Breaking News Bar
posted: 9/2/2012 8:08 AM

Small Ky. town focus of eclipse chasers

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • A road sign under the afternoon sun outside Hopkinsville, Ky. When the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017, the afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.

      A road sign under the afternoon sun outside Hopkinsville, Ky. When the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017, the afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.
    Associated Press

  • hen the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017, the afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville, Ky., than any place on the planet.

      hen the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017, the afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville, Ky., than any place on the planet.
    Associated Press

  • Farmland near Hopkinsville, Ky. Visitors are expected to head to this rural area when the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. The afternoon event will last longer in an area near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.

      Farmland near Hopkinsville, Ky. Visitors are expected to head to this rural area when the next total eclipse of the sun darkens skies over parts of the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. The afternoon event will last longer in an area near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.
    Associated Press

  • Mark Cansler in a field on his family farm near Hopkinsville, Ky. Cansler expects visitors to fields like his to observe the next total eclipse of the sun visible from the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. The afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.

      Mark Cansler in a field on his family farm near Hopkinsville, Ky. Cansler expects visitors to fields like his to observe the next total eclipse of the sun visible from the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. The afternoon event will last longer in a rural stretch near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

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 country near Hopkinsville than any place on the planet. It will last two minutes and 40 seconds, not much longer than the Kentucky Derby.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

But already this town of 32,000 near the Tennessee border is making preparations to cash in on the fortuitous celestial alignment. And like the Derby, run three hours away in Louisville, the eclipse itself will be a blip in time compared to the buildup.

"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.

At the Hampton Inn & Suites, eclipse chasing groups from Germany and Japan have reserved more than two-dozen rooms, said Jeff Smith, the inn's general manager.

Smith said it's a sign of the frenzy to come.

"It will be the largest event that this community has ever seen," he said.

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.

Mike Mathis, co-owner of the Wood Shed Bar-B-Q & Restaurant, hopes to serve up slabs of barbecue ribs and piles of pork and mutton to hordes of visitors. The eatery is a few miles from the best eclipse-viewing spot.

Mathis vowed he won't jack up his food prices when the big event arrives, and urged fellow merchants to resist the temptation.

"Don't try to gouge the folks so we can draw `em in," he said.

Vince Dixon, who runs an ATV repair shop nearby, describes the area as a "secluded little bubble," but predicted area residents will be welcoming. It's given him even more incentive to create a campground out of an empty field on his property.

"In my opinion, with the way the economy is, you better welcome them," he said. "You take what you can get now."

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 way the sky just turns this purplish color, the temperature drops very quickly, the stars pop out in the middle of the daytime. It's eerie. You get an idea of how scary it might have been for the ancients when this came out of the blue."

The proximity of the prime viewing spot to Hopkinsville was reported earlier by the Kentucky New Era newspaper.

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.

Scientists urge people to wear protective glasses when viewing a solar eclipse.

Bill Kramer, who runs a website geared toward eclipse chasers, said the crowds could be "more akin to a county fair than a gathering of scientists and astronomers."

"A solar eclipse is a very public event and does not require a tremendous amount of technical support -- except to be at the right place at the right time," Kramer said in an email.

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.

In one ironic twist, the solar eclipse will share the same Aug. 21 date as a popular piece of local folklore -- when a family claimed to see a space ship with aliens land near their home in 1955. The family's claims are kept alive in the Little Green Men festival near the eclipse-viewing spot.

"It kind of gave me the chills when I saw the date," Cook said.

Meanwhile, local county magistrate Mark Cansler, said he wants to be accommodating but hopes that designated viewing areas are created to keep visitors from trampling through yards and farms. He lives and farms in the area.

"I don't think people would want large groups setting up camp in their yards," he said. "If we have crops out there, we wouldn't want people running over them."

Tammy Hale, who lives near what will be the most prime viewing area, was asked if she would charge visitors to park on her property.

"Why?" she quickly replied. Her husband, Tim, added, "Depends on how bad we're hurting for money."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.