Go back

Local institutions taking the lead on hosting educational eclipse events for the community and region

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In February 1979, when America’s last total solar eclipse of the 20th Century sent thousands of people to a remote hill in Washington State, ABC News Correspondent Jules Berman told viewers, “people are hushed in what seems almost like a ritual thing that mankind has been silenced by, in awe, since the beginning of civilization.”

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In February 1979, when America’s last total solar eclipse of the 20th Century sent thousands of people to a remote hill in Washington State, ABC News Correspondent Jules Berman told viewers, “people are hushed in what seems almost like a ritual thing that mankind has been silenced by, in awe, since the beginning of civilization.”

On Aug. 21, 2017, a similar silence is expected to fall over the city of Clarksville when it becomes one of the best places in the country to view a total solar eclipse. That day, the sky above Montgomery County will go dark for about two minutes, bringing with it all the strange phenomena and surreal emotions that accompany a total solar eclipse.

“Birds will go back to their nests, cows will go back to their barns,” Dr. Spencer Buckner, Austin Peay State University associate professor of astronomy, said. “Animals and critters will all think it’s nighttime. The temperature will drop. If it’s really dry, it could drop as much as 15 degrees really quickly. And the emotional things going on with people—it’s going to be interesting.”

In ancient China, eclipse watchers made noise to scare away the dragon they believed was eating the sun. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that an eclipse in 585 BCE caused the Medes and Lydian armies to immediately end a bloody battle, and when the first solar eclipse appeared in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, Harvard University sent an expedition behind enemy lines to record the event. The last total solar eclipse visible from Clarksville occurred on July 29, 1478—more than 20 years before Columbus discovered America.

Scientists and revelers in search of transcendence often travel great distances to witness what the English poet Lavinia Greenlaw called “the throwing of the celestial dimmer switch,” and experts are anticipating an extra 200,000 people in Clarksville that day.

Only four months remain until Clarksville becomes the near epicenter for this historic eclipse, and as the excitement builds, five local entities—APSU, the City of Clarksville, Montgomery County, Visit Clarksville and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System—have partnered to create educational and entertaining opportunities related to the event. On Aug. 21—the day of the eclipse—the University plans to entertain more than 8,000 people for a viewing party in Fortera Stadium, with three different ways for individuals to participate. Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools will not be in session the day of the eclipse, and APSU officials are encouraging families to consider viewing opportunities at Fortera Stadium that day. Austin Peay also plans to host several events in the days and months leading up to the eclipse. The event has been coined the “Peay-clipse” by the University.

            A complete breakdown of community offerings is listed below.

            Stadium Viewing Event at Fortera Stadium on Aug. 21:

Austin Peay’s Fortera Stadium will open to the public at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 for the public to view the eclipse. The cost is $5 to park, with each vehicle receiving a free pair of viewing glasses. Admission into the stadium is $2, and attendees will receive a free pair of viewing glasses with their ticket.

The stadium’s scoreboard will display a live feed from the APSU farm, where NASA researchers will be conducting experiments. When the eclipse begins, attendees can watch the event on the scoreboard and through a few telescopes set up with the solar protection. Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools will be closed that day, allowing students and their families the opportunity to participate in this special event.

             Solar Peay-clipse Educational Experience in Dunn Center 

For those wanting a little more, the Dunn Center will open at 11 a.m. that morning for a special Solar Peay-clipse Educational Experience. This festival-like event, led by APSU faculty and students, will feature educational lessons and fun, hands-on activities related to the science behind a solar eclipse. General admission is $4 per child, and the cost includes two pairs of solar viewing glasses. Admission is also $4 for adults not accompanying a child. At 12:30 p.m., participants will head to Fortera Stadium to watch the eclipse.

             Donor Event 

Individuals interested in a more in-depth experience can purchase tickets to the Solar Peay-clipse Lunch and Learn. For a minimum $150 donation to the APSU College of Science and Mathematics, which will be used to provide future opportunities for APSU students, participants will enjoy a reception and meet-and-greet with APSU President Alisa White and Dr. Rhea Seddon, former NASA astronaut, on Sunday, Aug. 20.

On Aug. 21, the Lunch and Learn will begin at 10 a.m., with early entrance into the Dunn Center, and it includes an 11 a.m. lunch at the Club Level of Fortera Stadium, solar viewing glasses and a commemorative book.

Dr. Rhea Seddon Event 

On Aug. 20, the day before the eclipse, the University will host two special events that are open to the public. At 7 p.m., Dr. Seddon will deliver the Peay-clipse keynote address at the APSU Dunn Center. Seddon served as a mission specialist and as a payload commander on several space shuttle flights, and she will discuss her experiences as one of NASA’s first female astronauts.

At 8:45 p.m. that night, Dr. Mclean Fahenstock, APSU assistant professor of art, and Michael Dickins, APSU gallery director, will present “Launch,” a multimedia experience that combines video projection, audio collage, and a vibrating viewing platform, on the outside of the Dunn Center.

Community Educational Initiatives 

To help prepare the community for the historic total solar eclipse, the University is partnering with the Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department to host a Peay-clipse Lecture Series every month, from May until the day of the eclipse.

The lectures, which will take place during the city’s Movies in the Park events, will features APSU faculty and students discussing different historical, scientific and cultural aspects of a solar eclipse. The Peay-clipse Lecture Series events include the following:

• May 27, “Telling Time and Telling Tales,” featuring Dr. Tim Winters, APSU professor of Latin, and Mary Winters, Latin instructor, at Heritage Park (“Finding Dory”).

• June 10, “Ancient Cultures Guided by the Stars,” featuring Dr. Don Sudbrink, chair of the APSU Department of Agriculture, at Heritage Park (“Moana”).

• July 22, “The Secret Lives of Astronomers,” featuring Dr. Allyn Smith, APSU professor of astronomy, at McGregor Park (“The Secret Life of Pets”).

• Aug. 10, “Total Solar Eclipse: Nature’s Stellar Coincidence,” featuring Jacob Robertson, APSU physics student, at Liberty Park (“Space Jam”).


At each lecture series/Movies in the Park event, APSU students will be selling solar eclipse glasses and a commemorative APSU total eclipse book

In addition to these events, the lecturers will all deliver encore presentations of their talks between 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, in room E106A/B of the APSU Sundquist Science Complex.

For more information, updates or to purchase tickets for the many different Peay-clipse events, visit www.apsu.edu/eclipse or contact the APSU Public Relations and Marketing Office at 931-221-7459 or by email at moorel@apsu.edu.