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Solar Eclipse 2017

A once-in-a-lifetime celestial event took place on August 21, 2017 when the first solar eclipse to sweep across the United States in 99 years occurred, with Nashville,Tennessee in its direct path. The last total eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979. However, this total eclipse was unique as the path touched only mainland United States sweeping from the Pacific to the Atlantic - hence the name, the Great American Total Solar Eclipse. Skies darkened in totality from Oregon to South Carolina along a stretch of land about 70 miles wide through 14 states. Nashville was one of the largest metropolitan areas with full view of the eclipse in the country.

Vanderbilt University celebrated this significant event on August 21, 2017 with programming at the Wond'ry and a viewing event on Alumni Lawn. In anticipation of this day, student programming began spring semester 2017 including student competitions, lectures, exhibits, open houses, and information sessions. 

 Eclipse Open House

The Wond’ry
9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Come learn more about the rare total solar eclipse before totality occurs! Attendees will have the opportunity to watch videos featuring faculty experts, view eclipse inspired art, and listen to a radio feed from a high-altitude weather balloon. Event is open to all Vanderbilt students, faculty, and staff.

 Dores in the Dark: Solar Eclipse 2017

Alumni Lawn
1:00 – 2:00 pm

Experience the final exciting phases of a rare total solar eclipse and the moment of totality on Alumni Lawn with your fellow Commodores. A large screen will show images from NASA and our own high altitude balloon located on the edge of space, as well as FAQ videos and interviews from experts. Attendees will receive safe viewing glasses and enjoy music and ice cream on the lawn. Event is free and open to all Vanderbilt undergraduate/graduate/professional students, faculty, and staff. (First-year undergraduate students should report to Commons Lawn for the eclipse viewing.)

 First Year Students--Solar Eclipse Experience

The Commons, Lower Quad Lawn
12:30-2:00 p.m.

First-year students will gather at The Commons to receive solar eclipse safe glasses, watch the eclipse, and take class photo with their glasses.

 Eclipse Ballooning Project

Vanderbilt's School of Engineering will send a high-altitude weather balloon to the edge of space to live-stream video of the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1979. The school’s launch is part of NASA’s nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project. Balloon flights from 30 U.S. locations across the total eclipse path will send live video and images to NASA’s website. In collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, important science data on eclipse stratospheric temperature and carbon dioxide fluctuations will be gathered. 

Maymester 2017

ASTR 3890: Special Topics in Astronomy:  Preparing for the 2017 Total Eclipse

Dr. Susan Stewart, Adjoint Assistant Professor of Astronomy
May 8–June 1, M–TR, 9:00 a.m.–noon, except: 
Monday, May 15 (10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.), and Thursday, May 25  (7:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. [NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center])

This course will investigate the dynamics and orientation of the Sun-Earth-Moon system to fully appreciate significance of upcoming total eclipse of 2017. Eclipses and planetary transits will be investigated historically and culturally as well as from a scientific research perspective. Students will try celestial navigation using Sun measurements, have daytime solar observations at Dyer Observatory, and travel to NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center to learn from solar researchers.

For more information, contact Susan Stewart, Adjoint Professor of Astronomy.

Throughout spring semester 2017, various ongoing activities and date specific events related to the solar eclipse can be found across Vanderbilt's campus.

Dyer Observatory Open House

First Tuesday of each month, March–November 2017
Public: 9:00 a.m.–noon
Vanderbilt students: 1:00–3:00 p.m.
1000 Oman Drive, Brentwood, TN 37027

Explore the Sun at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory. In preparation for the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse, Dyer staff presents monthly views of the Sun with solar telescopes. Share amazing views of our favorite star, and learn about the upcoming eclipse. Safely view the Sun’s atmosphere, view sunspots bigger than Earth, watch great arcing prominences extend thousands of miles into space!

For more information, contact Dyer Observatory.

 Countdown to Totality

Presented by Dyer Observatory
Thursdays, March 16-April 20
Noon-2:00 p.m., when the sky is clear

View the Sun as you never have before--through a solar telescope with astronomers from Vanderbilt's Dyer Observatory. Also, learn about the once in a lifetime opportunity to view the upcoming August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse, and how to do it safely. Locations will rotate each week beginning at The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons on the first sunny day. Tentative agenda is as follows:

  • March 16 - The Commons, Lower Quad Lawn 
  • March 23 - Sarratt Student Center | Rand Hall
  • March 30 - Kissam Center Lobby (rain or shine!)
  • April 6 - CANCELLED due to rain
  • April 13 - Student Life Center
  • April 20 - Sarratt Student Center | Rand Hall
  • Stay updated on Facebook  and  Twitter  for the current schedule.

