MIKE WAGONER

MIKE WAGONER

School-at-home astronomy Lesson 2 is to figure out where one can maximize the total blackout experience during the next solar eclipse to cross the United States.

The eclipse is coming up on April 8, 2024, and the event presents a unique educational opportunity for families. Students and parents are encouraged to seize the day and figure out where to be in order to observe the best show that nature has to offer.

Michael Bakich of Astronomy magazine tells us that because of the position of the Earth, sun and moon that day, the 2024 eclipse will be 67% longer than the one America experienced on Aug. 21, 2017.

“For those who stood beneath the moon’s umbra in 2017, no convincing is necessary to get you to darkness in 2024,” Bakich wrote. “It’s a sight you’ll never rate as anything other than awesome.”

“Your 2024 goal is to be as close to the center line as possible,” Bakich suggested. “The fact that the moon’s shadow is round means that the longest eclipse occurs at its center line because that’s where you’ll experience the lunar shadow’s full width.”

“The shadow’s path encounters North America near Mazatlán, Mexico,” he said. The eclipse’s “border crossing” at the Rio Grande into the United States will occur “at the wonderfully named Radar Base, Texas. There, totality there will last 4 minutes, 27 seconds.”

That’s as good as it gets in terms of “eclipse totality” in all of the United States, Bakich commented.

Radar Base was an Army air field built during World War II but shuttered in 1945. Today, the town has a population of about 610. It’s located 10 miles north of the U.S. border city of Eagle Pass, Texas. Lodging is scarce.

As the eclipse moves on, Bakich said, it progresses in a northeasterly direction through the Lone Star State, and “a huge number of people won’t have to travel anywhere to see it. San Antonio, Austin, Killeen, Waco, Dallas and Fort Worth all lie under the shadow.”

“That’s more than 11 million people who can experience the total phase of the eclipse by simply walking outside,” Bakich said.

Killeen is worth consideration as an eclipse destination. It’s not too big and not too small. Killeen is the home of the Army’s Fort Hood, which employs more than 60,000 soldiers and civilians, making it the largest active-duty armored post in the U.S. military. Lodging options are plentiful.

Killeen’s total eclipse blackout time in 2024 will be 4 minutes and 17 seconds, putting it in the top tier of places to watch.

Prior to the establishment of Fort Hood during World War II in 1942, Killeen was just another rough-and-tumble western town.

The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway put down tracks through Killeen in 1882. They had a big celebration, and “Wild Bill” Scoggins, a Methodist preacher’s son, jumped onto the engine’s cowcatcher and “rode” the locomotive as it chugged into town.

The local chamber of commerce archivist said: “As the train screeched to a stop, Wild Bill jumped to the ground, uncoiled his lariat and proceeded to lasso the smokestack of the Santa Fe engine.”

Sue Hallmark of the Killeen Area Heritage Association says one of Killeen’s most famous citizens was the legendary singer...and Army private...Elvis Aaron Presley, who was stationed at Fort Hood for 25 weeks, beginning March 28, 1958.

A local community college faculty member is already advocating: “Come for the eclipse, stay for the kolaches.” What is that all about? Have your student(s) research “kolaches” (co-LASH-ez).

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