By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
When the moon blots out the sun, turning day into night for about two minutes on Aug. 21, millions of people will look at the sky — through special eyewear — to experience the moment.
Those positioned along the “path of totality” — a 70-mile wide area swathing the United States from West to East — will see and feel the full effect of the event.
According to NASA, birds will begin their nighttime routines and nocturnal creatures will awaken.
Everyone in North America, assuming there’s a clear sky, will be able to view at least a partial eclipse. According to NASA’s interactive eclipse map, the Louisville area will see an approximately 95.7 percent obscuration of the sun. In Elizabethtown, Ky., the sun will be 97.6 percent obscured. Closer to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s southern border, Tompkinsville, Ky., will see a 99.9 percent obscuration.
A group of students from Trinity High School will be among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Hopkinsville, Ky., in the Diocese of Owensboro to view the full eclipse. Hopkinsville, located in southwestern Kentucky, is expected to have the longest view of the eclipse in the United States.
The parish in Hopkinsville, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, has formed an “Eclipse Committee” and will also host the director of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno.
This will be Brother Consolmagno’s second visit to Kentucky in two years.
“In December of 2015 I was in Louisville, where I had the privilege of speaking to a very large group of people at the public library,” he said in an announcement about the eclipse. “Now I am delighted to be back in Kentucky to see the eclipse from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Hopkinsville, the place where the eclipse will have the longest duration of anywhere in the country.”
Local astronomer Chris Graney, a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, a teacher at Jefferson Community and Technical College and a consultant for the Vatican Observatory, will also be in attendance. He said in the announcement that Brother Consolmagno was invited to attend by the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul,
Father Richard Meredith, a fan of the Jesuit’s books, such as “Brother Astronomer,” “God’s Mechanics,” and “Would You Baptize an Extra-Terrestrial?”
“About four years ago, when I heard of the 2017 eclipse, I remembered that Brother Guy was associated with the Vatican Observatory,” Father Meredith said. “So, I contacted him with an invitation to the hospitality of Saints Peter & Paul Parish. … We were uniquely poised for the event, given a clear day — for which we are devoutly praying.”
A clear day will be a blessing to viewers of the eclipse — at least to those who use proper eyewear. (Consumers have been warned not to view the eclipse with the naked eye and to be wary of glasses that claim to be safe. If you are unsure of your eyewear’s safety, it’s best not to look.) Schools around the country have been scrambling to get enough protective eyewear for their students.
St. Nicholas Academy and St. Gregory Schools have planned ahead for the eclipse and arranged trips for their older students into the path of totality. St. Gregory, located in Cox’s Creek, will take middle school students to Bowling Green to view the event. St. Nicholas is taking children in grades five through eight to Goodletsville, Tenn., which is also in the path of the total eclipse.
Various other grade and high schools in the archdiocese plan to view the eclipse on their campuses or dismiss early. Jefferson County Public Schools have implemented a delayed dismissal during the eclipse for middle and high schools. JCPS students also will be granted an excused absence to view the eclipse on the path of totality.
St. Leonard School plans to work with NASA, collecting temperature and cloud coverage data and observe the behavior of animals during the event.
Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Ky., which will see a 96.8 percent eclipse, will also record animal behavior. Some sophomores plan to bring pets to school for the event. Freshmen are creating a safe viewer through which they plan to record the event to create an iMovie. And the school’s art students plan to paint during the eclipse.
The Vatican Observatory blog will be updated during the eclipse weekend Aug. 19 and 20 and on eclipse day, Aug. 21. Visit www.vofoundation.org/blog.
The eclipse — from beginning to end — is expected to last for a few hours. The peak of the eclipse in Jefferson County and points south will be at about 2:27 p.m.