Arkansas will join much of the U.S. Monday in seeing a partial eclipse of the sun for the first time in almost 100 years. Local experts say the state will see a lot of sun coverage, producing unusual sights in the daytime sky.
Dr. Tony Hall, an astronomy professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, says people all over the nation can see a partial or full eclipse.
“It actually starts in the Pacific Ocean and then makes landfall around Oregon, then travels through the central part of the United States, then exits around South Carolina, and ends just a little bit before making landfall in Africa”, he said.
Darrell Heath, a board member and ex-president of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, says in the Little Rock area, the eclipse will begin at about 11:48 a.m.
"You will see the moon taking a bite out of the sun, so a little dark black bite mark taken out of the sun's disk,” Heath says. “As the hours progress, that bite mark will get larger and larger and larger, until finally you're left with just a crescent at about 1:18 pm”
At that point, Heath says, “Look under trees. You're going to see the tree leaves are going to act like pinhole cameras, those gaps in between the leaves and holes in the leaves themselves. You're going to see hundreds of little solar eclipses projected all over the ground, on the side of a house, or a light colored car. At a little after 1:19 pm the show is over, the moon begins to recede, and the show is over.”
Dr. Miles Blanton, an instructor of physics and astronomy at UA-Little Rock, says that perfect totality, where the moon moves to completely cover the sun, will be visible in a 70-mile-wide strip of land diagonally crossing the U.S. Other places, including Arkansas, will get a good view from what’s called the penumbra.
“Penumbra is the partial eclipse zone. So if umbra is the dark shadow where all of the sun is covered by the moon, and then the penumbra is where part of it is,” Blanton said. “You notice this when you have actors on stage with two light sources, if you have both of those light sources, there's a shadow cast that's an overlap of both of that person's shadow, that'd be like the umbra, and then the penumbra would be the individual cast shadow.”
There’s a lot of sun coverage inside the state, but traveling to totality is also feasible, says Dr. Hall.
“In the northeast corner of Arkansas, Jonesboro, Blytheville, it's upwards of 95 percent covered. The closest approach to Arkansas is probably in Southern Missouri, I think just north of Cape Girardeau, probably the closest it's going to get to Arkansas,” he says.
Several events are being held around the the Little Rock area. The Central Arkansas Library System will be hosting solar eclipse watch parties at three locations. The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock is holding a solar eclipse picnic. The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society will lead a star party on pinnacle mountain the week following the eclipse.