#399. Making the Most of It in Hopkinsville, KY

Posted on | The Agurban
Making the Most of It in Hopkinsville, KY

This southwestern Kentucky town has hit the astronomical jackpot.

When a total eclipse of the sun darkens skies on Aug. 21, 2017, the show will last longer in a stretch of hilly countryside near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet. It will last two minutes and 40 seconds, not much longer than the Kentucky Derby. This town of 32,000 near the Tennessee border is already making preparations to cash in on the fortuitous celestial alignment.”We will be the Mecca of the solar eclipse because we are the dead center,” said Cheryl Cook, executive director of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A few miles northwest of town, the countryside of crops, modest farmhouses and quaint churches is expected to draw bands of scientists and eclipse chasers. They’ll be armed with telescopes and cameras to capture the first total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. mainland since 1979.

“If people want to make the absolute most of it, and get every single last millisecond of looking, that’s where you want to be,” said Dean Regas, an astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory.

Already, local motels are hearing from people wanting to witness the spectacle.

“It will be the largest event that this community has ever seen,” said Jeff Smith, a local hotel general manager.

Local officials started a Facebook page promoting the event. And they coined a slogan, promoting the eclipse as “the most exciting two minutes and 40 seconds in astronomy” – playing off the Derby’s claim as the most exiting two minutes in sports.A solar eclipse happens when the moon lines up between the sun and the Earth, casting a lunar shadow on the Earth’s surface and obscuring the solar disk. During a partial solar eclipse, only part of the sun is blotted out. Total solar eclipses draw anywhere from hundreds to thousands of scientists, tourists and curious observers to areas with good views. There will be a handful of such spectacles around the world before August 2017, but none with good vantage points in the U.S. mainland.

“I’ve only seen one total eclipse in my life, and it is the most incredible experience you’ll ever see,” Regas said. “On the top 10 list of astronomical events, this is No. 1 and No. 2 is way down the list. It’s not even close.”

The path of the total eclipse will cut a narrow swath across the country. It will start in Oregon and take a path through parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, slivers of Georgia and North Carolina and then into South Carolina, Regas said. Along the path in Kentucky and Tennessee, the sky will darken in such places as Paducah, Ky., and Clarksville and Nashville in Tennessee, he said. In Nashville, the total eclipse will last one minute and 47 seconds, he said. In most other parts of the country, a partial solar eclipse will be visible, he said.

Hopkinsville officials are talking about setting aside viewing areas, Cook said. Parks and a football field are among the possibilities. Seminars featuring astronomers in the days beforehand are being discussed.

So mark your calendars! August 21, 2017!