The Tyler Junior College Earth and Space Science Center is already busily preparing for solar eclipses that will occur in 2023 and 2024.
“You really need to plan ahead for these rare, celestial events,” said Dr. Beau Hartweg, director of the TJC science center. “We want to get the word out now that we have some exciting plans in store. We’re going to be the premier eclipse-viewing destination in East Texas.”
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, causing the moon to cast a shadow over Earth.
On Oct. 14, 2023 — exactly one year from today — an annular eclipse will cross North America from northwest to southeast. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farthest from Earth and doesn’t block the entire view of the sun, creating a “ring of fire” effect around the moon.
The annular eclipse will last from 10:25 a.m. until 1:32 p.m. local time, and the degree of darkness will resemble evening. The next such event in Tyler won’t occur until the year 2165.
Six months later — on April 8, 2024 — Tyler will be in the coveted path of totality for a total eclipse, which will last from 12:24 p.m. until 3:04 p.m. local time. Totality — which occurs when the sun is entirely and perfectly blocked by the moon, which casts a shadow on Earth — will result in 2 minutes total darkness, from 1:43 p.m. until 1:45 p.m.
Hartweg said, “Tyler hasn’t experienced a total eclipse since 1878 — 144 years ago — and it will be the last total eclipse visible in Texas for the rest of this millennium. The next total eclipse in Tyler will occur beyond the year 3000. So, it’s fair to say that we are very excited about this historic event.”
The TJC science center currently has a new interactive touchscreen exhibit to help visitors learn about the eclipses, plus printed educational materials will be available.
“As we get closer, we will also include a new planetarium show and provide other resources for the community,” he said. “We will announce viewing locations for the eclipses in 2023.”
The TJC science center is also preparing to celebrate another important milestone — the 60th anniversary of its Hudnall Planetarium, which opened in 1963.
The first center of its kind in East Texas, the Hudnall Planetarium introduced countless schoolchildren to science and space. The planetarium closed in 2010 for a massive expansion and reconstruction and then reopened in 2011 as the Center for Earth and Space Science Education at TJC. Home to the first 40-foot Spitz nano-seam domed theatre in East Texas, the updated planetarium features the latest digital projection technology for an immersive full-dome video experience.
The original planetarium space was converted into an interactive area for visitors to enjoy ever-changing exhibits and plasma-screen displays with real-time video from NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute. The center also includes an instructional/workshop space and a series of outdoor, educational plazas, including a 15-foot diameter, granite sundial.
In recent years, the center has been renamed the TJC Center for Earth and Space Science featuring Hudnall Planetarium, to honor its original name and heritage.
For more information, go to sciencecenter.tjc.edu.