FLOYD COUNTY — If the Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in sports, then Monday will be the greatest two minutes in astronomy.
At least, that's what Indiana University Southeast Professor Emeritus of Geosciences Gerald Ruth is expecting.
Ruth introduced swaths of students to the wonders of the universe for more than 50 years at IUS.
But despite his long career studying our world, Ruth will soon witness for the first time something almost beyond his imagination: a total solar eclipse.
"Well, I am anticipating first that the weather will provide the best possibility of seeing it," Ruth said by phone Saturday.
"And it will be very neat to see how the moon swallows up the sun."
Southern Indiana won't get to see quite the feast Ruth is hoping for, which is why he hit the road on Saturday and headed to Benton, Ky. There he will stay in a cabin with his wife, along with two other couples.
Why not go to Hopkinsville the nearest de facto eclipse capital like thousands of others are planning to?
"Well it's 20 seconds more, a longer eclipse than Hopkinsville," he said.
For the longest two minutes in astronomy, that's a big deal.
Ruth said his team of sky gazers will have cameras and telescopes, but he doesn't want to forget to just enjoy the historic event with his own eyes (protected by certified eye wear, of course.)
He's curious to feel the temperature drop and hear the confused sounds of nature when the moon passes directly and completely in front of the Earth and sun.
Nature's show is expected to start around 12:59 p.m. EST, with maximum eclipse expected around 2:27 p.m. Curtain call will be around 3:52 p.m. Southern Indiana can expect an up to 96 percent eclipse, and Ruth said that's nothing to scoff at.
"Because we haven't had anything that close for a number of years," he said. "You'll feel the breezes blow and birds chirping ... The thing I'm worrying about is [with] just a narrow crescent people not looking through their glasses."
Scientifically speaking, Ruth isn't necessarily planning on making any findings. But for the active eclipse chasers, there will be something to learn from the sun's outermost corona.
The corona, according to NASA, is usually hidden by the bright light of the sun's surface. But during a total solar eclipse, the corona reveals itself. Ruth said every chance to observe the corona is another opportunity for sciences to discover something new.
There will also be a chance to witness "Baily's Beads," light rays from the sun that stream through valleys on the moon's horizon, creating what Ruth called a diamond effect.
He'll have to pay close attention and practice patience to catch all the universe's intricacies. After more than half a century in the sciences, that shouldn't be a problem.