'The Astronomy Channel' Comes to Hopkinsville for Pre Solar Eclipse Event

Aug 27, 2014

The Astronomy Channel minivan at Middle-Tennessee State University
Credit Lonnie Puterbaugh, Facebook

The Hopkinsville Christian County Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsor a pre-solar eclipse event this Saturday with Lonnie Puterbaugh, designer of "The Astronomy Channel," a mobile observatory from Brentwood, Tennessee. Puterbaugh says the sun is quite active in its post solar maximum stage and invites the public to see the flares and prominences, as the community gets ready for the 2017 total eclipse.

The Astronomy Channel

Lonnie Puterbaugh says he created The Astronomy Channel in 2005 out of frustration with how astronomy was taught to the public. He says it's not ideal to take the public out to the countryside where one can get the best view of things in the sky. The Astronomy Channel consists of two 47-inch monitors, one with an eye-piece to get a clear view of the sky and another with educational material describing the view. The eye-piece captures the equivalent of a 70-inch diameter telescope, the likes you'd see in Arizona, California or Hawaii.

The Astronomy Channel will be at the Pow-Wow Grounds at 100 Trail of Tears Drive from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photosphere and Chromosphere

At the event, Puterbaugh will be joined by colleagues with solar safe telescopes designed to view the sun. Typically, when one looks through telescopes at the sun, they'd see the Photosphere. But these telescopes will also provide the view of the "more exciting" Chromosphere, which shows the "fiery edge" and solar prominences.

"The sun is one of the most unique objects in the sky you can look at because it can change while you are viewing it in just a matter of seconds. Certainly within minutes it can change right in front of your eyes and that's different than most celestial objects that anyone would view."

Hopkinsville Eclipse Party 2017

Hopkinsville happens to be the ideal location to see the total solar eclipse of 2017. These events are very rare, with the most recent happening in 1970 along the East Coast, and before that in 1918 in the southern Arkansas area. The total solar eclipse is expected to last roughly two minutes and forty seconds.

More about the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Orthographic Map by NASA, showing Hopkinsville as location of greatest eclipse
Credit eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

Why Three Years in Advance? 

The sun is just beyond its Solar Maximum stage, which it will not be in 2017. These stages come in average intervals of 10 years. Solar Maximum is when the sun is most active, where there's more to see when looking through telescopes: sunspots, flares, prominences. This stage peaked at the end of 2013 and early 2014, but it's still very active.

Puterbaugh says just last weekend there were two flares, which NASA took photos of and will be on display at The Astronomy Channel in Hopkinsville this weekend.

A bright solar flare can be seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Aug. 24, 2014.