United States, and Canada — with the longest duration of totality occurring over the United States.
What Should You Expect During a Total Solar Eclipse?
As you witness the 2024 total solar eclipse, you will encounter various phases. To help you prepare for what’s to come, here’s a brief summary of each stage.
At first, you will observe the gradual movement of the moon as it passes between the Earth and the sun, also known as “first contact.” As the moon moves in front of the sun, you will typically witness a partial eclipse that lasts for about 70 to 80 minutes.
Shadow Bands & Baily’s Beads
During the moments leading up to and following totality, you will notice rapidly moving, dark bands on the ground and structures. These shadow bands are produced by the turbulent cells in the Earth’s upper atmosphere that distort the sun’s light. They can be difficult to observe and capture on camera.
Simultaneously, you will witness shining points of light called Baily’s Beads around the edges of the moon. These beads are light rays that pass through the valleys on the moon’s horizon and are brief, so it’s crucial to pay attention.
After the Baily’s Beads disappear, only one bright spot will remain visible along the edge of the moon, creating a diamond ring effect. This ring indicates that totality is only moments away.
When the moon completely obstructs the sun, its light will be entirely blocked, and the sky will darken, resembling dawn or dusk. This moment is also referred to as “second contact.” The duration of this phase will vary depending on your distance from the center of the path of totality.
While experiencing totality, you may observe the chromosphere and corona. The chromosphere is a part of the solar atmosphere that appears as a thin, pink circle surrounding the moon. The corona is the outer solar atmosphere that appears as white streams of light.
After totality, the sky will gradually brighten as the eclipse phases reverse. This moment is also known as “third contact.” You will observe the diamond ring, followed by the Baily’s Beads and shadow bands, and then another partial eclipse as the moon follows its orbit. The instant when the moon no longer obstructs any of the sun is referred to as “fourth contact.”
How Can You Safely Watch the Total Solar Eclipse?
It is widely known that direct exposure to sunlight can cause damage to your eyes. Hence, it is essential to avoid looking directly at the sun, even when wearing sunglasses. This is particularly crucial when observing any type of solar eclipse, and it is recommended to use special eye protection.
NOTE: Only lunar eclipses are safe to observe with the naked eye and through binoculars and telescopes.
About Eye Damage
The cones and rods in the human retina are highly light-sensitive. During daylight, the iris contracts to allow only a small amount of light to pass through the eye lens and reach the retina. However, even a tiny sliver of sunlight can cause severe eye damage if you gaze directly at it.
Staring directly at the sun can cause the appearance of dark or yellow spots in your vision, blurry vision, or even loss of vision in the fovea — the central part of the eye.
It only takes about 100 seconds to cause permanent damage to the retina, but this time frame could be even shorter depending on the intensity of sunlight and other factors. Since the retina has no pain receptors, damage can occur without any indication or warning.
Eye Safety Guidelines
To safely observe the various phases of the 2024 total solar eclipse without risking damage to your eyes, it is crucial to wear ISO-certified glasses. ISO stands for the International Standards Organization — a global organization that establishes comprehensive safety standards for various items, including eclipse-safe lens filters.
Despite wearing ISO-certified solar eclipse glasses, it is still not advisable to stare at the eclipse for an extended period before and after totality. This is because the sun’s infrared heat can warm your eyes, leading to dangerous overheating of the fluids and tissues. To prevent this, take breaks and look away from the eclipse periodically to allow your eyes to cool down.
However, during the totality phase, it is safe to remove your protective glasses since there is no direct sunlight that can harm your retina. Just remember to put your glasses back on before the totality phase ends to avoid any potential eye damage.
To capture photos or videos of each phase of the 2024 total solar eclipse, it is essential to equip your camera with a special solar filter. Make sure that the filter fits securely over the front of the camera lens. It is only safe to remove this filter during totality.
Skin Safety Guidelines
When preparing to observe an eclipse, it is easy to forget the significance of protecting your skin. However, it is crucial to safeguard your skin just as you would your eyes since you will be exposed to direct sunlight for most of the event. Remember to apply sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and consider wearing a hat if necessary.
Does the Weather Affect Seeing the Solar Eclipse?
Without a doubt, the only thing that can ruin the experience of the 2024 total solar eclipse is unfavorable weather. If it is too cloudy, you will not be able to see anything.
Unfortunately, meteorologists can only make predictions about the weather to a certain degree. Therefore, it is prudent to have a backup plan in place, such as an alternative location that you can reach in time for the eclipse if your primary destination is unsuitable.
Tennessee Weather During the 2024 Eclipse
In early April, the weather in Northwest Tennessee is cloudy more than 40% of the time. To improve your chances of observing the 2024 total solar eclipse, we suggest closely monitoring short-term weather odds and adjusting your travel plans accordingly.
How Eclipses Affect Weather
In addition to potentially affecting the viewing experience, the 2024 total solar eclipse may have four impacts on the weather. When the sun’s light is obstructed from reaching the Earth during the eclipse, the temperature can drop by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the temperature decreases, shallow clouds may disperse since they require heat and moisture to sustain themselves, while deeper storm clouds will be less affected. Additionally, the lower temperature can cause the atmosphere to contract and stabilize, resulting in a reduction in wind speed.
In warm and dry areas, humidity levels may increase by 20% or more. In regions with already high humidity, smaller differences may occur.
What Types of Eclipses Are There?
