Fly the eclipsing skies

By Phil Plait | February 25, 2010 2:48 pm

solareclipseMy friend Glenn Schneider is an astronomer with a not-so-peculiar obsession for those of us in this trade: he’s an umbraphile, a shadow lover, an eclipse chaser. He’s seen 27 solar eclipses… at last count. I know if that’s wrong he’ll be quick to correct me.

One thing he’s been doing for the past few eclipses is to watch them from airplanes, which has lots of advantages over seeing them from the ground. For one thing, you can fly above clouds, so there’s no chance of weather screwing up the view. Plus, you can make the eclipse last longer! The moon passes in front of the Sun in a solar eclipse, casting a shadow on the ground. But the Moon orbits the Earth, and the Earth is spinning, so the shadow of the Moon moves across the planet. In an airplane, you can follow it! In general the shadow is moving too quickly to keep up, but you can certainly prolong the experience.

schneider_eclipse_plane
Your view, should you accept this mission.

On July 11 of this year, there will be a solar eclipse over the Pacific Ocean, about 2500 km east of Tahiti. Now get this: Glenn has commissioned an entire airplane to view this eclipse, and he’s looking for people who want to come along*. Not only that, they will strip out the seats on the side of the plane facing the eclipse, giving more room for people to watch. And finally, the really astonishing part: by following the shadow in an airplane, passengers will experience the eclipse lasting an incredible nine and a half minutes! That is actually a solid two minutes longer than the maximum duration of a solar eclipse as seen from the ground.

If this sounds like something you want to do, then all the actual trip details (pricing, what you need, etc.) are on Rick Brown’s Eclipse Safari website. The contact details for both Glenn and Rick are on their respective sites. I’ll note that this eclipse happens during TAM 8, so I cannot go. Someday, though, I swear I’ll see a total eclipse. Glenn keeps twisting my arm, so I suspect when I do see one, he’ll be right there. And I’ll have bruises on my arm.

Images courtesy Glenn Schneider


* Think of it as your time out of the Sun.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (45)

  1. It’s hard not to make a Nyquist joke here….

  2. Brian

    Heck yes this sounds like something I want to do. The question is, does it sound like something I can afford to do? Sadly, not a chance.

  3. drow

    that’s awesome! possibly as awesome as rocket racing!

  4. Brian, “ditto”. :-(

  5. RAF

    Phil…there’s a total eclipse that crosses the US in 2017 so you have only 7 years to wait. :)

  6. Hi Phil.

    > I know if that’s wrong he’ll be quick to correct me.

    28! 28! 28! But, that is entirely my fault, I see I hadn’t updated my web page
    with a new “bottom line” after last years eclipse in China. A detail I will soon fix.

    > I swear I’ll see a total eclipse. Glenn keeps twisting my arm

    That a total SOLAR eclipse, Phil. Lunars do not count. Twist, twist, twist…

  7. cameron

    At ~$1000/minute, that eclipse better give me superpowers.

  8. @7. Actually, the cost per unit time is much less than many I have seen traveling from the U.S. E.g..:

    27 seconds in the Australian outback:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_02/TSE2002.html

    32 seconds from the Pacific Ocean near Pitcarin Island:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_05/TSE2005_IMAGES.html

    57 seconds from Ghnoli, India
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_95/UMBRAPHILE_DEBUT_1995.html

    But the all time “most expensive” as a cash flow rate was 03 Oct 1986, which
    from the ground was a zero second “t”otal eclipse – though we pushed it to a
    few seconds with an airplane between Iceland and Greenland to avoid that
    fiscal singularity! Well, really for other reasons… Still, though not infinite
    in dollars per second, it was quite an astronomical per unit time expense.
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_86/ECLIPSE_86.html

    ~$1,000 / minute is a bargain (in comparison).

  9. ScottW

    Man that sounds totally made of win…!

  10. You know, I work for a non-profit in the US, and in the past year’s economy, we’ve watched the donations drop off significantly. Like most non-profits, we’re trying to provide a service that the feds, states, and counties can’t be bothered to fund. Right now, with so much of the population concerned over their own careers and futures, the public isn’t doing much funding of such things either. Can’t say that I blame them, even though most Americans are much better off than large portions of the rest of the world.

