The Arkansas/Oklahoma Astronomical Society will hold an eclipse watch party at the Lake Fort Smith Visitor Center on Monday, weather permitting.
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The eclipse will begin at about 11:48 a.m. Maximum solar coverage, 90 percent, will take place at about 1:07 p.m., and the eclipse will end at about 2:40 p.m.
Leonard Lynch, the president of AOAS, said he has been planning the event since about January or February.
Lynch said he will be at the Lake Fort Smith Visitor Center at about 10 a.m. the day of the eclipse. He will set up two telescopes, a 10-inch and a 6-inch, with quality solar filters so that people can come and look at the eclipse while it lasts.
“I have it set up where I can take pictures through the 6-inch telescope with a smartphone like an iPhone or an Android phone,” Lynch said.
The AOAS also will ensure local residents can learn more about the eclipse and before it takes place through presentations in the days leading up to the main event. Lynch said the presentations will provide all who are interested with information about, among other subjects, what an eclipse is, the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse and the location for the best viewing of the Aug. 21 eclipse.
One will be 10 a.m. Thursday at the Mountainburg Public Library and another at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Mulberry Public Library.
Van Buren Public Library will have a free viewing party from noon to 2 p.m. Monday and eclipse training from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Lynch said those in Fort Smith and at Lake Fort Smith will be able to see a partial eclipse, meaning the disk of the sun will not be completely covered.
“In the Lake Fort Smith area, where we’ll have our eclipse watch, it’ll have a sliver of sun on the bottom side that won’t be covered by the moon,” Lynch said.
The presentations will also provide information on solar eclipse viewing safety.
“You don’t want somebody picking up a pair of binoculars and looking at the sun,” Lynch said. “If you’ve ever taken a magnifying glass in the sun and ants, you know the result. The same thing would happen to your eye. If you look at the sun with a telescope or a pair of binoculars without solar protection, it will blind that eye.”
Lynch said looking at the sun with the naked eye or a pair of sunglasses can damage one’s eye after a short while. The best way to view the eclipse is through a telescope with a good solar filter. There are also eclipse glasses available to protect one’s eyes.