Last week, Alaska Airlines changed the scheduled departure time of a flight so that passengers could experience a total eclipse.
Combine the beauty and artistry of Mother Nature with the majesty of the moon passing in front of the sun and add in the enthusiastic commentary of an astronomer and you have … this video.
The alignment of the sun, moon and earth to create an eclipse is rare. Alaska Air began planning its “intercept mission” over a year ago. The idea was to time a flight from Anchorage to Honolulu so that passengers would have a sky-high view. At lower altitudes, the flight path was covered by clouds and that added to the view, creating a surreal picture.
Joe Rao is an associate astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. His research indicated that a flight between Alaska and Hawaii would intersect the “path of totality” – the darkest shadow of the moon as it passes over the Earth. About a year ago, he contacted the airline to ask if the schedule for Flight 870 could coincide with the eclipse. The flight was rescheduled and departed 25 minutes later than usual.
On March 8, flying at 35,000 feet, Alaska Flight 870 intercepted the eclipse 695 miles north of Honolulu. Rao was one of about a dozen “eclipse chasers” on the flight. They were all thrilled with the rare view they experienced.