    I suppose it’s nice to know people out there will spend $1,000 a minute on chasing a natural phenomenon and consider it a bargain. I’m not one of them. I’ve always thought the TAMs were ridiculously priced, but I suppose they’re a bargain too, if you use the right measuring stick…

    Enjoy the trip, I guess, but I hope you gave at least three times that to Haiti relief.

  11. Cain

    @10 Just Al

    your concern is noted

  12. @10. Actually, for full disclosure me, my wife, and my daughter have already donated pretty much all we could to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, except for what we always reserve to donate annually to our local Community Food Bank as we do have people in need here in Tucson as well. Perhaps that is not so dire as for some in Haiti, but the hunger is real. As Phil wrote I am an astronomer, which means we get to play with some great “toys” (my favorite is the Hubble Space Telescope, which I have been blessed to have had several hundred orbits of use of over my career) – but the vast majority of us who go into astronomy for a career don’t do so with any false expectations of wealth, that’s for sure. As to the eclipse flight I will be on the flight deck working with the crew on the navigation and execution for the shadow intercept – in a jump seat – and watching the eclipse from there, so not using one of those indeed very expensive passenger windows. I WISH they were much lest costly. There was not any other aircraft in the world that could do this mission (literally) and that had to be brought up from Australia, empty, and then flown with only half its normal passenger load for the eclipse flight to get the sun-side seats out and then the empty trip back home. Like you, I too do hope that those who are paying for this nearly 10 minute totality (an event literally we cannot replicate until the 25th century with any total solar eclipse with the Sun not so hight it can’t be observed out passenger aircraft windows) feel as we both apparently do to help those in need, as those could just as easily be us! Thanks for the good thought.

  13. Cindy

    Well, if I hadn’t gone to grad school, I would have joined Glenn on an eclipse trip to Bolivia in 1994.

    It’s still on my list of things to do before I die. So, Glenn, you can twist my arm, too.

  14. Ryan

    I’m envious of whoever gets to be on that plane in July. I’ve been waiting almost 8 years for this particular eclipse. (It will be exactly 19 years since the first eclipse I saw as a kid.) Even had plans I’d be in Chile or Easter Island to watch it. But then the economy collapsed so I’ll probably have to watch it on a webcam or youtube instead :(

  15. MadScientist

    It’s a pity the Concorde is out of service. NASA’s U2 aircraft can do a decent job of chasing the eclipse though not much better than a 747 or even a 737. The SR-71 would have been great, but I believe they have all been retired.

    @Ryan: You have to be pretty serious to watch from Easter Island – it is one of the most inaccessible regions on the planet. It would be more likely that an ocean cruiser would be hired for eclipse watchers and taking the cruise would be far less of a hassle than working out a trip to Easter Island. Not to mention if a stop at Easter Island is on the cruise plan …

  16. jcm

    I wish I could go.

  17. Saw my one and only total solar eclipse from the front seat of a Cessna flying at a mere 10,000 feet above Yakima, Washington, back in 1979. I can still see that glowing green corona in my head, even though most everything else from that stage of my life has been blotted out. (High school…shudder!)

  18. QuietDesperation

    Man, I am so tempted. New windows for my house or this? What do you think, reader?

  19. MadScientist

    @QuietDesperation: A total solar eclipse is awesome – far more impressive than even a 98% partial eclipse – or even the 99% eclipse seen from Tahiti. Traveling to see them is usually pretty costly though. :( This is a tough one; that is undoubtedly one of the most expensive eclipse watching packages I have ever seen. The only consolation is that you are virtually guaranteed to see the total eclipse (unless there is aircraft trouble which keeps you grounded). I can’t help grinning thinking about how the pilot will trim an aircraft which has all the passengers on one side for most of the flight and all on the other side for about 10 minutes of the flight. It reminds me of an episode of “Golden Girls” where a pilot is talking about what the passengers can see through the windows – he says something like “and if you all look out the left hand side .. we’ll tip over and crash”.

  20. Nick

    Australia has a quite good early-morning eclipse coming up in 13th November, 2012 in Far North Queensland about 45 kilometres north of the the city of Cairns, which has an international airport.

