Top of the Morning, June 18, 2017

Top of the Morning, June 18, 2017

Goreville, population 1,067 and home of the Blackcats, is going to be bursting at the seams on Aug. 21 — thanks to astronomers from the University of Illinois.

The tiny village in southern Illinois — in the path of the first total solar eclipse over the U.S. since 1979 — will become UI South for the day. It didn't take long for a 500-person bus trip organized by the UI's Department of Astronomy to fill up ahead of what's being billed as Woodstock for the sky-watching set.

"Totality is an amazing experience," UI astronomy prof Leslie Looney said. "It grabs you around the chest ... the darkness, the drama."

The UI's six-bus travel party will leave State Farm Center at 6 a.m. Aug. 21 and return that night. They'll set up at Goreville's spacious City Park for the big moment: 1:20.46 to 1:23.26 p.m. For many Illini types, it'll be the most exciting three-minute stretch since that incredible basketball comeback against Arizona in 2005.

"The unknowns are driving me crazy," Looney said. "What if it's cloudy? What if it rains?"

We'll tell more of Looney's story — as well as the excitement enveloping Carbondale, where they're selling 10,000 tickets at $25 a pop for Eclipse Day — in next Sunday's News-Gazette. In August, the plan is to send staff writer Melissa Merli south on Interstate 57 for on-the-scene reporting.

Do you plan to attend? Email jrossow@news-gazette or call 217-351-5231.

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