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“In my opinion, with the way the economy is, you better welcome them,” he said. “You take what you can get now.”

A solar eclipse happens when the moon lines up between the sun and the Earth, casting a lunar shadow on the Earth’s surface and obscuring the solar disk. During a partial solar eclipse, only part of the sun is blotted out.

Total solar eclipses draw anywhere from hundreds to thousands of scientists, tourists and curious observers to areas with good views. There will be a handful of such spectacles around the world before August 2017, but none with good vantage points in the U.S. mainland.

“I’ve only seen one total eclipse in my life, and it is the most incredible experience you’ll ever see,” Regas said. “On the top 10 list of astronomical events, this is No. 1 and No. 2 is way down the list. It’s not even close.

“The way the sky just turns this purplish color, the temperature drops very quickly, the stars pop out in the middle of the daytime. It’s eerie. You get an idea of how scary it might have been for the ancients when this came out of the blue.”

The proximity of the prime viewing spot to Hopkinsville was reported earlier by the Kentucky New Era newspaper.

The path of the total eclipse will cut a narrow swath across the country. It will start in Oregon and take a path through parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, slivers of Georgia and North Carolina and then into South Carolina, Regas said.

Along the path in Kentucky and Tennessee, the sky will darken in such places as Paducah, Ky., and Clarksville and Nashville in Tennessee, he said. In Nashville, the total eclipse will last one minute and 47 seconds, he said.

In most other parts of the country, a partial solar eclipse will be visible, he said.

Scientists urge people to wear protective glasses when viewing a solar eclipse.

Bill Kramer, who runs a website geared toward eclipse chasers, said the crowds could be “more akin to a county fair than a gathering of scientists and astronomers.”

“A solar eclipse is a very public event and does not require a tremendous amount of technical support _ except to be at the right place at the right time,” Kramer said in an email.

Hopkinsville officials are talking about setting aside viewing areas, Cook said. Parks and a football field are among the possibilities. Seminars featuring astronomers in the days beforehand are being discussed.

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,” Cook said.

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