    And if you miss that, there is one that will go through the heart of Sydney on the 28th of July, 2028 – totality should miss the Opera House by about 2 kilometres

    Cairns : http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/solar_eclipses/TSE_2012_GoogleMapFull.html

    Sydney : http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/solar_eclipses/TSE_2028_GoogleMapFull.html

  21. Chris

    How is the vibration of the plane compensated for when viewing the eclipse or is it just a pleasant day out with little or no science involved?

  22. Jon Anderson

    The only time we’ve had a solar eclipse here I was still in elementary school. Every other school in the area had students make viewers to go out and observe it, but our school decided it wasn’t safe and everyone had to stay inside with the blinds closed. The kid who skipped school that day won the science fair with a series of exposures of the event.

  23. MPG

    A few years ago I went on a Northern Lights flight, where the plane was flown out over the Faroes and circled for a while, giving everyone plenty of time to enjoy the Aurora Borealis. That one’s a bit more of a gamble as you can’t be certain of seeing a display of aurora, but we got lucky and saw a good strong display. They turned off all the cabin lights, and even taped over the permanently-illuminated no-smoking signs, to make sure everyone’s eyes were dark-adapted. That was a truly memorable experience, and I’d love to do an eclipse flight too.

  24. @ Jon Anderson:

    Heh heh. There was similar mania back when I was a kid. Half the people thought they were going to get rich selling solar eclipse memorabilia (and many of those claimed it was “the last solar eclipse until 2017!”), and at least half the rest were convinced they would immediately go blind if they chanced to look up during totality.

    I was lucky, a friend’s dad did a lot of flying, and we were able to rise above the nonsense…and the low-level clouds that blocked everyone else’s view!

  25. Danno

    Hey, this is on my Birthday!!! If anyone asks what I want for my birthday I think I’ll just point them here. Unfortunately, I’d probably have to remortgage my house to make it happen, so it’s probably best to let this one go. sigh…

  26. @13. Hi Cindy! A real blast from the past. Twist, twist, twist… How does a week on the beach near in Cairns/Port Douglas, Queensland Australia on 12 Nov 2012 sound? That is the next one after this, and I definitely plan to have my feet on the ground (and after the eclipse in the Ocean) for that one. Check out the path on Fred Espanak’s NASA web site: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2012Nov13Tgoogle.html
    I see that @20 has already written to that, and I already have an apartment reserved in Port Douglas for my daughter and me there for that one with some other eclipse-chasing friends.

    @15. Indeed, we WERE planning to use an Air France Concorde for the 21 June 2001 eclipse that would have netted an almost unbelievable HOUR in totality. In fact, for that one, the aircraft could outpace the Moon’s shadow for a good part of the track over the south east Atlantic Ocean and would actually need to “slow down” to not fly out of it! We actually could have gotten even a longer totality than that, but we could not get permission from the Angolans to overfly their airspace. The project planning was quite mature, and we had gotten permission from the governor of Ascension Island to launch the flight from there (earlier we had considered Tenerife, Canary Islands, but Ascension was a better choice). The original flight concept “sold” to Air France is still on my web site at:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_01/CONCORDE_ECLIPSE.html
    and links therein. Tragically, our plans vanished in one horrific instant with the horrific crash of Air France Concord flight 4590 in July, 2000 with the loss of all souls on board. For that one I ended up on terra firma in Zambia, but never could get the pain of 25 July 2000 out of my mind. Though woefully inadequate, my grief for those on that flight still echo from my web site on that eclipse here:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_01/ECLIPSE_2001_REPORT.html

    As an added note, what makes THIS flight opportunity (TSE 2010) so special, is that unless there dawns a new era of civil super-sonic flight in the years (more likely decades) ahead – I am hopeful, but remain optimistically skeptical (Phil, can skeptics be optomists and still objective? I hope so), we wont be able to prolong a totality as long as this again until 23 June 2495 AD, and still have the Sun not so high in the sky as to be visible out commercial aircraft windows. It’s now or never for those of us who now walk the Earth!

