Astronomy

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Entries - Entry Category: Astronomy

Arkansas Sky Observatories

Arkansas Sky Observatories (ASO) is a network of four observatories that conduct studies of near Earth asteroids (NEOs), objects that pose a danger of impact at some point to planet Earth. ASO began in 1971, located on the south brow of Petit Jean Mountain. ASO was one of the first five contributing observatories to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics network and continues to be a major contributor to the Harvard Minor Planet Center today. This relationship has resulted in more than 50,000 contributed orbital measurements of comets and asteroids. ASO was established by P. Clay Sherrod and his brother, Brian Sherrod. P. Clay Sherrod has authored seventeen books in astronomy, archaeology, and the environmental/biological sciences, and has patented numerous inventions …

Buchanan, Herbert Earle

Herbert Earle Buchanan was a nationally known astronomer, mathematician, teacher, and sports reformer. His research significantly advanced a mathematical understanding of the stability of the orbits of heavenly bodies, and he authored numerous college and university textbooks. Buchanan was very interested in athletics and was one of the founders of the National Collegiate Athletics Association. Buchanan was born in Cane Hill (Washington County) on October 4, 1881, to Susan Clark Williamson and James A. Buchanan, a Civil War veteran who became a farmer, surveyor, and circuit-riding Presbyterian minister. After attending the local “subscription school,” in which the family of each attending child paid a pro-rated fee, Buchanan entered the college preparatory program at Arkansas Industrial University (later the University of …

Harding, Arthur McCracken

Arthur McCracken Harding, the first Arkansas-born president of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), served his alma mater as a professor and in various administrative positions from 1905 to 1941, and then as president from 1941 to 1947. His teaching was marked by publication of books on mathematics and astronomy, and his administrative service developed new programs and extension of university education throughout Arkansas. As university president, he worked to quell political turmoil and helped UA face changes to the university brought by World War II. Arthur McCracken Harding was born on September 3, 1884, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the eldest of seven sons, to Charles Taylor Harding and Florence May Brewster Harding. (His great-grandfather was …

Meteorites

Meteorites are fragments of rock or metal that fall from space. Except for a few that have come from the moon or Mars, meteorites represent fragments of small non-planetary bodies within the solar system, such as the objects that make up the asteroid belt. Most meteorites are remnants from the formation of the solar system that have drifted in orbits between the primary planets for over 4.5 billion years. Meteorites are some of the most scientifically significant materials on earth. Sample return missions to find and recover these objects from their orbits in space are, in most cases, prohibitively expensive or impossible. It is extraordinarily good fortune for scientists when a new meteorite falls to earth, since each one offers …

Paragould Meteorite

Two, possibly three, huge rocks from outer space put the Arkansas town of Paragould (Greene County) into the history and science books early in 1930. What is now known as the Paragould Meteorite was, at that time, the largest meteorite to ever have been seen falling and then recovered. A belt of rocks known as the asteroid belt, left over from the formation of the solar system, orbits the sun mainly between the orbits of planets Mars and Jupiter. Due to the gravity of nearby Jupiter, some of these rocks can stray inward and cross Earth’s orbit, even striking it. At 4:08 a.m. on February 17, 1930, the orbit of one of these rocks crossed Earth’s orbit, and two fields …

Solar Eclipse of 1834

A total solar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the moon totally obscures the bright light of the sun, leaving only the faint corona visible. Some residents of Arkansas Territory and some states in the South could see such an eclipse on November 30, 1834. The Arkansas Gazette announced the impending event in December 1833 by running an excerpt from the American Almanac stating that “the most remarkable of the phenomena that this year will happen, is the eclipse of the sun on Sunday, the 30th of November,” being total “in a small part of the territory of Arkansas” and in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The article noted that “a great depression of the thermometer, …

Solar Eclipse of 1918

The second of two recorded total solar eclipses—in which the moon totally obscures the sun, leaving only the corona visible—that could be seen in Arkansas occurred on June 8, 1918. While the first, in 1834, was clearly observed as a “magnificent phenomenon of nature in all its sublimity,” the 1918 event was reported as “somewhat of a disappointment.” On January 3, 1918, the Arkansas Gazette announced that June 8, 1918, would be “a gala day for astronomers,” as a total solar eclipse would cross the United States, beginning in northern Oregon and traveling to northern Florida “at a speed of something like 1,000 miles an hour.” The Hot Springs New Era noted a few weeks later that Mount Ida (Montgomery …

Solar Eclipse of 2024

The solar eclipse of 2024 was one of three eclipses for which Arkansas lay within the “path of totality,” or the path of the eclipse when total darkness would be experienced. The previous ones occurred in 1834 (when Arkansas was still a territory) and 1918. The most recent previous total solar eclipse to cross the United States, the eclipse of August 21, 2017, produced a path of totality that went from the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and proceeded southeast toward South Carolina. The first such American eclipse in the era of the smartphone and social media, the 2017 event was a major media spectacle, and areas within the path of totality experienced an enormous influx of visitors. Arkansas did not …