Plan now for short drive to ex­pe­ri­ence to­tal­ity of Au­gust so­lar eclipse

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NWA OUTDOORS - FLIP PUTTHOFF

It’s said that once you see a to­tal so­lar eclipse, you’ll travel to the ends of the Earth to see an­other.

No need to go far dur­ing the so­lar eclipse on Aug. 21. The path of to­tal­ity runs through the heart of Mis­souri, only a few hours’ drive away. North­west Arkansas will see about 90 per­cent to­tal­ity, which will be a ce­les­tial sight to be­hold on its own.

The sky will darken as if it’s dusk in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon. The tem­per­a­ture will drop as the moon trav­els be­tween the Earth and the sun. In­stead of howl­ing at the moon, dogs may howl at the sun.

The to­tal so­lar eclipse starts in north­west Mis­souri about 11:40 a.m. To­tal­ity is at 1:06 p.m. and lasts just over two min­utes. The en­tire eclipse lasts about three hours. Times are sim­i­lar in North­west Arkansas for the par­tial eclipse.

Na­tion­wide, the 70-mile wide path of to­tal­ity runs from Ore­gon to South Carolina. Every­one in the United States main­land will see at least a par­tial so­lar eclipse, weather per­mit­ting. It was 1918 the last time so much of the na­tion ex­pe­ri­enced a so­lar eclipse.

With to­tal­ity so close, it’s worth hop­ping in the car to see such a spec­tac­u­lar event, a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence for most peo­ple. Towns in the heart of Mis­souri ex­pect big crowds for the eclipse, so it’s good to plan a trip now.

What bet­ter time to for week­end get­away to Kansas City, St. Louis or any mid-Mis­souri town or state park to see the sights over the week­end, then watch the eclipse on Mon­day.

A com­puter search shows that just about ev­ery town in mid-Mis­souri is hav­ing a fes­ti­val or view­ing event. How about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the to­tal so­lar eclipse on a bike? The por­tion of the Katy Trail near Columbia and Jef­fer­son City is in the path of to­tal­ity. Ex­pect a lot of com­pany on eclipse day. Mis­souri State Parks is host­ing a Katy Trail bike ride to fol­low the eclipse. At­ten­dance was capped at 500 rid­ers, and it’s al­ready sold out.

Plan­ning might in­clude buy­ing some so­lar eclipse view­ing glasses or weld­ing gog­gles. This is the only safe way to look at the eclipse without risk of eye­sight dam­age. Sun­glasses are not suf­fi­cient. So­lar eclipse glasses

aren’t ex­pen­sive, about $12 to $15 for a pack­age of six pairs.

It’s safe to look di­rectly at the eclipse only if you’re in the path of 100 per­cent to­tal­ity and only for those two min­utes when the moon to­tally blocks the sun, ac­cord­ing to on­line

in­for­ma­tion from NASA. The mo­ment the sun be­gins to reap­pear, slip the glasses back on.

Here’s hop­ing for a sunny day on Aug. 21. Sure, it could be cloudy, but in mid­sum­mer chances are good the sky will be clear.

I re­mem­ber a par­tial so­lar eclipse in North­west Arkansas dur­ing the 1980s, if I’m not mis­taken. There was a

big so­lar eclipse view­ing party at Lake Ata­lanta in Rogers. To­tal­ity was around 80 or 90 per­cent. The day grew no­tice­ably darker dur­ing the eclipse. The ex­pe­ri­ence was eerie and won­der­ful.

On Aug. 21, to­tal­ity is just a short drive away.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fput­ or on Twit­ter @NWAFlip

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