    @17. The corona was “green”? Maybe the windows on the Cessna 172 were tinted? It was pearly electric white from the ground in Montana!

    @18. Well, Obviously I am biased, but… I have been putting off repairs to my house since I bought it (still mortgaged to the hilt) 16 years ago to support my eclipse chasing habit. Umbraphillia is indeed an addiction – gotta have those coronal photons. But if it’s a choice between windows for a house or a window to view totality at 39,000 feet for more than 9-1/2 minutes, more than nature will allow from the ground anywhere, anytime, by more than two minutes, for me it’s a no brainer. As another note, the next future eclipse that closely approached that theoretical maximum will yield a 7m 29s totality is on 16 July 2186 AD. Much sooner, of course, than the more aircraft amenable 2495 event (you can get a longer totality with a commercial aircraft in 2186, but with the Sun only 14 deg from the zenith at mid eclipse you would need to cut a hole in the roof of your aircraft), but I don’t think I will still be around for that one either.

    @19. Total and partial eclipses are TOTALLY (no pun intended) different visual and perceptual phenomenon – even “ 99%” partials are soooo far off the mark saying “apples and oranges” would be an enormous understatement – but it would be more like comparing a Rolls Royce to Roller skates. They kind of sound alike, are both modes of transportation, have wheels, and get from point A to B on the ground. But though I have never ridden one (the Rolls Royce that is) THAT is tour total eclipse, and the roller skates (and not even the in-line kind, the old clunky metal ones I had as a kid) are the partial eclipse in this “analogy”.

    As to the lateral stability of the aircraft, indeed, that was the FIRST question that came up when I put that configuration possibility to Skytraders. Their aircraft is set up for easy and rapid reconfiguration to pull out and exchange seats from the front and rear cabin section for a combined passenger/cargo mix, or all econ or mixed econ/biz class mix. Normally those reconfigurations are pretty standard load situations for aft/fore “weight and balance” trimming, but we were the first ever to ask them to remove all the seats but just from one side. And, Skytraders indeed said they would have to undertake a study and certification of that. Fortunately it proved no problem. They can re-ballast the aircraft easily to accommodate either by asymmetric fill and burn of fuel in their four extra fuel tanks, or if needed “dead weight” as cargo. So. No fancy trimming, slip maneuvers, banks, etc. needed by the pilot. It will be smooth sailing (er, flying…) all the way.

    @20. Vibration (high frequency from the engines) really is a non-issue. It is very small in amplitude and at those frequencies very easy to damp or filter. It’s the low frequency (sub-Hertz) small pointing excursions, on the order of tens of arcminutes over many seconds that can be an issue. Still good quality photos can be obtained even with hand held cameras – particular with “VR” or “IS” lenses. Here is an example of a picture taken with a consumer Cannon camera hand-held with a 400 mm lens on our 2008 flight out of one of the sun-side windows:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_08/KR_QL_JPG_35P.jpg
    Not as “good” as ground, based images, I admit, but not bad for an esthetically pleasing “shot”. The next “step up” is to use inertial gyro stabilizers which can be purchased (expensive!) or rented for this job. I have used those a few times. For example in 2003 in a B747-400ER over Antarctica. See here for some details:
    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/ECLIPSE_03/QF2901_IMAGING/TSE2003_REPORT.html

    Separately to your question, there are a couple of experiments under consideration from the aircraft – one can be done using the left rear flight deck window. Another is a polarimetric imaging experiment (to study the zodiacal dust in the inner regions of the solar system, not the eclipse itself) and for that a glass window is needed, not standard aircraft acrylic or composite. Our aircraft provider is looking to possibly borrow one that is optically flat and already mounted in an over-wing door that as a unit can be swapped out – but we don’t yet know if we can get that from Airbus (the answer is pending). If so then that experiment might move forward.

  27. QuietDesperation

    unless there is aircraft trouble which keeps you grounded).

    That’s a good thought. What’s the financial fine print on *FAIL* situations?

    he says something like “and if you all look out the left hand side .. we’ll tip over and crash”.

    Glass bottomed plane. Just fly it upside down during the eclipse. I’m just full of answers. Well, I’m full of something, anyway.

