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Ky. Town The Best Place On Earth To Witness Rare Solar Eclipse

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HOPKINSVILLE, Ky, (LEX 18) -- The last time the contiguous United States witnessed a solar eclipse from coast to coast was on June 8, 1918.

Fast forward some 99 years, and it will happen again on August 21, 2017

The Christian County, Kentucky town of Hopkinsville is certainly getting ready for the big event -- but not because of a large number of scientists or astronomers nearby. Instead, those experts predict because of the town's geography, it will be the best place on Earth to witness the rare cosmic event.

"Our community found out about this 8 to 10 years ago. Ever since then, the wheels have been put into motion," said Brooke Jung, the Hopkinsville Solar Eclipse Coordinator. "Think even more so in the last two months."

Called the "Great American Eclipse," the event will occur in the midday hours on that late summer day, with people from Oregon's coast to the Georgia-South Carolina border witnessing the moon eclipsing the sun. If you imagine a line from those two points, Hopkinsville cuts right in the middle of it.

"Hopkinsville really did hit the cosmic lottery," Jung said. "The Kentucky Derby is known as the greatest two minutes of sports. This is the greatest two minutes in astronomy."

The "eclipse totality," or when the moon completely covers the sun, making what's called a "corona," will take place at approximately 1:24 pm CDT on that date. Jung said the event will take place for about one hour and 20 minutes, enough to still get plenty of attention for this Western Kentucky town. 

"You can see the stars coming out and the animals start freaking out and start going a little crazy, temperatures are going to drop, and it's going to be cold, like it would at night," Jung said.

With a population of about 31,000 people, it's estimated somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000 visitors will be in Hopkinsville during the Great American Eclipse.

"South Africa, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Ireland," mayor Carter Hendrix listed some of the countries where these visitors will be from. "It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," the mayor said.

That means preparing for the large crowds coming in. New retail centers are in the process of being built, along with a new visitors center that will open prior to the eclipse.

"It's difficult to think about the exhaustive list of departments at the top of your head because so many are involved," Mayor Hendrix said. "It's at the state, it's at the county, it's at the city level. Even our federal delegation has involvement with the efforts that are underway."

Jung said there will be four designated viewing areas, including one off the Trail of Tears Park.

Store owner Griffin Moore also anticipates the big crowds too.

"Our entire community is building right now," Moore said. "The construction and everything that's happening for about 25,000 to 50,000 visitors that we anticipate will be in our community next year."

A lifelong resident of the Christian County town, he says there's plenty of buzz that this town may not see again for some time.

"It's pretty wild when you look at the world and think Hopkinsville is just one little dot, and this is where it'll be the best spot to view this," Moore smiled. "So it's kind of incredible to think it's here."

For more information the Great American Eclipse, visit their website.

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