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September 2017

The Solar Eclipse of 2017—A (Protected) View From the Path of Totality

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017;135(9):907-908. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.2936

Something is about to happen in Nashville, Tennessee, that has not happened since Andrew Johnson was president of the United States in 1865. The time before that was Christmas Day 1628: the year Charles I of England granted a land charter to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. And the next occurrence will not take place until August 2566, some 549 years hence. You get the picture!

On Monday, August 21, 2017, at about 1:30 pm, Nashville residents will experience the rare privilege of witnessing a total eclipse of the sun for just under 2 minutes. For the first time since June 1918, the path of a total solar eclipse—the path of totality—will cross the continental United States from coast to coast, beginning near Eugene, Oregon, and ending in Charleston, South Carolina, some 90 minutes later. Although a total solar eclipse is observable from some place on Earth every 12 to 18 months, the chance occurs only once every 375 years for any particular location.1 The most recent opportunity to view a total eclipse in the United States was in 1991, and then only from Hawaii. Cities along the path of the eclipse across the United States, including Nashville, are celebrating because for most people, experiencing the path of totality is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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