  28. @27. The plan is to have the aircraft arrive in Tahiti (where will will launch the eclipse
    flight from) late on July 9. The eclipse flight takes off early on the morning of July 11. This was done by design to allow an entire day (and wee hours of the morning before)
    to service, check, and prepare the airplane for the eclipse flight in situ where it
    will be used. This was done to mitigate the risk of an aircraft mechanical problem
    arising with a “tight” scheduling of the aircraft. This too had driven up the cost because the owner/operators could not schedule the aircraft for others to use for other purposes elsewhere. Mechanical failures CAN occur for a variety of causes at ANY time that could abort the eclipse flight. Think for example of Cpt. “Sully” and that landing in the Hudson, or Air France 4590 that was not so fortunate outside of Paris in 2000 at the extreme. But, having 36 hours to prep and if necessary service the aircraft should minimize risks of inoperability before take-off. Though I will be the first to say that nothing is risk free. One of the selection criteria (but just one) for this particular aircraft is that it is of the Airbus 3xx series, and those (A340) are flown regularly in and out of there by Air Tahiti Nui with their operations base at F’aaa airport in Papeete – where we will launch from – thus facilities (and personel beyond what Skytraders is already planning) IF NEEDED for mechanical repairs during that 36 hour window are there. Now, if the flight “does not go” because of some technical oversight or negligence on the part of the owner/operators they would be responsible. But more likely (but in absolute terms of very low risk, but not impossible) is that the aircraft does not get off the ground due to anomalous weather that shuts down the airport. That CAN happen – cyclones (but more typically there in the southern hemisphere summer, i.e., NOW, and they just had one!), earthquakes, tsunamis, could all shut down the airport. I am not suggesting this is likely, but under those conditions or similar the individual eclipse-chasers must assume those risks for the flight “failing” themselves. This is no different than the possibility of being “clouded out” on the ground (though the odds there are MUCH higher!) on Easter Island, Tatakoto Atoll, or in Patagonia, and those too are self-assumed risks. Comes with the territory.

  29. Sacrificing almost an entire year’s worth of acceptable carbon footprint for a pretty view? All the while emptying our pockets?! Let’s keep things in perspective people and get back to necessities. How could the layer of environmental ethics be entirely overlooked at here of all places?

  30. Navneeth

    Phil, do I understand you right, that you have never directly witnessed a total solar eclipse? If so, it frankly amazes me.

  31. Chris A.

    @brand0con (#29):
    “Let’s keep things in perspective…and get back to necessities.”

    By this logic, you should be railing against anyone who participates in any activity that is not directly survival-related. The carbon footprint of the people who attempt to climb Mt. Everest (for example) is enormous compared to this eclipse expedition. More mundanely, should we all stop taking “unnecessary” vacations? If humans only engage in “necessary” activities, we might as well go back to living in caves and scavenging for food.

    Instead of vilifying participants of this expedition, why not look at the big picture: There are people who make an unusual effort to reduce their carbon footprint in their daily activities (for example, I commute 2000 miles a year by bicycle, among other things) so that when they do “indulge” a bit, it’s still not enough to make their carbon footprint larger than most. Don’t be so quick to judge, please.

  32. @29. For me (and my scientific collaborators), it actually just isn’t a “pretty view”, though I won’t deny it is gorgeous, but a necessary one to enable the science (as asked about in @21) we hope to do. I did not want to dwell with lengthy explanations of that in-line here, so please let me point you to a fairly high-level poster paper we presented on exactly this a couple of years ago and continue to pursue:

    Hines, D. C., Hammel, H. B., and Schneider, G., 2007, “Piggyback Instrumentation for Lunar Orbital Surveyors Characterizing Zodiacal Dust within 1 AU of the Sun”, Workshop on Science Associated with the Lunar Exploration Architecture

    Viewable on the web here:

    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/POSTERS/ZIP_28FEB07_TEMPE.jpg

    Note our discussion then of exactly how an eclipse flight like this would open up the possibilites.

