For the first time in 38 years, a total solar eclipse will take place over the United States on Monday, Aug. 21.
Over north Logan County, about 85 percent of the sun’s surface will be blocked by the moon’s shadow. It will get dark. Street lights will come on. Animals will think night has fallen and the temperature will drop. The path of totality, where all of the sun’s surface is blocked, will run in a diagonal from Oregon to South Carolina.
In north Logan County, the eclipse will begin at 11:42 a.m., reach its peak at 1:12 p.m. and end at 2:41 p.m.
The weather forecast is good, too — mostly sunny with temperatures in the upper 80s.
And people here are seeing eclipse-mania. Nearly all schools will be involved in recording data and studying the event. One Paris couple will be viewing the event in its totality from Clarksville, Tenn., while on an eclipse tour. And, one Paris native will be filming the event from Wyoming for a documentary film about Albert Einstein, whose theory of relativity was proven by observations made during an eclipse in 1919. There is a watch party Monday afternoon at Mount Magazine State Park. It probably won’t be the only one in the area, either.
Paris Middle School science teacher June Gilbreath and other teachers at the school have been preparing for the event since earlier this summer.
“I’m really excited,” Gilbreath said last week. “The main objective for students will be to go outside, take readings and record data.”
Gilbreath said seventh and eighth graders will do that Monday morning while fifth and sixth graders go outside after lunch.
“They’ll all be able to see it,” Gilbreath said. “We have glasses for them.”
The event will be the culmination of a week’s worth of study about eclipses at the school, Gilbreath said.
“My lesson plans all this week are about the eclipse,” she said. “We’re also including literacy, science, math and social studies classes and taking an interdisciplinary approach.”
“It’s going to be a big event,” she said.
Dr. Curtis Varnell, a Paris resident who is the science specialist at the Guy Fenter Education Services Co-op located next to County Line Schools, is also excited.
“I think every scientist and everybody in Arkansas is excited,” he said. “It doesn’t happen that often.”
Varnell also said “virtually every school district” in the area will be turning the event into a learning opportunity.
“Teachers have been ordering eclipse glasses for months,” he said. “They are excited about it and have brought it into their curriculum.”
Varnell did say safety is a concern. Viewing the sun with the unprotected eye can be harmful and cause blindness. Eclipse glasses are needed for direct viewing. Not just any eclipse glasses will do, either.
“You can go on the NASA web site,” Varnell said. “They have three brand names they have verified as safe. Stick with those brand names.”
Varnell said it’s best to limit direct viewing to less than five minutes at a time.
“Put the glasses on, look at the sun for less than five minutes and then look away, resting your eyes,” he said. “Look at the sun in cycles of less than five minutes.”
If direct viewing is not an option, or if you want to be super safe, the event will be all over television and the internet.
Sid and Jeanette Voglepohl of Paris are going to be in Clarksville, Tenn. Monday to catch totality. They are participating in an eclipse bus tour that will take them from Little Rock to Clarksville, Tenn. They have purchased viewing space at a winery near Clarksville.
“Clarksville is expecting 200,000 people,” Sid Vogelpohl said last week. “We’re going on a bus tour out of Little Rock and it filled up right away.”
Asked if he was excited about the event, Voglepohl said “Not yet, but we’re getting there.”
Another person with local ties who will be in the path of totality is James L. Neihouse, a Paris native and one of the premier IMAX cinematographers in the world. Neihouse will be near Casper, Wyo. Monday filming totality for a documentary on Albert Einstein.
“We chose Casper because of its proximity to the center line of the eclipse, its historically favorable weather this time of year, and the north-south/east-west highways that will allow me to reposition quickly in the event of clouds,” Neihouse said over the weekend by e-mail. “Other crews will be posted along the eclipse path from the Oregon coast to the South Carolina barrier islands.
“I am heading the astrophotography team for the project,” he said. “We will have people photographing the eclipse all along the path of totality. I think the last count was about 23. They will be shooting real time, time lapse, wide-angle, telephoto/telescope, and aerials from a helicopter.
“My primary job is to capture the solar corona, and prominences during totality with a high resolution digital motion picture camera. I will be shooting with a custom rig that includes an equatorial mount that will track the sun. I have been testing and practicing with the rig for the last few weeks,” he said.
If by some chance you miss this one, be patient. Another total eclipse over the United States will take place in 2024, seven years from now. During that one, north Logan County will be in the path of totality. If you think what’s happening now isn’t eclipse-mania, just wait until then.