Over a dozen “eclipse chasers” hopped onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu not to pick up spam musubi for dinner, but rather, to intersect the path of a solar eclipse. Astronomer Joe Rao captured the action from seat 32F, and I’ve never heard a man so excited about anything in my life.
According to Alaska Airlines, Rao is associate astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, so this sort of thing is his life’s calling. His excitement for the natural occurrence is beyond contagious as he delivers a breathless play-by-play of everything that’s happening with the eclipse.
Per the airline, Rao discovered a year ago that Flight 870's path would intersect the eclipse’s path of totality on March 8, where the moon creates the darkest shadow on the Earth. Only problem: the flight would be 25 minutes early to catch the eclipse in all its darkest glory.
After Rao called to let the airline know about the eclipse, Alaska bumped the flight back and adjusted its flight path so that Rao and other astronomers could watch from onboard. What better in-flight show than one provided by Mother Nature? Fellow eclipse chaser Dan McGlaun even brought special glasses for the entire plane so that passengers could safely watch the sun.
One semi-retired astronomer on the plane, Craig Small, caught his thirty-first eclipse on the Flight 870. He explained the appeal to Alaska Airlines:
I’m not one for hyperbole, but you don’t just see an eclipse, you experience it with every fiber of your being. It is the most spectacular naturally occurring event that anyone could witness in their lifetime.
Rao’s narration was pretty spectacular, too.
According to Alaska Airlines, the plane was flying at 500 mph at an altitude of 35,000 feet when it intercepted the eclipse’s path 695 miles north of Honolulu. The eclipse lasted for almost two minutes.
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