Science behind the upcoming solar eclipse

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - On Monday August 21st, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast across the country. So, what IS a solar eclipse?

During a solar eclipse, the sun, moon and earth line up. The moon completely or partially blocks the sun from earth for up to three hours. This will literally make it go from light to dark outside for up to two minutes along the path of totality, or area of maximum eclipse.

The darkest shadow of the moon is referred to as an umbra. A solar eclipse is so rare because we rarely see the moon's umbra on Earth's surface. Since the moon and earth are in motion, this umbra moves across the face of the earth during an eclipse.

This is why there is a narrow belt where there is a total eclipse. The path of totality goes through 14 states, including Tennessee.  However, if you want to see a total solar eclipse you will have to take a drive. The closest areas with a total eclipse will be Nashville and Cape Girardeau.

Here in the Mid-South, we will have a partial solar eclipse with 94 percent of the sun blocked by the moon. Although it won't go completely dark, you will still have an amazing view of the eclipse with most of the sun covered by the moon. The peak of the eclipse in Memphis, or when we will see the most coverage of the sun, is at 1:22 p.m.

Looking directly at the sun can damage your eyes, so you will need to wear certified eclipse glasses to view the eclipse in the Mid-South.

10 great places to see the eclipse

Seeing the eclipse in Tennessee

Clarksville: 2:19 of totality

Gallatin: 2:40 of totality

Nashville: 1:57 of totality

Lebanon: 2:37 of totality

Cookeville: 2:32 of totality

For more information about seeing the Great American Eclipse in Tennessee, click here.

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