Peo­ple pre­pare for to­tal eclipse

Ex­perts: See­ing it worth trip north

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BILL BOW­DEN

Ninety-five per­cent sounds like a lot.

But the 95 per­cent so­lar eclipse Arkansas will ex­pe­ri­ence on Aug. 21 will be noth­ing like the to­tal eclipse peo­ple will get a few hours north in Mis­souri, said An­gela Speck, direc­tor of as­tron­omy at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri in Columbia.

The dif­fer­ence is like night and day, she said.

The sun is 1 mil­lion times brighter than the full moon, said Speck. If an eclipse is 99 per­cent, that means 1 per­cent of the sun is still shin­ing, and 1 per­cent of the sun is 10,000 times brighter than the full moon.

“You won’t get dark­ness,” Speck said. “That’s why it’s worth it. If you’re within driv­ing dis­tance of to­tal dark­ness, just get there.”

In the Aug. 21 to­tal eclipse, the moon will com­pletely block the sun’s bright face for up to 2 min­utes and 40 sec­onds, turn­ing day into night and mak­ing vis­i­ble the

oth­er­wise hid­den so­lar corona, “one of na­ture’s most awe­some sights,” ac­cord­ing to NASA.

It’ll hap­pen fast, Speck said. Peo­ple in the to­tal eclipse path will be over­taken by the moon’s shadow mov­ing at 1,500 mph.

“The sky sur­round­ing the sun will grow very dark very quickly,” ac­cord­ing to eclipse2017.org. “Stars and plan­ets will pop out of nowhere. Roost­ers will crow and in­sects will chirp as though night is fall­ing. If you look to the west, you’ll see a beau­ti­ful black cur­tain with hints of sun­set-or­ange north and south of it. … In the last few sec­onds be­fore to­tal­ity, that dull black­ness you saw off to the west will sud­denly spring up out of the Earth and take over the whole sky like a gi­gan­tic cur­tain be­ing pulled over you.”

Then, a cou­ple of min­utes later, it will be over. The moon will move on, and day­light will re­turn.

This will be the first to­tal so­lar eclipse to cross the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. since 1918 and the first to­tal so­lar eclipse vis­i­ble any­where in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. since 1979.

The to­tal eclipse will cut a 70-mile-wide path from Ore­gon to South Carolina, in­clud­ing part of cen­tral Mis­souri, which is about six hours north of Lit­tle Rock on a nor­mal driv­ing day.

But Aug. 21 won’t be a nor­mal driv­ing day.

Speck ad­vises Arkansans who want to see the to­tal eclipse to get to cen­tral Mis­souri a day early at the lat­est. Oth­er­wise, they might get stuck in traf­fic and miss the to­tal eclipse. The to­tal eclipse will oc­cur shortly af­ter 1 p.m. on Aug. 21 in Mis­souri, which is the clos­est place to view the eclipse for 30 mil­lion peo­ple.

For res­i­dents of north­east Arkansas, the to­tal eclipse will pass through part of south­ern Illi­nois that might be a shorter drive than go­ing to the to­tal eclipse path in Mis­souri.

The en­tire North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent will ex­pe­ri­ence a par­tial so­lar eclipse on Aug. 21 last­ing be­tween two and three hours.

In Arkansas, the par­tial eclipse will be­gin about 11:45 a.m. and end about 2:45 p.m., peak­ing shortly af­ter 1 p.m.

The par­tial eclipse will be about 95 per­cent in Jones­boro, 92 per­cent in Fayet­teville, 90 per­cent in Lit­tle Rock and 82 per­cent in Texarkana, ac­cord­ing to arkansassky.com, the web­site of the Arkansas SkyDome Plan­e­tar­ium.

Till­man Ken­non said the to­tal eclipse is well worth a trip north. He’s as­so­ciate chair­man of the chem­istry and physics depart­ment at Arkansas State Univer­sity in Jones­boro and a pro­fes­sor of science ed­u­ca­tion.

Ken­non said the dif­fer­ence be­tween a par­tial and to­tal eclipse is like the dif­fer­ence be­tween scuba div­ing on Greers Ferry Lake vs. the Cay­man Is­lands.

In the Cay­mans, you can see the bot­tom of the boat from 100 feet be­low the sur­face of the wa­ter, he said.

“For me, a to­tal eclipse should be one of your bucket list items,” Ken­non said. “Every­body ought to see a to­tal eclipse one time in their life.”

Ken­non said his grand­mother was 13 years old when the 1918 eclipse put out the sun near Swifton.

“She said it got dark enough that their chick­ens came into the chicken house and the milk cows came into the barn like they did at night,” Ken­non said.

She never for­got it and fre­quently told the tale.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant event,” Ken­non said. “You re­mem­ber where you were and what you were do­ing.”

Ho­tel rooms have been hard to find in Mis­souri’s swath of to­tal­ity.

They’re 95 per­cent booked around Columbia and Jef­fer­son City for the night of Aug. 20, ac­cord­ing to Trav­e­loc­ity. com. And what’s avail­able may not be de­sir­able or af­ford­able.

