Eclipsing in Hopkinsville

Solar Corona by Alson Wong (Jackson, Wyoming, 21 August 2017)

The 2017 eclipse is yesterday’s news, but is still worthy of note.

Since we were vacationing in the center of the country for other reasons, we decided to go to Hopkinsville, KY, to view totality. Hopkinsville gave itself the nickname of “Eclipseville” for the event, as it was the town closest to Greatest Eclipse, the point experiencing totality when the sun, moon and earth are perfectly aligned. Better, the skies were predicted to be entirely clear. Humidity was so low that even jet contrails evaporated within seconds of being created in the skies above us.

There were parking lots charging $20 and more a space, but we figured we’d head to the local LDS chapel. A close look at the NASA site shows we were less than 2 miles from the center of totality, which meant we lost only 0.7 seconds of the 2:40 totality we might have experienced elsewhere.

The local LDS folks hadn’t organized to cash in on the eclipse, so parking was free and plentiful. There was shade as well as grassy places to put blankets while we waited for the main event. LDS folks had gathered from as far as Texas and Michigan. Like little goslings, we’d gathered “home” to the LDS chapel in the path of totality. Children ran around and adults chatted with one another, offering eclipse glasses to anyone who might not have brought enough for everyone.

One lady dialed her bishop, who contacted the bishop in Hopkinsville, who in turn sent a ward clerk over to open up the building. So we enjoyed all the perks of access to the church (water fountains, bathrooms, kitchen facilities) while waiting for the big event.

My husband had brought binoculars so we could see the eclipsed sun with even greater clarity, but showed us a trick for using the binoculars to see how the moon was passing over the face of the sun.

The spaces between leaves create tiny “pinhole” cameras, allowing us to simply look at the ground under the trees to see myriad images of the partially-eclipsed sun in the hour or so before and after totality.

And of course, with proper ISO 12312-2 eclipse glasses, it was possible to look directly at the sun as the moon crawled across the surface.

Sitting there looking up as the mass of the moon moved in front of the sun, I was struck by the reality of the moon and sun as I never have been before. It is a sight that inspires the thought, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” 1

During totality we lay on the grass, looking up with our binoculars, watching as solar flares arced beyond the shadow of the cratered surface of the moon. The magnetized iron plasma surrounding the sun created delicate petals licking outwards from the black disk of the moon. 2 Then all too soon, the edge of the sun peeked out from behind the moon, creating a “diamond ring” effect. It is lovely to see in pictures but so sad to see in real life. Because it is the signal that the end has come.


Corona by Gail Kapusnick (Huntington, Oregon, 21 August 2017)

We cleaned up after ourselves and bade farewell to our eclipse friends. Then we joined the thousands of other travelers returning to their normal lives, spending hours crawling along the surface of the earth after our moments watching the dance of moon and sun.

Notes for next time: There will be a handful of additional solar eclipses visible from the United States in the next few decades. To see when an eclipse may come to your neck of the woods, check out NASA’s solar eclipse page or Wikipedia’s section about Solar Eclipses visible from the United States from 2001 to 2050. Kirtland will be in the path of totality on April 8, 2024. Utah will be in the path of totality on August 12, 2045, with the center of totality passing close to Price and Nephi and visible from Salt Lake City and Provo. Next time we’ll bring:

  • Solar glasses for everyone
  • Binoculars for everyone (if a total eclipse)
  • Telescope with solar filter
  • Tripod to hold inverted binoculars for viewing the eclipsing sun

Notes:

  1. Moses 1:10
  2. See NASA page on the solar corona.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

10 thoughts on “Eclipsing in Hopkinsville

  1. We’ll be epicenter of the 2024 eclipse.

    BTW, which was better: the eclipse or GenCon?

  2. Well, of course I would have to say the best part of this past week was my visit with you and your lovely wife…!

    But I do have a lot of pictures of my family with various cosplayers, we had a blast playing a host of games, ate the hugest key lime pie I’ve ever seen, and came home with a trunk full of games to keep us busy for the next year or more.

    And the visit with my grand-daughter and her relatives was a high point as well… 🙂

  3. Small world, I was there. We were set up down a bit from you (judging by the pictures), but my wife tends to be our social ambassador, and I think she chatted with you. It was a great experience all around.

  4. How delightful that you were there as well! My husband was being our social ambassador, so he no doubt talked with you or your wife. My role for the week was to do the bulk of the driving, so we each played our part…

  5. The Stouts were in Indy? I wish I woulda known. I’d have gone downtown to say howdy-do, and give you some foreign BoMs to find homes for on your journey.

  6. Maybe we can arrange a Midwest M* social for next summer. This year was hard because it was the first time my husband had the whole family with him and he’s used to wandering at will. So we didn’t really know our plans in advance.

  7. It is a small world. My family drove to Kentucky just for the eclipse (with a brief stop at Mammoth caves). We set up in an LDS church parking lot in Elkton – about 15 miles east of Hopkinsville – because we had heard that Hopkinsville would have lots of crowds. We were pretty much alone until totality ended and the roads suddenly got packed. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    FWIW, I live in Ohio and am excited about the 2024 eclipse, but I would recommend going to Texas if you have the option. In the midwest, clouds rule April (when the eclipse will take place). Its a big risk to come here.

  8. I watched from the south shore of Lake Greenwood in South Carolina. I wondered when we attended LDS services the day before with the Greenwood Ward if any other saints who had come for the eclipse would be there, but we were the only visitors in priesthood meeting.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Meg.

    Every LDS church in Idaho made sure to have signs not to park there.

  10. Someone in our ward drove up to Twin Falls instead of Idaho Falls. The lack of crowding might have been a clue that there would only be a 97% eclipse, but apparently they didn’t realize their error until far too late. Meanwhile one of my daughters, her nine children and her brother viewed the eclipse from a park near he Twin Falls temple. She said it was just crowded enough to feel the sense of special occasion, but no long lines at the tidy restrooms. That is what I call nearly ideal. To be fair to Idaho churches, The potential for thousands of Utahans descending and creating horrific traffic traffic jams in church parking lots was real. This was not nearly such a threat in other places.

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