Facts & FAQs




Solar Eclipse Facts & FAQs

What is a total eclipse of the sun?

As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses, only part of the Sun is obscured.

It is amazing, it can be scary and it is like nothing you've ever seen before. During an eclipse, Day turns into an eerie twilight.

What causes this to happen?

An eclipse is a natural phenomenon that occurs as a cosmic coincedence. The Sun is 400 times bigger than the Earth, and the Earth is 4 times bigger than the moon. Even though the sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, it is also 400 times farther away from the Earth and the Moon. That measns the Sun and Moon appear the same size to us here on earth.

This single fact explains why we see total solar eclipses - the Moon has an apparent size that just barely covers the Sun completely, yet is not too large that the Sun's atmosphere, its corona, is eclipsed as well. We on Earth occupy a celestial sweet spot to witness this sight.

What are the umbra and penumbra? 

When you read about eclipses, the terms umbra and penumbra are frequently mentioned. These are the two types of shadow cast by the Moon. The umbra is the inner shadow. If you stand inside the path of the umbra, the Sun will be completely blocked in eclipse. The penumbra is the outer shadow. If you are outside the path of the umbra but inside the broader eclipse area, you will only see the Sun partially eclipsed

How often do total solar eclipses occur?

Total solar eclipses are rare events. Although they occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, it is estimated that they recur at any given place only once every 360 to 410 years, on average.The total eclipse lasts for only a maximum of a few minutes at any location.

How close to Arkansas will a total eclipse occur?

Totality will occur in some cities in neighboring states. Some of the closest cities are:

  • Kansas City, MO
  • Cape Girardeau, MO
  • Columbia, MO
  • Nashville, TN

How long does an eclipse last?

Total eclipses last about 2 minutes. But for those in the path of the eclipse (including the partial eclipse), the event can last several hours. In Central Arkansas, the partial eclipse begins at 11:48 am and will end at 2:47 pm. The maximum partial eclipse will occur at approximately 1:18 pm CDT.

How do I safely watch an eclipse?

Viewing the Sun during partial and annular eclipses (and during total eclipses outside the brief period of totality) requires special eye protection, or indirect viewing methods if eye damage is to be avoided. 

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.

Eclipse glasses block the harmful ultraviolet and infrared rays of light that comes from te Sun and are essential for safely viewing the partial phases that precede and follow totality.

Eclipse fun facts...

  • Fewer than 1 person in 1000 has ever seen a total solar eclipes.
  • In 1973, a Concorde - a supersonic airliner - chased the Moon's shadow during an eclipse. This extended totality to those on board to 74 minutes as the airplane kept pace with the shadow.
  • Everyone in the US will see some part of the Sun eclipsed by the Moon on August 21, 2017