Eclipse News

2017 Total Solar Eclipse: Heart of Darkness


Many states and towns lay claim to being the best spot from which to view the August 21st eclipse.  The true heart of darkness, however, lies in southern Illinois and western Kentucky where the points of maximum duration and greatest eclipse are located.

Maximum duration is self explanatory and is marked by a point about six miles south and east of Carbondale, Illinois.  For this eclipse, maximum duration is 2 minutes 40.3 seconds and begins just before 1:22 PM Central Daylight Saving Time.  The point of Greatest Eclipse is that point in the path when the axis of the moon’s shadow passes closest to the center of the earth, for this eclipse a point twelve miles west of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  It is common for these points to lie in close proximity to each other and, in fact, the duration at Hopkinsville is only 0.2 seconds short of max near Carbondale.

Carbondale Eclipse Site

Hopkinsville Eclipse Site



The dawgs live in Highland, Illinois, a fine community about 35 miles east and north of St. Louis and less than an hour from the northern limit line of totality.   On a recent trip to Nashville I traversed the heart of darkness for three fourths of the 225 miles or so from home to the Nashville Fairgrounds.  Taking I-57 south out of Mt. Vernon I entered the future shadow’s northern boundary near Rend Lake and travelled through Marion to the I-24 interchange, only 15 miles from Carbondale.

For somewhere in the vicinity of 185 miles Interstate 24 cuts a groove through the heart of this eclipse, exiting into partiality just south of Murfreesboro, TN then continuing on to Chattanooga.  Along the way I-24 comes within 15 miles of both the point of Greatest Duration and the point of Greatest Eclipse, and cuts through Nashville, the largest city along the path completely within the moon’s shadow. 

It only takes a few minutes after entering I-24 eastbound to cross the Central Line, along the edge of southern Illinois’ beautiful Shawnee National Forest; I will remain south of center for the remainder of the journey.  I cruise past the home of Superman, cross the Ohio river, do a circle around Paducah and cross the northern reaches of Lakes Kentucky and Barkley and the Land Between Them.  I pass road signs for towns that occupy prime eclipse viewing spots on August 21st – Dixon Springs, Metropolis, Eddyville, Princeton, Dawson Springs, Cadiz, Clarksville, Springfield, Cross Plains – the list goes on and on. 



The Best Spot

Yeah, it sure would be nice to watch the eclipse from Jackson, Wyoming with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop.  How about perched on a Great Smoky Mountain gazing to the west as the moon’s shadow comes at you at about the same speed as a bullet.  Folks under big skies in the prairies of the central US will enjoy a panoramic view of totality, one that sports a ring of twilight along the horizon in all directions as stars emerge overhead.

You don’t need to break out the high tech gear and bounce your signal off a satellite to make certain you are on the exact spot of Greatest Duration or Eclipse.  You don’t need to spend a small fortune to house the extended family in a four star.  What is required is to pick a spot near the line, formulate a game plan and execute.

The Best Spot?  It’s the one where the sun and moon align with you on August 21st.

Streets full of people, all alone                                                                                   Roads full of houses, never home                                                                                   A church full of singing, out of tune                                                              Everyone’s gone to the moon.

Nina Simone, “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”, Nina Simone and Piano, 1969                                 Written by Kenneth King, © Marquis Songs USA                    


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