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Are You Ready For The Eclipse?

Are you ready for the eclipse?


Perhaps you have seen a partial solar eclipse and assume a total is just more of the same.  It is not.  It is aptly said that you observe a partial solar eclipse but experience a total solar eclipse.  


A total solar eclipse is literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people. The last total solar eclipse to traverse Arkansaswas in 1918. The next to traverse the United States will not occur until 2045.  If you stick around, you will be able to see it here in Arkansas as well.  


Given the rarity of these events and being just over a month out, I am surprised how many people have given little or no thought to preparing.  Some basic things to consider are where to observe it, how to do so safely, and what equipment you will want to have.  Here are a few suggestions and links to more information.




Not all locations are created equal.  The closer to the centerline of the event, the longer you will be able to witness totality.  Little Rock along University Avenue totality will last 2’ 41”, but it will last over 4’ along the centerline.  You will be surprised how fast that time passes.  


Second, while light pollution is not as impactful as it is for seeing the stars, it is not irrelevant, and you don’t want to be near streetlights or other dusk-to-dawn fixtures.  So even if you are staying near home, you still need a plan.  Assuming trees are not an issue, your backyard would be better than Kavanaugh's, but the open area in Lower Alsop Park or Murry Park would be better.  Of course, you will have to drive or ride a bike to Murry Park.  Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church will turn off their lights in the upper parking deck for the eclipse, and you are free to park in the lower parking deck while you are there.


If you do drive somewhere, be sure and prepare to stay awhile.  Pack a picnic and bottle of wine, bring a book, and let others fight the traffic.  


Safety & equipment


Of course, everyone knows you need eclipse glasses, but again, they are not created equal.  Hopefully, unlike with the last total eclipse, major retailers will not be caught selling imposters, but go here to learn how to make sure your glasses are real.  But even safe glasses are not all created equal.  The Arkansas Natural Sky Association and the Central Arkansas Astronomical 

Society were selling top-tier made-in-America glasses, but they have long since sold out. There may be others, but American Paper Optics and Rainbow Symphony provide quality American-made glasses.   If you have little ones, you will want to get viewers in addition to glasses, as glasses may be too wide to fit over both eyes.  It is possible to share glasses and viewers, as you only use the glasses leading up to and after totality.  However, everyone will want to be watching in the final minutes, leading to totality.  During totality, you might use binoculars or even a small telescope.  However, you want to ensure you are not using them when totality ends.   


The “cosmic coincidence” 


What are the odds against the existence of this celestial event existing?  The moon has to cover the sun’s discs for us to experience a total eclipse.  It just happens that the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but also 400 times nearer, such that they both subtend about half a degree in the sky.  You can cover them easily with the end of your little finger held at arm’s length.  


This fabulously unlikely arraignment has been a cornerstone resource of solar and stellar science as, until fairly recent times, total solar eclipses were the only way we could explore much of the sun’s structure and activity, which informed our understanding of stars in general.  A total solar eclipse also provided the first proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity.  By blocking out the sun’s light, it was possible to prove that the sun’s mass bent the light of a star as it passed, making the star appear to shift its location in the sky.  


When you witness a total solar eclipse, you are not just experiencing a rare and magnificent celestial event but what has been a significant window into the operations of nature.  Here is a link to a website where you can learn more about observing this eclipse, complete with times for nearly any place in the state, what the phases of the event will be, what to look for, and more.  


PS, To learn about other celestial happenings, visit the Arkansas Natural Sky Association’s webpage and subscribe to event news, where you will learn about public star parties, such as the one happening at Lake Sylvia this coming weekend and the annual Arkansas Dark-Sky Festival coming September 26-28th.  Half of nature occurs at night.


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