Shake­speare Chateau Inn and Gar­dens in St. Joseph, Mo., has been booked solid for a year and a half for the nights of Aug. 20 and 21. Iso­bel McGowan, owner of the bed and break­fast, said a fam­ily in Spain called three years ago to book a room for those nights. They’re com­ing to Amer­ica just to see the eclipse.

“Be­sides the eclipse, that week­end is also the week­end a lot of par­ents are bring­ing stu­dents back to col­lege,” said Re­nee Gra­ham, direc­tor of tourism for Call­away County, Mo. “It’s tra­di­tion­ally a de­cent week­end for ho­tels any­way, but then you add the eclipse on top of that.”

There are more rooms avail­able in Kansas City and St. Louis, but both of those cities are on the edge of to­tal­ity. A 30-mile drive north of Kansas City or south of St. Louis would pro­vide over 2 min­utes of to­tal eclipse in­stead of just a few sec­onds, ac­cord­ing to greatamer­i­caneclipse.com.

Many camp­sites within the to­tal eclipse swath are also al­ready booked, said Stephen Foutes, a spokesman for the Mis­souri Di­vi­sion of Tourism.

But car, RV and tent camp­sites were still avail­able Thurs­day in Jef­fer­son City’s “Eclipse Vil­lage,” said Jes­sica Mosier, who works for the city’s Parks, Re­cre­ation and Forestry depart­ment. She said the cost is $75 for two nights or $100 for three nights, re­gard­less of whether it’s a tent, car or RV.

Mosier said they’re ex­pect­ing an in­flux of as many as 100,000 peo­ple for the eclipse in Jef­fer­son City. The state cap­i­tal’s pop­u­la­tion is 43,079. Mis­souri state work­ers with nonessen­tial jobs in Jef­fer­son City will get Aug. 21 off work for the eclipse.

Ken­non booked rooms a year in ad­vance for seven fac­ulty mem­bers and stu­dents from ASU who are go­ing with him to Ful­ton, Mo., to mon­i­tor the eclipse. An­other 50 stu­dents from ASU are plan­ning to travel to Ful­ton in a bus the morn­ing of Aug. 21, but they aren’t part of Ken­non’s re­search team.

Be­sides his other ti­tles, Ken­non is the re­search direc­tor for Arkansas Bal­loonSat, a sci­en­tific re­search and ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram that in­ves­ti­gates the at­mo­spheric con­di­tions of near space us­ing an ar­ray of sen­sors car­ried aloft by weather bal­loons.

Arkansas Bal­loonSat was founded in 2006 af­ter NASA con­tacted Ed Roberts, a Pottsville High School teacher, about start­ing a high-al­ti­tude bal­loon­ing project. Roberts, who teaches physics and as­tron­omy, said he talked Ken­non into help­ing him. They man­age the project and have done 49 bal­loon launches so far.

On Aug. 21, Arkansas Bal­loonSat will be one of about 50 teams that will be film­ing the eclipse for a NASA livestream, which will be avail­able at http://eclipse.stream. live. The Arkansas group will float a bal­loon about 20 miles above the Earth and film the moon’s shadow as it black­ens the Mis­souri ter­rain. If it’s cloudy that day, they’ll film the clouds in­stead, said Ken­non. They’ll fly the bal­loon un­less there are thun­der­storms.

A sec­ond cam­era sys­tem un­der the bal­loon will take three-di­men­sional still im­ages.

As the weather bal­loon as­cends, it will swell to about 30 feet in di­am­e­ter, then ex­plode, said Ken­non. If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, a parachute will open and bring the cam­eras and equip­ment float­ing gen­tly back to Earth. The stu­dents and pro­fes­sors on the ground will use GPS tech­nol­ogy to track the fall­ing equip­ment and hope­fully re­trieve it.

Roberts is tak­ing seven stu­dents from Pottsville High School to Ful­ton for the eclipse. Be­sides pho­tograph­ing, Roberts said his stu­dents will be mea­sur­ing the ground tem­per­a­ture change, ra­di­a­tion lev­els and bal­loon launch op­er­a­tions. Roberts is direc­tor of ed­u­ca­tional out­reach for Arkansas Bal­loonSat.

A pro­fes­sor and stu­dent from the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas in Con­way are also ex­pected to as­sist Ken­non and Roberts.

About 17 stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville will also be in Ful­ton that day, said Sara Port, a Ph.D. can­di­date who is or­ga­niz­ing the event. Many of the UA stu­dents are af­fil­i­ated with an as­tron­omy club called S.P.A.C.E. Hogs. They’ll set up dis­plays and so­lar tele­scopes for stu­dents at Ful­ton High School.

For any­one plan­ning to view the par­tial eclipse, NASA ad­vises us­ing spe­cial eclipse glasses or a pin­hole view­ing de­vise. Reg­u­lar sun­glasses won’t be enough.

“Look­ing di­rectly at the sun is un­safe ex­cept dur­ing the brief to­tal phase of a so­lar eclipse, when the moon en­tirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will hap­pen only within the nar­row path of to­tal­ity,” ac­cord­ing to NASA.

In­for­ma­tion on safety and glasses rec­om­men­da­tions can be found at eclipse2017. nasa.gov/safety.

Arkansans who miss the to­tal eclipse later this month will have an­other op­por­tu­nity in seven years when a to­tal so­lar eclipse crosses Arkansas in 2024.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette

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