Wilson County and the surrounding area will be the "it" place to be on Aug. 21, 2017, when a once-in-a-lifetime event - a total solar eclipse - takes place, and the celestial event is already gaining the attention around the globe.
"On August 21, 2017, a total eclipse will arrive at Gallatin, Tennessee at 1:27 p.m. C.D.T. and last for two minutes and 40 seconds," Bobby Boyd, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Old Hickory, said. "I think Gallatin will be right at the center of the path, and the best place to be from what I can tell.
"This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. The last one occurred on Feb. 26, 1979. Before that one, you have to go back to March 7, 1970."
According to Boyd, a solar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly between the sun and the earth and casts a shadow on our planet.
In Sumner County, tour groups are already calling about making travel arrangements for the eclipse. Sumner County Convention and Visitor's Bureau (SCCVB) Executive Director Barry Young said he was first contacted about the event last year by an Arizona-based agency that organizes trips worldwide for people who travel to witness eclipses.
"The eclipse is going to come across the U.S. starting in Oregon and work its way west to Kentucky and Tennessee," Young said. "Gallatin is on the exact center line of the eclipse, which means you will be able to see the eclipse longer. The partial eclipse is going to last several hours - the moon is going to start moving towards the sun."
And while Gallatin is on the "exact center line," ideal views of the eclipse will also be had in Wilson County and surrounding areas.
Young said Gallatin plans to hold an eclipse party at Triple Creek Park, complete with music and food to celebrate. Once the partial eclipse begins, viewers will need to wear special glasses that will be provided at the park to protect their eyes. The partial eclipse will be followed by a total eclipse. At that point, residents and visitors can take off their glasses, he said, adding that it will be total darkness for around two minutes and 38 seconds.
"The only thing you will see is the corona - the flaming edges of the sun," he said. "Then for several more hours, the moon will move away from the sun. The whole thing will last three to four hours. It will not happen again in this part of the country in our lifetime. It's a rare event."
Young said he anticipates a crowd and that the SCCVB is offering a travel package to groups who attend. He noted the eclipse will lure many travelers to the region.
"Basically, we are going to fill up the hotel rooms all over the area, not just Gallatin. This is a very exciting event, and we are very lucky to be right on the center line," he said.
Already, a Japanese tourist group, JTB Kyushu Corp., plans to bring more than 300 people to Sumner County for the event.
While the eclipse is much anticipated, viewing will be dependent on Mother Nature. Rain clouds could block views. But Boyd said the chances of being able to view the eclipse look favorable.
"Having lived and worked around here for much of my life, I would say the odds are better than a coin toss that the weather will cooperate for viewing the solar eclipse," he said. "The month of August is considered the dog days of summer, and we often have lots of sun and hot temps to go along with it. Many of us that have gardens are often wishing for rain in the month of August that seems to never come when we need it."