Central Texas College holds press conference about preparations for upcoming solar eclipse
By PAMELA GRANT
On April 8, 2024, locals will be treated to a truly spectacular, once in a lifetime event, a total solar eclipse in which the Central Texas area will be in the path of totality. The moon will completely block out the sun, the temperature will drop, and birds will fall silent.
Although the eclipse is approximately 500 days away, Central Texas College (CTC) and the city of Killeen are teaming up to make sure the event is as special as possible and that they are as prepared as possible. CTC held a news conference Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the Mayborn Science Theater.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is positioned between the sun and the Earth, causing its shadow to move across the Earth’s surface. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks the entirety of the sun.
The eclipse will begin April 8, 2024, at 12:19 p.m. Totality will begin at 1:36 p.m. and the area will be bathed in darkness for 4 minutes and 27 seconds across the state (Killeen will have 4 minutes and 16 seconds of totality). The partial eclipse will then continue until 2:59 p.m. In all, the eclipse will last for 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Texas is expected to be the best state in America to watch the eclipse, located along the centerline where the duration of totality will be longer than anywhere else. Texas is also expected to have the best eclipse-day weather prospects in the country.
“We’re looking forward to partnering with Killeen this April 8, 2024 to see the eclipse…It should be quite the affair,” said Central Texas College Chancellor Jim Yeonopolus.
CTC boasts the only planetarium theater in a 170-mile radius. CTC plans to be open the weekend before the eclipse offering a variety of shows and activities for people of all ages. They plan to bring in NASA representatives to present and talk to audiences. They will offer prime viewing locations throughout the campus as well as inside the dome.
“This is a rare event,” said CTC astronomer Warren Hart. “The total solar eclipse on average for any point on earth, on average is 375 years. Now that’s a long time, but we’ve been waiting longer because our previous total solar eclipse that occurred here on this place was over 517 years ago.
Hart said that this means that we are overdue for a total solar eclipse by about 147 years. 1875 is when our total solar eclipse should have occurred.
Hart added that there are a lot of people who have the money and follow total solar eclipses around the world whenever and wherever they are able to, so we should expect to have people from all over the world right here in our area.
“We’re pulling out all the stops for this because this solar eclipse that we’re about to witness right here in Killeen Texas in about 500 days is a BIG deal,” said Killeen Executive Director of Communications Janell Lewis Ford. “It may seem like it’s a long way out but guess what…2022 is almost in the books and before you know it, 2024 will be here. Our city will have a chance to witness four minutes and 16 seconds of a celestial phenomenon,” she said. “The last total solar eclipse was in 2017 and Killeen was not in the direct path but this time we are.”
“Based on the 2017 solar eclipse, we expect hundreds of thousands of visitors across the Central Texas area to come in,” said Matt Irvine, director of the Killeen Convention and Visitors Bureau. Irvine anticipates full occupancy in all of Killeen’s hotels. “Killeen is a great place to come out and visit and witness the eclipse…We’re excited to witness this once in a lifetime event in Killeen.”
“Breathtaking is one of the best ways I have to describe what observers will witness in our city of Killeen April 8, 2024,” said Killeen Mayor Debbie Nash-King. “We are in just the right position to see this cosmic beauty…It’s not to be taken for granted.”
The city of Killeen began preparing for the eclipse in February and will continue to release more plans and preparations in the upcoming months.
Mayor Debbie Nash-King made sure to emphasize the importance of staying safe during the solar eclipse. Looking directly at the sun is dangerous except during the brief phase of totality. To safely look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun, viewers are encouraged to purchase special-purpose solar filters (like “eclipse glasses”) or hand-held solar viewers.
Viewers are warned about Baily’s beads which are caused by light shining through the valleys caused by the moon’s mountains.
“People think ‘Well, it’s just Baily’s beads, I can take my glasses off and look.’ No. That’s wrong,” said CTC astronomer Hart. “You will be injuring your eyes if there is any minute part of the sun that is still visible.”
Hart said that most watch parties should have someone knowledgeable to tell the others when it is safe to remove their “eclipse glasses” (during totality) and when to put the glasses back on.
Following the 2024 event, the next total solar eclipse won’t happen until 2045 and the next one for our specific area won’t occur for another approximately 375 years.
Those who want to learn more about the eclipse and the city’s plans for the eclipse can check out the city’s eclipse websites at killeentexas.gov/eclipse and killeeneclipse.us