Chasing the Sun at 39,000 Feet

Like an enormous tooth or claw, the eclipsed Sun seems simply after dawn over southern Ontario on Thursday, June tenth.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

Wow! I simply bought again from seeing my first solar eclipse from the air. A spectacular tooth of daylight appeared moments after dawn; clouds adopted minutes later, then a flexing ring of daylight round the Moon. I shared these sights with 32 passionate eclipse chasers from round the nation, together with Delta Airlines representatives and the flight crew, on Sky & Telescope’s 2021 annular eclipse flight on the morning of Thursday, June tenth.

a group of people stand next to a plane, holding a sign advertising the sky & telescope eclipse tour
The eclipse contributors rejoice with a bunch picture on the tarmac after the flight.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope
Astronomer and veteran eclipse chaser Jay Pasachoff of Williamstown, Maryland, checks his telephone previous to boarding the eclipse flight Thursday. Pasachoff has seen 35 whole solar eclipses and notched his nineteenth annular eclipse on June tenth. To mark the events, he has donned Sun-colored pants practically each year since 1977.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

We departed Minneapolis on a Delta Airbus A319-100 shortly after 3 a.m. and headed for the path of annularity over southern Ontario. From a window I watched Jupiter and Saturn whereas flashes of lightning from thunderstorms under lit up the “sky” beneath us. We arrived inside the path of annularity forward of schedule, which netted us an opportunity to see the Sun rising whereas deeply incised by the Moon’s disk.

The Earth’s shadow is way extra placing in the skinny, clear air at 38,000 toes, the place this picture was taken. The darkish arch resembles an approaching storm entrance in the western sky shortly earlier than dawn.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

Pesky excessive clouds initially threatened to rob our view of a really low Sun. So, in a gambit to see as a lot of the eclipse as potential, expert Delta pilots Art Smith and Gary Beltz elevated the plane’s altitude to its most — 39,000 toes. They additionally tilted the starboard wing downward by 5° to get it out of the way, whereas sustaining a straight course.

a map showing the map of the eclipse flight
The flight path of the annular eclipse flight.

All passengers had their very own window seats. Most, like Sarah Azizi of Philadelphia, who coincidentally was celebrating her thirty fifth birthday the similar day, watched all of it by way of a secure solar filter.

“It moved me to tears. It felt like a cosmic communion.”

celebrating the eclipse flight
Ross Kessler provides his accomplice Sarah Azizi a kiss on her birthday after the eclipse flight. Both reside in Philadelphia.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

Others employed cautious and elaborate digicam setups utilizing off-the-shelf cameras and telephoto lenses to seize pictures of the Moon’s exceptional passage throughout the Sun.

Annular eclipse sequence on June 10, 2021
Sitting in Row 1 of Sky & Telescope‘s chartered jet, Eliot Herman captured this sequence of pictures earlier than, throughout, and after annularity (left to proper) on June 10, 2021.

The cabin erupted in whoops and hollers when the horn of the crescent Sun first clawed its way up out of a distant cloud financial institution. Rob Marciano, chief meteorologist for ABC News, sat in the seat behind me and couldn’t get over how bright the Sun still appeared even when it was no thicker than an onion ring.

“It’s surreal to see it from an airplane,” Marciano stated. He surmised it was the easy undeniable fact that we had been above three-quarters of most of the ambiance. With little haze, water vapor, and air itself to filter the daylight the way we see it from the floor, it rose blindingly vivid and instantly required filtering for images.

a man holds his camera up to the window inside a plane
Fred Walden of San Francisco presses his digicam up towards a window to {photograph} the annular eclipse. It was his first eclipse flight and his first annular eclipse.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

Our deliberate route, fastidiously calculated prematurely by eclipse-flight guru Glenn Schneider, offered a beneficiant period of time to linger in the eclipse path. The Sun placed on a splendid present, whereas far under a thick blanket of clouds made me lose my bearings. Where had been we precisely? Once the Moon launched a 3rd of the Sun again into view, the plane circled and started its return journey to Minneapolis. We cheered and clapped and celebrated our success with a champagne toast!

a man sits on a plane with a laptop in his lap, looking at an image of a solar eclipse
Eliot Herman of Tucson appears by way of his tackle the return to Minneapolis. He was particularly interested by recording the black drop impact — when the Moon’s limb seems to almost “touch” the Sun’s inside limb.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

Anthony Black, a spokesperson for Delta who joined our gang for his first eclipse, was caught up in the shared ardour and pleasure by the flight’s “community of people.”

“The enthusiasm was really refreshing. There was a sense of unity,” he stated. He added that at the plane’s highest altitude, “I almost felt I was in outer space.”

three men - two in pilot's uniforms and one in plain clothes - stand in front of an airplane, smiling
Sky & Telescope Senior Editor Kelly Beatty stands with the two Delta Airlines pilots, Art Smith and Gary Beltz, who flew the chartered eclipse plane. Just in case the first plane skilled any bother, a second jet (parked in the background) was fueled and able to fly.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

After the toast, veteran “eclipsophile” Craig Small, who has labored at the Hayden Planetarium as an astronomer for 33 years, took out his embroidered “eclipse flag,” a flag with a complete eclipse design he or a proxy has taken to 34 whole eclipses since 1973. He and a pair of merry first-time eclipse-watchers marched the flag up and down the aisle of the plane, a lot to the delight of the crowd.

three people hold up a blue flat with an image of a eclipse with a white flare in the inside of an airplane
Craig Small of New York’s Hayden Planetarium celebrates the eclipse with an embroidered “eclipse flag” that has traveled with him round the globe.
Bob King / Sky & Telescope

The View from the Ground

The workers of Sky & Telescope not on the plane took full benefit of the partially eclipsed Sun rising over the Boston space.

S&T Editor in Chief Peter Tyson studies, “I was out on the Charles River in my single scull. By the time the Sun rose above the surrounding trees, the glowing crescent appeared vertical, like the right side of a parenthetical. A thin layer of cloud strips enhanced the view, making the orangey-white Sun vaguely resemble Jupiter with its bands and zones.”

“Back at the dock, I watched the last bit of Moon depart the Sun, leaving it perfectly round — and leaving me already excited for the next eclipse.”

Editors Diana Hannikainen, Alan MacRobert, and Monica Young witnessed the partially eclipsed Sun rise above a mist-covered meadow northwest of the metropolis. As considered by way of eclipse glasses, the chimney of a distant farmhouse break up the crescent because it broke by way of the clouds earlier than it rose absolutely into view. One of the youngest of the crew (6 years previous) enthused, “That was so beautiful!”

Associate editor Sean Walker opted to see the eclipse from the shore of Lake Massabesic in Auburn, New Hampshire. “Low clouds on the horizon suggested I chose well,” Walker notes. “I would have missed the horns of the eclipsed Sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean had I driven all the way to the coast.”

horned sunrise
The horn of the partially eclipsed Sun breaks by way of low clouds over Auburn, New Hampshire.
Sean Walker

“A scattering of a half dozen people anxiously awaited the sunrise,” he says. “We were not disappointed when the first horn of the partially eclipsed Sun peeked over the densest clouds around 5:15 a.m. Several joggers stopped by my setup to have a look at the progress on the LCD screen of my DSLR camera and took cellphone shots of the screen as keepsakes.”

Partial solar eclipse above Auburn, New Hampshire
The crescent Sun rises increased into the sky.
Sean Walker

Share your experiences in the feedback under, and you’ll want to submit any images to Sky & Telescope‘s online gallery!

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