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Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Family travels from Jerusalem to witness total solar eclipse

The Zlotogorski family traveled by plane, train and car for over 22 hours from their home in Jerusalem to see the total solar eclipse at West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Night at Noon event Monday.

“We started planning this one year ago in August. I read many, many sites and I somehow reached Paducah,….we thought this was the best place for us,” said Krassi Zlotogorski.

Being the best place to view the eclipse was the overall feeling of the nearly 3,000 visitors, students, faculty and staff at WKCTC’s eclipse party.

Nearly 3,000 attended WKCTC’s Night at Noon eclipse party Monday (Photo Provided)

Those who attended WKCTC’s Night at Noon, an official NASA viewing site, joined the millions across the United States who had their eyes to the skies as they witnessed the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire country, coast-to-coast since 1918, according to NASA’s website.

I’ve wanted to see an eclipse for years; I missed the one several years ago in the UK,” said Claire Brooks of Sheffield, England, who also traveled over 20 hours to be in Paducah for the big day. “Everyone has been brilliant since we arrived. To be part of a community event like this is great!”

Paducah residents were also over the moon to have the Night at Noon event in their own backyard.

“It’s so exciting that we get to experience it here and we didn’t have to go anywhere else,” said Carolyn Holm. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, said Paducah’s Tim Bonner. “It’s a family affair for us,” said his sister Barbara Allen, also of Paducah, who both shared the day with their family from Alabama.

“WKCTC was proud to host the view of the total solar eclipse and as a higher education institution provided a rare opportunity to educate our guests about the solar system,” Dr. Anton Reece, WKCTC president. “It was truly exciting and memorable to watch the expressions of our students and faculty, K-12 and community members in attendance of this historic event.”

Former astronaut and Kentucky native Colonel Terry Wilcutt was Night at Noon’s eclipse emcee. He spoke with area middle and high school students and visitors about his space experiences, NASA’s current programs, and the concepts behind the awe-inspiring cosmic event.

“We (NASA Educational Outreach) like anything that makes people think about science…that will hopefully inspire some of the kids and others to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.”

Wilcutt has been a special guest at Paducah’s Challenger Learning Center many times, including the day the center opened in August 2002. Monday’s visit and participation in Night at Noon offered something new for him.

“This was my first total solar eclipse, and being part of the educational process on campus was an honor for me really, especially for me here back in my home state.”

Visitors enjoyed fun activities, music, science demonstrations, great food from local vendors, and had the opportunity to see the NASA high altitude balloon launch. The launch, conducted by a team of students and faculty from Kentucky Space Grant Consortium at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), and a team from the University of Connecticut Harford and the University of Connecticut Bridgeport, was as part of a nationwide, NASA-sponsored project to live-stream aerial video footage of the “Great American Eclipse.”

From the cameras mounted in the balloon that traveled up to 100,000 feet into the air, footage from the camera, and the many other launches from teams across the country, will be available for public viewing on NASA’s website, nasa.gov.

Jessica Glasscock, a BCTC junior majoring in environmental science technology said being at one of the sister colleges (BCTC and WKCTC are two of the 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical System) for this project was great.

“We’ve been working really hard for the past year to get this event up and going, and it’s really exciting,” said Glasscock. “This is so important because the last time a solar eclipse happened in Kentucky the video cameras were not able to go up in space, so this is literally a once in a lifetime chance for me personally. I don’t think I’ll ever get to do anything like this again.”

Night at Noon Chairperson and Challenger Learning Center at Paducah (CLC) Director Mellisa Duncan was thrilled with Monday’s Night at Noon event, a culmination of a year’s planning with the event committee.

“I want to thank the committee, college employees and all the volunteers that helped make Night at Noon so successful. We’ve been planning for over a year and are happy we had great event!”

“Our Night at Noon eclipse event also aligned with our education mission to promote and raise awareness about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), such as the curriculum taught at our CLC,” said Reece. “Last, I would like to thank all of our Night at Noon volunteers, Paducah Police department, and other emergency response agencies.”


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