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West Ky. residents reflect on 2017 eclipse, look forward to 2024

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Romeo Durscher/NASA Goddard Space Flight
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It’s been five years since western Kentucky experienced a total solar eclipse, and some in the region are already looking forward to the next one.

Aug. 21 marked the fifth anniversary of the 2017 Solar Eclipse, when west Kentucky residents saw thousands flock to the region to witness an astronomical event. Hopkinsville was one of the major centers of eclipse tourism at that time – even going so far as to dub itself “Eclipseville” – with people there seeing nearly three minutes of total eclipse.

Brooke Jung is the executive director of Visit Hopkinsville, the town’s convention and visitors bureau. She says the eclipse drew in 116,000 visitors.

“Our community rolled out the red carpet and was able to welcome visitors from all over the world,” Jung said. “It was truly a magical time for Hopkinsville and Christian County.”

The astronomical event helped to revitalize Hopkinsville’s downtown with the massive influx of tourists in 2017, and now other west Kentucky cities are hopeful there will be another tourism boom for the 2024 eclipse.

There will be another eclipse in 2024 with counties in West Kentucky reaching 75 percent totality. Victor Taveras is a professor of physics at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. He says the 2024 eclipse will have a different path than the 2017 one, with many west Kentucky counties experiencing about 75% totality and some in the far western part of the state seeing complete totality.

Taveras said anyone who has the opportunity to do so should experience the eclipse.

“From a scientific point of view eclipses are a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Taveras said. “The path of totality is relatively narrow in comparison to the earth. Eclipses happen regularly. Most of the time they happen over the oceans or somewhere unpopulated. It's very rare that you get millions of people in the path of totality.”

Taveras says eclipses will become less common in the distant future because the moon is being pulled away from Earth. He says this is due to tidal effects which affect the angular momentum between Earth and the moon. Eventually the moon will not be able to obscure the sun when they align. Scientists have even calculated when the last ever solar eclipse will be possible because of this phenomena, though that’s not for nearly 600 million years.

“[Eclipses are] something that happens by chance,” Taveras said. These type of eclipses don’t happen exactly the same way on other planets. From our point of view on Earth the sun is 400 time bigger than the moon but it is also 400 times further away.”

Taveras says Goldenpond Planetarium & Observatory in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a good spot to observe eclipses and other astronomical events. He says it is important to stay safe when observing eclipses and to always wear proper eye protection.

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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