The 5 things you need to know to get the best view of the total solar eclipse
Scientists say a total eclipse of the sun is very rare, happening only once every 350 years.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The sun may shine bright on our old Kentucky home, but for two minutes and 40 seconds, a total solar eclipse will plunge parts of Kentucky into darkness.
It will all unfold Aug. 21, when the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow called the umbra on our planet. It will take a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina, right through Kentucky.
WDRB is telling you the five things you need to know to get the most from this once in a lifetime experience.
BEST PLACE TO VIEW
Where is the best place to view this? Well, it's right here in Kentucky. Hopkinsville is the one place in the country designated as the point of greatest eclipse, where the axis of the umbra passes closest to earth. That means it's where spectators will have the longest and best view of the full solar corona, the luminous ring that appears around the moon. It's the sun's outermost layer and is seen only during a total solar eclipse.
Dr. Tom Tretter, professor of science at the University of Louisville and director of the Rauch Planetarium, said you will be able to see the total eclipse in other places.
"There's a narrow band just a few tens of miles wide, where you have a total solar eclipse," Tretter said. "The moon completely blocks the sun. But even here in Louisville, we're not in that path, but we will get 96 percent of the sun blocked by the moon."
PARTIAL VS. TOTAL ECLIPSE
So Louisville is only 4 percent off, but the difference between a partial and total eclipse is a world of difference. It's not just getting to see the corona. Brooke Jung, an eclipse consultant for the city of Hopkinsville, explains that other strange things will happen only in totality.
“We will have complete darkness. It will be like twilight outside. Stars will come out, you'll be able to see planets, animals will get disoriented, you'll even start to see flowers start to close up. Just all these environmental things will start to happen around us," Jung said. "The temperature will drop about 5 to 10 degrees. It is such a significant event. And less than one percent of the U.S. population has ever seen a total eclipse."
Hopkinsville is about 170 miles southwest of Louisville, less than a two-a-half-hour drive. And this celestial event is putting the tiny town on the global map as the place to be to watch history unfold. With a population of about 30,000 people, officials expect up to 100,000 visitors.
WHERE TO STAY
"We know we don't have enough hotel rooms to accommodate all of the visitors that we'll have in town. So as a city, we have created some designated campsite areas," Jung said. “One in particular is DeBow Park, which is a very great location with unobstructed views of the sky."
There will be 300 campsites there. They cost $30 per night with a three-night minimum.
Jung also has advice for people who just want to drive to Hopkinsville for the day.
"I would say kind of have a game plan. Even if you don't have a reservation, we do have a lot of general viewing locations that will be open," she said. "So maybe just have a game plan for where you want to go, so that way you're not making that decision last minute."
You can reserve a spot at Ruff Park, were the city is setting up 300 individual viewing locations. People can reserve those for $30. They get a 10x10 location and that comes with a parking spot. There will be food vendors on site, and spectators will have access to restroom facilities.
There are still hotel rooms available in the area, but you won't find them online. You'll need to contact the hotels directly to book. Most have higher than normal prices and a three-night minimum.
PROTECTING YOUR EYES
Gut instinct during an event like this is to look up to see what's happening. But that's not safe for your eyes. What do you need to do to protect yourself?
"During any kind of eclipse, total or partial, you'll want to protect your eyes with the right kind of glasses," Tretter said. "Regular sunglasses won't do, so you'll need special glasses to do it. In Louisville's case, because it's never fully blocked, you'll need glasses the entire time. In a total solar eclipse, once that moon blocks the sun, there is about two minutes of time when the moon has blocked enough sunlight that you can remove your glasses."
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
The average speed of that umbra across Kentucky will be a mind-boggling 1,449 miles an hour. From end to end, the eclipse will take about three hours. Jung takes us through the process.
“In Hopkinsville, the point of first contact happens at 11:56 a.m. So that's when you can put your glasses on, look up at the sun, and you'll see just a little bite taken out of the sun," he said. "So that means the moon has just started to move in front of the sun. So from there, it's going to take about an hour and a half for the moon to move completely in front of the sun. So at 1:24 p.m. central time, that is when we will begin full totality."
But those magic moments of the full eclipse will only last 160 seconds if you're in the right place. And by all accounts, it's worth the trip.
"It's probably once every 350 years that you might have a total solar eclipse," Tretter said. "So chances are it won't happen in your lifetime."
"When I hear other people talking about seeing a total eclipse, I get goosebumps thinking about me experiencing that," Jung said. "I know it's going to be so special for everyone who gets to see it."
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