En­thu­si­asts in state ready to see eclipse

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - KENNETH HEARD

The first coast-to-coast to­tal so­lar eclipse in 99 years will oc­cur in the United States on Aug. 21, and al­though Arkansas isn’t in the “path of to­tal­ity,” res­i­dents will see the dark­en­ing of the sky, the low­er­ing of tem­per­a­tures and the dis­rup­tion of wildlife as­so­ci­ated with the as­tro­nom­i­cal phe­nom­e­non.

“It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing to see,” Carl Freyalden­hoven, a mem­ber of the Cen­tral Arkansas As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety, said of the eclipse. “It’s some­thing to put on your bucket list.”

The to­tal eclipse will

darken a 70-mile-wide band on its path from Ore­gon to South Carolina. The rest of the coun­try will ex­pe­ri­ence a par­tial so­lar eclipse. De­pend­ing on their lo­ca­tions, Arkansans will see at least 83 per­cent of the sun ob­scured by the moon. Corn­ing and Pig­gott, in Clay County in the north­east cor­ner of the state, will see the dark­est skies when the moon blocks 97 per­cent of the sun.

In Lit­tle Rock, when the eclipse reaches its max­i­mum cov­er­age at 1:18 p.m., 89 per­cent of the sun will be cov­ered.

“It’s a goose-pim­ple ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Bruce McMath, past pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Arkansas As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety. “The tem­per­a­tures will drop 10 de­grees. An­i­mals will act up. It’ll be night­time dark, and you will be able to see stars and plan­ets.

“It’s a dra­matic ex­pe­ri­ence.”

So­lar eclipses are rare. The moon and sun line up ev­ery 29 days, but be­cause the moon fol­lows a tilted or­bit around the earth, it is sel­dom seen block­ing the sun.

There is also an as­tro­nom­i­cal co­in­ci­dence that al­lows the events. The moon’s di­am­e­ter is 400 times smaller than the sun’s di­am­e­ter, and the sun is 400 times far­ther from Earth than is the moon. On Earth, the two orbs ap­pear to be the same size and on the in­fre­quent oc­ca­sions when they meet, eclipses hap­pen.

While sci­en­tists have plot­ted the ce­les­tial paths for cen­turies, some cul­tures be­lieved eclipses oc­curred for other rea­sons.

The Po­mos, an in­dige­nous group in the north­west­ern United States, once thought so­lar eclipses hap­pened when a bear fought with the sun. The bear took a large bite of the sun, caus­ing the eclipse, and then they re­solved their dif­fer­ences. Norse le­gend said a rav­en­ous wolf ate the sun, and an­cient Viet­namese cul­ture be­lieved a hun­gry frog feasted on it.

And eclipses have played a part in his­tory. In 585 B.C., a so­lar eclipse ended a seven-year war be­tween the Ly­di­ans and Medes in Greece. Bat­tlers saw the dark­en­ing of the skies as a sign to make peace.

French sci­en­tist Jules Janssen dis­cov­ered helium on Aug. 16, 1868, just as a so­lar eclipse oc­curred. He named the el­e­ment af­ter “he­lios,” which is the Greek word for “sun.”

Freyalden­hoven said this year’s eclipse is the first to oc­cur dur­ing the peak of so­cial me­dia.

“It will only take 94 min­utes to cross the U.S., but you’ll see it on so­cial me­dia im­me­di­ately,” he said of the eclipse. “Peo­ple will see pic­tures on their phones and com­put­ers in­stantly.”

Look­ing di­rectly at the sun or a so­lar eclipse can dam­age the eyes.

He urged view­ers not to look di­rectly at it, but to in­stead ei­ther use arc welder glasses or make pin­hole cam­eras. He also sug­gested punch­ing a hole in an en­ve­lope and putting a small makeup mir­ror in­side the en­ve­lope. By aim­ing the en­ve­lope, a viewer can project the re­flec­tion of the sun onto a wall.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Charles Daulton of the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in North Lit­tle Rock said Aug. 21 is too far ahead to ac­cu­rately pre­dict what the weather will be that day, but be­cause it is the warm­est time of the year in the state, it’s likely the sky will be clear and view­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties should be op­ti­mum.

“Even on a warm sum­mer day, there could be some clouds bub­bling up, but it fa­vors hav­ing a bet­ter chance of clear skies,” he said.

Daulton said he in­tends to travel ei­ther to his home state of South Carolina or to Ne­braska to see the eclipse.

“I’ve been wait­ing to see this for 15 years,” he said.

He will wait un­til a week or so be­fore the event to de­cide where to view it.

“It de­pends upon what the weather looks like,” he said.

“It’s a goose-pim­ple ex­pe­ri­ence.The tem­per­a­tures will drop 10 de­grees. An­i­mals will act up. It’ll be night­time dark, and you will be able to see stars and plan­ets.”

— Bruce McMath, past pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Arkansas As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety

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