    Getting some pathfinding data, which we can do from high altitude in the Moon’s umbral shadow during a total solar eclipse, is actually a much less costly in terms of both dollars and carbon impact than a rocket launch. True, we are proposing a “piggyback” space experiment that you could argue would be “going anyway”, but then too is the paradigm for the airplane flight. It would be a pitty to fly an experiment (if it could fit in the cost cap to pay for the airplane, which would be wayyyy out of scope), that takes up just one window (which is what we can afford to pay for, not the rest!) and have all those others “go to waste”.

    This experiment, if successful, would lend direct insight into the archetechure and evolution of the inner zodiacal dust component in our own solar system, and serve as an analog in studying the diversity of exoplanetary system architecture s that only now we are learning about. That feeds back into an understanding of how the Earth got to be in its “special” place in our solar system (or the somewhat more extensible ‘habitable zone’), at least from the perspective of a life-enabling environment for species that have evolved here like our own that worry about carbon footprint impacts upsetting that can influence naturally occurring quasi-equilibrium conditions that we enjoy here on the Earth .

  33. Here are the details on the 2017 eclipse for us CONUS dwellers. It’s in August:

    http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEplot/SEplot2001/SE2017Aug21T.GIF

  34. Barry S.

    Im begging to borrow money for this flight.

  35. @ (#31):

    If you want to take my argument to it’s logical conclusion, than yes, it would propose going back to something very caveman-like. Of course, to apply it in moderation (as a rational human would do) would simply mean not engaging in extravagances like these over and over again without the tools for measurement on board. You’ve experienced this from a plane before and the science hasn’t been done yet.

    I too commute by bicycle 365, recycle, eat responsibly, ect. but at the same time have to shower and wash my clothes often. There are trade offs and there are just plain luxuries. These expeditions fit in the latter (in an egregious way) unless you’re headed to a destination by happenstance. At least piggybacking on a rocket wouldn’t be an aimless ride. To live a lifestyle of offsetting waste only to blow it in one hurrah is to not offset at all. Jet travel is among the worst I’m sure you know. Your net contribution hasn’t changed.

    @ (32) :

    Thanks for explaining the science; that’s actually very coherent. Still, one has to wonder if it could piggyback on a mission without this as its sole purpose and no actual destination. If you must, do it once, photograph it aplenty, get the data you desire, oooh ahhhhh a bit and call it a day. Better yet, put the dollars people will overspend on this thing toward offsetting the waste it creates. To repeat the flight multiple times (especially without instrumentation) is inexcusable.

  36. @35: I’ve read your post several times, and I am not sure quite what you are saying. So perhaps this does not address the point you were trying to make as that was not clear to me.

    When you say “if it” (I assume our experiment) “could piggy back on a mission” (I assume a space mission planned for another purpose, not the EFLIGHT) “without this” (here I lost which “this” you mean, our experiment, or to provide a venue to enable high altitude eclipse observations?) “as its sole purpose an no actual destination.” I am having trouble just to understand the phrasing as this has an “if” but no “then”. Seems to end in mid sentence, so I am lost.

    As you say “if you must do, do it once” I presume (hopefully correctly) the “it” is our proposed pathfinder experiment? If so we aren’t actually taking photographs, it would all be digital data – but indeed it would be only once. As I said in #24 the next opportunity to do this again in a commercial aircraft (actually much LESS costly than mounting research expedition than to propose using NASA aircraft flight assets) won’t be until 23 June 2495 AD. So, celestial mechanics has given us this one time only possibility. There is absolutely no possibility to “repeat the flight multiple times”. I actually kind of wish there was (though you might object) – but the dynamics of the Earth/moon/Sun system have set that date as nearly 500 years from now – and I hope by then we will have answered the science questions we hope to learn more about.

    As to “Better yet, put the dollars people will overspend on this thing toward offsetting the waste it creates.” Whether or not it is overspending, despite the price tag, is subjective. The cost of using this aircraft for this purpose is no different per flight hour than for any other purpose – but we do have a lot of “dead time” in the air to get it where it needs to be. There just are no aircraft in Tahiti or anywhere else in the Pacific region to do this mission, and economic forces set what it costs to fly airplanes these days.