Beyond partial and total eclipses, there are various types of eclipses, including multiple types of lunar eclipses. Additionally, planetary transits can be observed periodically. Here’s a brief overview of each of these celestial events.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit moves between the sun and Earth. The type of solar eclipse observed depends on the moon’s position in relation to the distance from the sun and the planet. The eclipse could be total, annular, partial, or hybrid.
Total Solar Eclipse
When the moon is close to the Earth, it can appear to be the same size as the sun from our perspective. This is because of the sun’s vast size, which is approximately 400 times larger than the moon but is also about 400 times farther away from Earth. Therefore, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, it can entirely block the sun’s light, resulting in a solar eclipse.
Annular Solar Eclipse
Because of the non-circular orbit of the moon around Earth, it appears smaller than the sun when it passes between the sun and Earth at its farthest point from our planet. This event results in an annular eclipse, which appears as a ring of light around the moon.
Partial Solar Eclipse
When the moon comes between the sun and Earth, a solar eclipse occurs. However, if the alignment is not perfect, the moon only partially blocks the sun. This results in a crescent shape in the sky and a penumbra, which is a lighter, outer shadow on part of the planet. It’s worth noting that every solar eclipse can be considered a partial eclipse from certain perspectives.
Hybrid Solar Eclipse
Because of the curved surface of the Earth, a solar eclipse can transition from a total eclipse to an annular eclipse as the moon moves between the sun and the planet. This type of eclipse, known as a hybrid eclipse, is exceptionally rare.
When the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, a lunar eclipse takes place. This results in the shadow of the Earth falling over the moon, and this type of eclipse can be observed from anywhere. It usually lasts for over an hour.
Total Lunar Eclipse
During a total lunar eclipse, the moon is entirely covered by the Earth’s shadow. Because of how sunlight bends around the planet’s surface, the moon appears red instead of black.
Partial Lunar Eclipse
During a partial lunar eclipse, only a portion of the moon is covered by the Earth’s shadow. Like a total lunar eclipse, the covered section of the moon appears red.
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
The darkest and central part of the Earth’s shadow caused by the sun is called the umbra, while the lighter and outer part is known as the penumbra. In a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon is only affected by the Earth’s penumbra. Instead of turning the moon red, it only causes a dimming effect on the moon’s appearance.
In addition to solar and lunar eclipses, we can observe planetary transits. These events occur when Mercury or Venus passes between the Earth and the sun, appearing as small black dots to us. They can be observed anywhere during the daytime and can last for several hours.
Planetary transits are similar to miniature solar eclipses, but they are much less frequent. Mercury transits occur only about 13 times per century in May or November, while Venus transits happen twice within eight years of each other in June or December, with a gap of over 100 years between each pair.
What Is the History of All Eclipses?
Eclipses have been happening due to the alignment of the Earth, moon, and sun for long before humans existed. However, the earliest known record of an eclipse dates back to Nov. 30, 3340 B.C., on a set of circular stone carvings at the Loughcrew Megalithic Monument in Meath Ireland.
Numerous cultures worldwide have documented total solar eclipses and conducted studies on them. Additionally, there are many legends and myths associated with these astronomical phenomena.
Why Scientists Study Eclipses
NASA scientists use historical eclipse records to discover new insights about the moon, sun, Earth, and space in general. For example, they have used the earliest Chinese records to determine that the Earth’s rotation has slowed down — albeit slightly — over the past 3,200 years.
By studying new eclipses, scientists can address fundamental questions about our solar system, such as the impact of solar wind on humans and technology. They can also gain a better understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, some data can only be collected during a total solar eclipse.
Legends, Lore, & Superstitions
Throughout history, people have had varying reactions to and interpretations of solar eclipses, with many of them rooted in fear.
For instance, the ancient Chinese believed that a “heavenly dog” was devouring the sun during an eclipse and would beat on pots and drums to scare it away. However, this belief was not unique to the Chinese culture:
- Ancient Vietnamese people believed it was a giant frog.
- Koreans attributed it to a mythical dog.
- Hindus held that it was a demon’s severed head.
- The Vikings believed it to be a wolf.
- The California Pomo Tribes believed it was a bear.
These are not the only fear-based legends and myths associated with total solar eclipses. The Japanese believed that poison would rain from the sky during an eclipse, prompting them to cover their water wells. Meanwhile, Transylvanians believed that eclipses brought plagues.
Moreover, some cultures still believe that eclipses can cause pregnancy-related problems, such as birthmarks, blindness, and cleft lips. It’s believed that the Aztecs started these superstitions because they thought that the supernatural creature biting the sun during an eclipse would also harm the baby of a pregnant woman who watched the event.
Along with fear-based legends, there are happier and more positive interpretations of solar eclipses. For example, some people in Italy believe that planting flowers during an eclipse can lead to more vibrant blooms.
Furthermore, the Australian Aborigines, Germans, Native Americans, Tahitians, and West Africans viewed eclipses as romantic events, symbolizing the reunion of the sun and moon as long-lost lovers. Meanwhile, some Native American tribes believed that an eclipse was a way for nature to “check in” with Earth.
Eclipses in Pop Culture
Total solar eclipses have been depicted in various forms of media, including books and television shows. For example, they have appeared in “The Simpsons,” Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Moreover, eclipses have been featured in music, such as Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Remarkably, the first commercial eclipse cruise took place in 1972, and the first commercial eclipse flight occurred in 1974.
Plan Your 2024 Total Solar Eclipse Getaway in Tennessee
Looking forward to the 2024 total solar eclipse in Tennessee? Start preparing for your cosmic adventure today and get ready for an unforgettable experience of a lifetime!