On August 21, 2017, people in Nashville and a wide swath of Middle Tennessee will witness a total solar eclipse. In fact, it’ll be the first time since 1979 that residents of the continental U.S. will see the moon completely block out the sun.
But if you really want to bask in the darkness, head to Hopkinsville, Kentucky—about an hour northwest of Nashville. The eclipse will be visible for 2 minutes and 40 seconds, longer than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. (Nashville’s view lasts only a minute.)
Population Could Double
Astronomers and eclipse enthusiasts have been awaiting this event for years. Cheryl Cook, executive director of Hopkinsville’s convention and visitors bureau, says she was first contacted about the eclipse in 2007.
Since then, groups from as far away as Germany and Australia have booked hotel rooms. And Cook expects an influx from nearby towns that aren’t the eclipse’s path.
“I’ve been told as many as 50,000,” Cook said. “It could be more, it could be less. That would double our population almost here.”
Cook and other officials are looking for ways to manage the crowds, including designated viewing areas in parks and the town’s two high school football stadiums. Area farmers talk of opening their fields to the expected crowds. The local community college and the Cincinnati Observatory plan to set up telescopes for eclipse viewing.
A Chance To Cash In?
Some hotels in Hopkinsville are already booked up; others are waiting until 2016 to start taking reservations. A few have imposed a three-day minimum stay.
Cook says the eclipse is an opportunity to show off the town. They’ve designed a special logo, commemorative t-shirts are already for sale, and as the Associated Press reports, the event coincides with another close encounter from space:
In one ironic twist, the solar eclipse will share the same Aug. 21 date as a popular piece of local folklore — when a family claimed to see a space ship with aliens land near their home in 1955. The family’s claims are kept alive in the Little Green Men Festival near the eclipse-viewing spot.
“It kind of gave me the chills when I saw the date,” Cheryl Cook said.