You would have to be hermit or keep your head buried in the sand to not know that this Monday (Aug. 21) is the date that North America will experience a total eclipse of the sun for the first time in 99 years. Arkansans and Phillips Countians can expect to see a partial eclipse, in which 80 to 97 percent of the sun will blocked by the moon, determined by your location and weather conditions at the time.

You would have to be hermit or keep your head buried in the sand to not know that this Monday (Aug. 21) is the date that North America will experience a total eclipse of the sun for the first time in 99 years. Arkansans and Phillips Countians can expect to see a partial eclipse, in which 80 to 97 percent of the sun will blocked by the moon, determined by your location and weather conditions at the time.

A solar eclipse, as seen from Earth, takes place when the moon, in the new moon phase, passes between the sun and the Earth. During a total eclipse, the sun is fully obstructed by the moon. A partial eclipse covers only part of the sun.

Since looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage or even blindness, the Arkansas Department of Health is urging all Arkansans to exercise extreme caution in attempting to view this phenomenon.

“It's never safe to look directly at the sun,” says Dr. Perry Amerine, optometrist and member of the state Health Board. “We will not experience a total eclipse in Arkansas. Instead, we will have a partial eclipse where the moon will cover all but three to 20 percent of the sun.”

Amerine added that gazing at the sun can cause a permanent blind spot to form on the retina of the eye. How big that blind spot is says Amerine depends on how long a person looks at the sun and how badly the retinas are damaged.

According to Amerine, the retina is the portion of the eye that captures the sharpness and color of an image. When the retina has a blind spot, there will be a blind spot directly in the middle of the line of vision.

“The light from the sun is so powerful that even a small amount will damage your eyes and cause blindness if you look at it directly – even for only a few seconds,” commented Amerine. “People should not assume they can look away quickly enough to avoid eye damage. Every person has different eye sensitivity.”

Health Department officials report that the only safe way to look directly at the sun – even during a partial eclipse – is through special purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses,” hand-held solar viewers , or welder's shades #s 12-14. Sunglasses, even very dark ones, and homemade filters are not strong enough to safely look at the sun.

The American Astronomical Society Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters and Viewers has a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of special “eclipse glasses” verified as having met the international safety standards for such products known as ISO 12312-2.

This Monday, the eclipse will darken the state during the lunch hour. There will be approximately 90 percent coverage of the sun in the Phillips County area. There will be a slight drop in temperature and momentarily it will be like pre-dawn light.

ADH as well as law enforcement officials warn that the eclipse might be a distraction for drivers. They recommend anyone operating a vehicle or boat to keep this in mind. Drivers should not stop on the road to view the eclipse and find a safe location for viewing. Drivers and boaters are also warned to be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, watercraft and other traffic that may be looking at the sky.

For additional information on the eclipse and safety please visit www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov or www.transportation.gov.