  The Shadow of the Sun: E. E. Barnard  and the Solar Eclipse

Vanderbilt University Libraries Exhibition
April 7–September 10, 2017
Central Library Second Floor Gallery
Opening reception: April 7, 2017

In anticipation of the August 2017 solar eclipse, Vanderbilt University Libraries will host an exhibition curated by four astronomy students on the work of American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard (1857-1823). Best known for his discovery of Amalthea, the fifth moon of Jupiter, Barnard was a photographer and astronomer who spent a lifetime observing and photographing the night sky. The exhibition will draw on collections housed in the Libraries' Special Collections, as well as loans from private collectors. Opening reception will be held on April 7, 2017.

For more information, contact the Jean and Alexander Heard Library.

 Skywatchers of the Ancient Americas

Presented by Dr. John W. Janusek, Associate Professor of Anthropology April 5, 2017, 3:00 p.m.
The Wond'ry, Room 202 This presentation will compare the science of astronomy and skywatching in several civilizations across the Precolumbian Americas. Cultures in the South American Andes will be compared with Middle American Maya and North American Mississippian cultures--examining how these cultures developed highly precise techniques for tracking the recurring movement of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, and the periodic occurrence of solar eclipses. We'll further demonstrate that these celestial movements and occurrences were central to the political and ritual power of these civilizations.

Student Competitions

Drawing inspiration from the solar eclipse, three student competitions in the areas of creative writing and visual art took place over the 2017 spring semester. The winners of each competition were honored at a celebration hosted by the Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs on April 17, 2017.

Creative Writing

The Sun and the Moon: A poetry and flash fiction contest 

Submissions to the English Department,
3rd floor, Benson Hall, collection box
Submission deadline: March 27, 2017

  • Competition inspired by the August 21 solar eclipse
  • Prizes for best poem, best flash, and runners-up  in both categories
  • Open to all Vanderbilt undergraduate students
  • For more information about the competition, email Kate Daniels, Professor of English, Director of Creative Writing. 

The Sun and the Moon Award Recipients:


Poetry winner: Ariana Yeatts-Lonske
Title: “Darkness: A History”
Major: English/creative writing, Class of 2017 

Poetry runner-up: Sydney Pedigo
Title: “The Beauty of a Lost Moon”
Major: Medicine, health and society/philosophy, Class of 2017 

Fiction winner: Lydia Yousief
Title: “The Barely-Lit Camp”
Major: Middle Eastern studies, Class of 2017

Fiction runner-up: Boyuan Zhang
Title: “A Total Solar Eclipse and the People who Paused to Watch It”
Major: Economics, Class of 2018


 Visual Art


Download submission form
Submission deadline: March 15, 2017

  • This is a call for works that draw inspiration from the August 21st solar eclipse. Work can be an artistic documentation, a cosmic abstraction, an emotional portrait, a spiritual interpretation, or an imagined impression of a solar eclipse.  This theme is open to interpretation and to any and all visual arts media.
  • Maximum of 3 entries. 2D and 3D work should be sent as a jpeg. Videos should be sent via a youtube or vimeo link.
  • Competition is open to all Vanderbilt students.
  • For more information about the competition visit .   

Obscura Award Recipients:

First place: Malina Halman
Title: “Instead”
Cotton, wool and brass
Masters in higher education administration, Class of 2018

Second place: Matthew Thompson
Title: “Void”
Archival pigment print
Major: English, Class of 2017

Third place: Landon Stokes
Title: “Obscuration”
Archival pigment print
Major: Sociology, Class of 2017


  Celebration of Competition Winners

Students, judges, administrators, and faculty participating in the competition gather to celebrate the winners and present awards for the winners. The winning writings and art were on display and presented during the celebration on April 17, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. in The Wond'ry second floor. Congratulations to the award recipients!

From left to right: Boyuan Zhang, Malina Halman, Lydia Yousief, Arian Yeatts-Lonske, Sydney Pedigo, Matthew Thompson, and Landon Stokes.