Six Things to Know About Solar Eclipses

Six Things to Know About Solar Eclipses

Beginning at 11:43 a.m. Aug. 21, the sun will leave us.

At 1:13 p.m., it will be 90.6 percent hidden by the shadow of the moon. At 2:41 p.m., things return to normal. We don’t get the best seat in the house here in Northwest Arkansas, but solar eclipses are still amazing. Here are six things to keep in mind while viewing what ancients thought was a harbinger of the end of the world.

1. E Does in Fact = MC²

Sir Arthur Eddington verified Einstein’s theory of relativity during an eclipse in 1919 by observing how starlight bent around the sun. Nowadays, scientists use more sophisticated methods to verify Einstein’s theory, including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which allowed them to see ripples in the fabric of spacetime. Source: NASA

2. Animals Get Confused

Birds get quiet during an eclipse. Bats and owls come out to feed. Cows and chickens head to bed, bees make for their hive. Source: Science News

3. People Stopped Fighting, and Science was Born

Thales of Miletus predicted a solar eclipse that occurred during a battle between the Lydians and the Medes on May 28, 585 BCE. Greek historian Herodotus wrote about it: “They ceased from fighting and both were the more zealous to make peace.” Science writer Isaac Asimov suggested the eclipse was the earliest event scientists can date to the day, making it the birth of science itself. Sources: Journal for the History of Astronomy, Isaac Asmiov’s Guide to Earth and Space.

4. Fayetteville Gets Totaled

Fayetteville has been in the path of one total solar eclipse in its history (as Fayetteville): Nov. 30, 1834, 37 years before the University of Arkansas was founded and 41 years before Old Main was built. It won’t happen again until Aug. 12, 2045, and then April 14, 2591. Source: NASA.

5. No More than Seven

The maximum number of eclipses (solar and lunar) possible in any given calendar year is seven. The last time that happened was 1982, the next time will be 2038. Source:

6. Your Next Chance

The last partial solar eclipse visible in Fayetteville was Oct. 23, 2014; the next will be Oct. 14, 2023.

About The Author

Bob Whitby writes about bioscience, geoscience, physics, space and planetary sciences, psychology and sociology. Reach him at 479-575-4737, or



  • The Associated Student Government will hold a free cookout on the Union Mall from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on August 21.
  • Free glasses specially designed for viewing the eclipse will be given out, courtesy of the Pat Walker Health Center and Mertins Eye and Optical.
  • Volunteers will explain how to make sure you watch the eclipse without damaging your eyes.
  • The near-total eclipse will only last about two minutes, but the moon will continue to cover part of the sun until 2:41 p.m.


  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
  • Ordinary sunglasses should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers.
  • It is recommended to double check the safety authenticity of your eclipse viewing glasses to ensure they meet the proper safety standards.


eclipse illustration

Faculty and students have set up a Research Guide packed with information about the eclipse.


  • The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design is also hosting activities for faculty and students.

  • Activities begin at 12:30 p.m. with “sun and moon” music, featuring tunes by Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Panic at the Disco, Johnny Cash and others.

  • Solar-viewing glasses and solar viewers will be available on the outdoor terraces, and students can make their own pin-hole projecters.

  • A student photo competition will document the places and people during this event with winners selected through online voting.

  • During the eclipse, time-lapse cameras will record the light and shadow falling on the activities, the surrounding landscape, Vol Walker Hall and the Steven L. Anderson Design Center.