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Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Annular eclipse should be visible Saturday

By Ethan Nahté

On a projector screen at the front of the Spencer Lecture Hall and on a television screen off to one side, the presentation entitled Eclipse 101, complete with an image of an eclipse, took up a lot of space along the walls. Yet, what dominated the attention of most attendees was the animated man with a sense of humor and relaxed mien gesturing between screens and a lighted model of the Earth, sun and moon that emulated how various types of eclipses work.

Chemistry and physical science instructor Gaumani Gyanwali, Ph.D., presented information about the upcoming eclipse that will cross North America to a nearly packed lecture hall on the UARM campus Oct. 6. The ages ranged from young children to seniors and included quite a few students from Mena, Acorn, Oden, and Cossatot schools who are part of the UARM Career Center.

Back row Rose Tedder Polk County Library Board member Dr Kyle Carpenter Lifelong Learning at UARM and Brenda Miner Ouachita Mountains Regional Librarian and UARM Librarian<br >Front row Traci Hostetler Polk County Assistant Librarian and Dr Gyanwali UARM Science Instructor

Ouachita Mountains Regional Library (OMRL) received NASA approved solar eclipse viewing glasses from STAR Net, and in conjunction with UARM’s Lifelong Learning, OMRL was helping residents prepare for the annular eclipse happening on Saturday, Oct. 14.

Dr. G, as most of the staff and students call Gyanwali, discussed and demonstrated the difference between the various types of lunar and solar eclipses: partial, annular, penumbral and total.

Dr. G felt the turnout for the program was great. “Everyone was enthusiastic about what they wanted to learn and see in the coming days. It was great participation by everyone. I got question from the audience, too. I got to interact with several of the questions. It was a diverse age group. There were small kids, young people and older people.”

The annular eclipse begins in Oregon at 9:13 a.m. PDT and ends in Texas at 12:03 p.m. CDT. It will be visible in in western Arkansas between 11:57 a.m. and 1:32 p.m. Also known as a ring of fire eclipse, an annular solar eclipse happens when the moon is at or near its farthest point from Earth. Because the moon is farther away than it is during a total solar eclipse, the moon appears smaller and doesn’t block out the entire sun when it passes in front of our star. Instead, the moon leaves a bright ring of sun visible at the eclipse’s peak, creating the ring of fire effect.

It will not have the same impact as April’s total eclipse but is expected to have approximately 65-70% coverage in Polk County. Since the sun is never completely blocked by the moon during an annular eclipse, it is not safe to look at the sun without specialized eye protection. Therefore, everyone in attendance received solar eclipse viewing glasses courtesy of STAR Net.

“The backside of the human eye has the retina that’s very light sensitive. This is how the retina works: When the light comes in, the pupil will let the light in for a little bit of time. That’s when it gets the image of the outside, when it is bright – it fixes the amount of light that goes in. The pupil will not be aware of the situation that the bright light is coming from somewhere at that instant of time. The pupil takes time to get dilated or contract. The reflex of the pupil is so low that it will not take care of the intense light that is coming instantly to fall into the retina, and it will probably damage that because the pupil will not know when to stop. Like the negative of the camera [film] it’s exactly like that and will be damaged in a very short time by high-intensity light. That’s the main reason we need to be protecting our eyes.”
With the exception of the brief moment of totality during a total eclipse, not an annular eclipse, it is never safe to directly look at the sun without proper eye protection. Regular sunglasses are not safe for looking directly at the sun. In April 2024, there will be less than 4:28 in western Arkansas.

Telescopes and cameras
During the presentation, Dr. G showed an image of telescopes. The science club is hoping to use the telescopes for the total eclipse.“Dr. Timmerman, who was here as an instructor, had those telescopes and he wanted us to use them. These are the sophisticated ones. These are huge, they have all the necessary equipment and accessories needed. These would be more scientific than if you order from somewhere — maybe Amazon or Walmart — [most] would be smaller and I could not guarantee they would be verified scientifically.”

There are necessary precautions when looking at the eclipse through a telescope. “They would need the solar filter before they are able to view anything through the telescope. Telescopes are not for seeing the sun or any bright lights. They are only for the nighttime sky: stars, maybe the galaxies, the moon or planets. You can see those easily.

“For the sun, the telescope has lenses it concentrates the light through the lenses so the eyes could be damaged. You have to be careful and should put the verified solar filter on them. You can’t just buy a solar filter and take a risk. It has to be verified.”

Verified filters for solar eclipse glasses are ISO 12312-2, which supersede earlier national and regional standards. There is at present no international standard for optical solar filters, but the ISO-12312-2 should be safe for use with optics as long as the user closely follows the instructions.

The sun using an approved ISO 12312 2 photographed through the NASA approved solar eclipse viewing glasses from STAR Net
The sun just seconds later without a solar filter

The science club is not thinking of having a feed from the telescopes to a video screen or recording device, but Dr. G said it is a possibility. The club will mainly be observing the eclipse just as a hobby and something fun.

For those people wanting to photograph the eclipse, beyond the safety of one’s eyesight, there is also the safety of the camera.

“Most of the camera lenses do not tolerate the high-intensity light. It could damage the camera.” Once again, a filter would be a wise precaution.

Other presentations
In the same partnership with OMRL and UARM, NASA certified ambassador Kathy Rusert did presentations at the area’s public schools for lower elementary and at Montgomery County Library. She did presentations at Louise Durham, Holly Harshman, Acorn, Oden, and Cossatot River Primary.

Montgomery County Library and Polk County Library are branches of the Ouachita Mountains Regional Library.


Group at Holly Harshman Elementary l r Irvin Trejo Angel LunsfordKathy Rusert Dr Diann Gathright Brenda Miner and Marsha Riley Not Pictured Rose Tedder

To prepare for western Arkansas’ total eclipse on Apr. 8, 2024, OMRL and the UARM’s Lifelong Learning will hold additional presentations in the spring. Watch for details in the coming months.

Viewing alternatives
If you do not have solar eclipse glasses or plan on making a pinhole projector from household items such as a cereal or shoe box, and other miscellaneous items (see “How to Make a Box Pinhole Projector” on the NASA Goddard YouTube page) for the Oct. 14 eclipse, you have another option. NASA will host live coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. EDT. live on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app. NASA also will stream the broadcast live on its Facebook, X, and YouTube social media accounts.

According to the handout during Dr. G’s presentation, which differs slightly from the information previously mentioned, the partial eclipse should begin at approximately 10:26 a.m. CDT, reach its maximum of 71% coverage, known as its annularity, around 11:55 a.m. and lasts between one to five minutes. The eclipse will be fully over by 1:30 p.m. for western Arkansas.

At press time on Tuesday morning, the weather forecast for the annular eclipse reveals it will be somewhere probably in the low-to-mid-60s, a few clouds early on with a 20% chance of rain, then becoming mostly sunny.

[UPDATE: As of Friday, Oct. 13, the chance for rain has dropped to 1%. Additionally, viewing through a telescope with a filter is being offered atop Queen Wilhelmina State Park along with a program beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing through 1 p.m. The maximum totality begins shortly before noon. For more details click here.]

The United States will not experience another total solar eclipse until Aug. 23, 2044.

To find out more about the annular eclipse, visit
To find out more about the total eclipse, visit or

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