Friday, May 17, 2024

Final MTSU Star Party of the semester hosted by physics, astronomy departments


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Photo by Eric Goodwin / Assistant News Editor

Astronomy and Physics Professor Eric Klumpe provided a lecture on eclipses Friday night in the Wiser-Patten Science Hall as a part of MTSU’s “First Friday Star Party” series.

The lecture, titled “Funky Fiziks in Film,” addressed movies involving eclipses and the upcoming solar eclipse that will occur on Aug. 21.

Klumpe explained how a solar eclipse occurs when the Earth’s moon passes in between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow across the face of the Earth. While these eclipses take place about twice a year, this one is special.

“The place where (the moon’s shadow) touches the Earth is the continental United States. And the path, which is very narrow, … includes Tennessee,” he said.

Murfreesboro lies along the “path of totality,” meaning the sun will be obscured almost completely in Murfreesboro for a few moments.

Klumpe said the moon’s shadow is “just a little pinpoint of darkness, and we happen to be on that path.”

The eclipse, whose “path of totality” hasn’t crossed the Middle Tennessee region since 1478, will occur at roughly noon. The moon will block part of the sun for about three hours, culminating in totality for about one and a half minutes at around 1:30 p.m.

The next eclipse like this won’t occur until the year 2566.

Klumpe also talked about movies in pop culture that feature solar eclipses and their hard-to-catch inaccuracies.

For example, in the 1985 film, “Ladyhawke,” the solar eclipse moves from left to right across the sun. Klumpe explained how the movie’s setting in the Northern Hemisphere means the moon should pass from the right side of the sun to the left when observed from the Earth.

Klumpe also talked about the eclipse scenes in the 1949 movie, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” and the 2002 movie, “The Wild Thornberrys Movie.”

Monty Hershberger, 43, came to the star party for the first time on Friday.

“It was all very enjoyable,” Hershberger said. “I enjoyed (Klumpe’s) humor and the clips that he used to talk about it. So, it was fun.”

Hershberger said he and his family will prepare for the August eclipse by hanging outside “and enjoying a picnic.”

Klumpe, who used to host all of the star parties when the series began, recommended attendees to take an astronomy course at MTSU regardless of their major.

“You’re going to learn a lot of things you’ve never thought about before,” he said.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

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  1. As the date of the August 21 eclipse draws near, keep this important safety information in mind: You MUST use special eclipse safety glasses to view a partial eclipse and the partial phases of a total eclipse. To do otherwise is risking permanent eye damage and even blindness. The ONLY time it’s safe to look at a TOTAL eclipse without proper eye protection is during the very brief period of totality when the Sun is 100 percent blocked by the Moon. If you’re in a location where the eclipse won’t be total, there is NEVER a time when it’s safe to look with unprotected eyes. NEVER attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device (camera, binoculars, telescope) that doesn’t have a specially designed solar filter that fits snugly on the front end (the Sun side) of the device. Additionally, never attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device while wearing eclipse glasses; the focused light will destroy the glasses and enter and damage your eyes.

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