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Campus prepares for historic event as nation looks to Clarksville in August

Next fall, the city of Clarksville will experience nearly two minutes of darkness in the middle of the afternoon.

On Aug 21, 2017, a total eclipse will pass through Clarksville, making APSU and the surrounding areas a suitable place to view the occurrence. APSU will not only be observing, but taking advantage of their resources. The physics and astronomy department has already begun to prepare to research and live-stream the event.

“Eclipses are not all that uncommon. Due to our location, for this eclipse we will see totality [complete darkness] for about two minutes,” physics and astronomy department professor and chair Alex King said. “This eclipse is also going to cross the entire continental U.S. The last time that has happened was in the early 1900s.”

Due to the convenient location, NASA is funding the project through their State Space grant. APSU is merely a subcontractor of the grant, as Vanderbilt University manages the grant for the state of Tennessee. APSU received a sufficient amount of the grant money because of their extensive experience with high altitude balloons. According to King, the department has already spent around $10,000 on a satellite for the live-stream.

There is a designated team of students and faculty dedicated to the project, including some members of Del Square Psi, the physics and astronomy club, as well as University Advancement. The team will launch high altitude balloons into the atmosphere at the time of the eclipse and live-stream the event on their website. The balloons will launch from the department’s observatory near the environmental education center.

“A lot of people don’t actually know that we have a legitimate observatory, with a telescope and a dome.” King said.

On the day of the eclipse, Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville will send their high altitude balloon teams to accompany APSU’s. In addition to the project, the department will soon begin training volunteer students to help explain the occurrence to crowds at some of the viewing points, such as the local parks, on the day of the eclipse.

The physics and astronomy department plans to host events at APSU in preparation for the eclipse. They have invited an astronaut to come speak on campus about the eclipse and other space-related topics.

The department is partnering with NASA for their space eclipse camp for children. According to King, the campers will stay in campus housing the weekend of the eclipse, participate in activities and learn about the science behind the event. On the day of the eclipse the campers will travel via bus to one of the viewing locations.

While an eclipse itself is not a revolutionary occurrence, APSU is still at an advantage with the type of eclipse it is and the effects it will have on the city of Clarksville.

Students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to view the eclipse and APSU can further their research and publicity through their involvement in this historical event.

For more information on how to be involved in, or how to prepare for, this event, contact the physics department at  physics@apsu.edu, or call 931-221-6116. More information about solar eclipses is located at nasa.gov.

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