    As a note, for 9 months out of the year this particular aircraft is used in the service of the Australian Government’s Antarctic Research Program supporting their on continent research bases where they do conduct very significant and meaningful global climatologically research. I am quite sure they have done the cost/benefit trade for using it in support of those activities. I do know that the fuel cost for our eclipse charter is VERY high (a big chunk of the cost in fact) and I cannot say what if any part of that cost is levied against exactly what you suggest about “offsetting the waste it creates” by included taxes or fees by the Australian government (the nation of registry and operational certification for the Aircraft) might be imposing. The aircraft owner/operator did not give us a breakdown (didn’t ask, but I could!). I won’t guess because I don’t know. However, would not be surprised is at least some of the offsets you suggest are already built into the price for the fuel used – which in large part is why it is so costly.

  37. ELAINE AND IRA

    We’ve traveled the world 5 times with our son Glenn Schneider chasing the shadow of the moon.
    Thank you for some of the most memorable times of our lives.
    Love you,
    Mom and Dad

  38. I’ll be glad to sell somebody credits for this if they want to go but feel bad about their carbon footprint. I’ll stay home and grow a few thousand pounds of pine trees for you, no problem. I’m not being snarky either. I have 1100 acres of forest and no job.

  39. Joel M. Moskowitz, M.D.

    I never criticize a person’s activities (unless clearly antisocial or self-destructive) as we all have various interests and eclipse chasing is very esoteric. It is the human condition to better humans individually and collectively. It is also the human condition to “stop and smell the roses”. I have committed my life to bettering the human condition, but my eclipse observations are purely for enjoyment, my “stopping and smelling the roses”, although I have assisted Glenn in his data acquisition at some eclipses. Life is short. Be human. Do what is passionate for you. I am fortunate that I can get on this flight. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson ” I WILL gather the rosebuds while I may”.

  40. Mr Bill

    In case it was missed, this is a story about eclipse chasing. I do hope those that are concerned about carbon credits and disaster relief are making their own electricity to access the web and post comments. This is an amazing opportunity for eclipse chasers and I look forward to hearing more about it in the future!

  41. I wish I had that much money to watch an eclipse… But since that’s more than half my yearly income I’ll have to stick to the ground. The only eclipse I got to “see” was hidden by clouds.
    Hope never dies though!

  42. JB of Brisbane

    If I may quote from one of my books (Viscount, Comet and Concorde – Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications 1996, ISBN 1 875671 21 8) -

    “(Concorde) 001 conducted an interesting sortie (in) June 1973 when it flew a load of astronomers to Fort Lamy in Chad, allowing them to observe an eclipse of the sun en route. Flying at Mach 1.5 over central Aftrica, the astronomers were able to watch the eclipse for eighty minutes, whereas on the ground they would have been limited to just seven minutes.”

    EIGHTY MINUTES?!? As someone once said, HOLY HALEKALA! Another reason to retain at least one Concorde in airworthy condition.

  43. @42:

    The Concorde 001 flight was, and will remain, unmatched in the history of both
    science and aviation for quite some time to come – certainly into the foreseeable
    future. But, a few corrections of detail to JB’s posting.
    (1) This just subjective, but it wasn’t a “load” of astronomers, just a few.
    (2) Most of the flight was conducted at close to Mach 2, not 1.5
    (3) It wasn’t 80 minutes, it was 74. Still astounding and remarkable, but
    let’s keep the record straight.

    For any with specific interest I had given a talk in 2007 at the 3rd International
    Solar Eclipse conference entitled “Up, Up and Away – Chasing the Umbra
    Into the Stratosphere (And Beyond) and some time ago turned the PowerPoint
    slides into a pictorial PDF document that can be downloaded as linked here:

    http://nicmosis.as.arizona.edu:8000/ECLIPSE_WEB/SEC_2007/SEC_2007.html

    There are a number of pictures taken of, and on-board that historic Concorde 001
    eclipse flight, along with some details of the aircraft and instrumentation
    configuration for the eclipse experiments in that presentation. Any readers here are welcome to download and have a look at that.

  44. And I’ll have bruises on my arm.

    Next to your tattoo?

    Hint, hint.

  45. Na

    This sounds like such a cool idea I am literally boo-hooing that I can’t do it.

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