HOPKINSVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mark your calendars. An astronomical event not seen in many lifetimes is edging closer and Kentucky will get a front row seat.
"I think this will take our area by surprise. I don't know that everyone knows how big this will be," explained Jim Hunter, a professor at Hopkinsville Community College.
How big it can be is judged by the fact we are discussing it five years in advance, a total solar eclipse is coming August 21, 2017 just after lunch time.
"Eclipses are a big deal across the world and we found how much of a tourist attraction they can be," said Hunter.
A solar eclipse is when the moon passes directly in front of the sun casting a shadow on earth - a shadow that has not covered this much of the United States since the early 1900s, but there's one spot on Earth that will experience that shadow for the longest period, and that spot happens to be right on the northwest side of Hopkinsville.
At 1:30 in the afternoon that August day you will need a flashlight to get around.
"The sky will basically turn to night since there will be no sunlight--blocked by the moon--the stars will come out. The temperature will get cold. Two minutes and forty seconds at its longest point," said Scott Bain with the Hopkinsville Community College.
That 2 minutes and 40 seconds is 40 seconds longer than it takes to complete a running of the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps just as exciting for us, and astronomers who have waited a lifetime for this event.
It is a huge feat for this town of 32,000 which is about 3 hours southwest of Louisville. Hunter said, "We knew we needed to get some things started so that the community will be ready in 2017 when the eclipse occurs."
Louisville is expected to lose 96 percent of the sun, less north, higher south.
But if you miss this one don't panic. Another total eclipse will affect our area on April 8, 2024.
The date August 21 may ring a bell for some, especially for Hopkinsville. While covering the eclipse story I uncovered an interesting twist that not only raised my eyebrows, but even the ones of famed movie director Steven Spielberg.
It seemed like a horror story for one Kentucky family, the Sutton family. All 11 of them gathered in their house on August 21, 1955.
It was just after sunset less than a quarter of a mile down this road in Kelly Kentucky where Mr. Sutton went out to the well. Shortly after that a night of terror began for the family.
Sutton said he witnessed a large object in the sky and ran into the house and alerted his family.
"Nobody would believe him--but they believed him later on because it wasn't very long after that--little things started peeking in the windows at them. Like they were trying to get in," explained Geraldine Stith.
The little things were later described as three foot beings with big glowing eyes, huge ears and long arms down to the ground. The family grabbed some guns and started shooting.
"They would shoot once out of the tree, one off the fence. They kept popping up, it was like three or four of them," Stith recalled.
The family was taunted until around 11:15 that night. When Sutton saw the chance to escape, he made a run for help, but when they arrived there was nothing but dozens of bullet holes in the home and what was described as a glowing substance on nearby bushes.
Stith said, "But when they would walk up to it, it would like go away. When they walked away they would see it glowing."
Emergency officials left the property and the creatures returned until sunrise. The family moved 14 days later.
The incident lead to inspiration for Hollywood Director Steven Spielberg who has noted the Kelly incident helped him creating creatures like E.T. and Gremlins.
But now the date shares the same as the approaching eclipse, leaving many spooked.
"There is still a few that think they could come back," said Stith.
Whether the science of the eclipse intrigues you or it's the popular alien encounter incident there is no doubt that many eyes will be on Kentucky that August afternoon.
Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.
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