View the Total Solar Eclipse From 40,000 Feet
Been there, done that? How about total umbral immersion 40,000 feet in the air?
For thrill seekers, that's the pitch from Rick Brown, a self-described "eclipse-chaser" who has chartered an Airbus jet that will fly into the path of a total eclipse of the sun set to occur on July 11. (And you thought that was just a Carly Simon lyric).
Total eclipses typically occur only once every year or two. And viewing them can be a challenge: they are often only visible from remote parts of the Earth, and even if you make the trek, clouds or weather can obscure the view. On July 11, for example, the moon's shadow, or umbra, will sweep across the South Pacific in a narrow band, only making landfall on Easter Island and a few atolls in French Polynesia. The "totality," as the period when the sun is completely blocked by the moon is called, will last just four minutes on the ground.
Enter Rick Brown and his EFLIGHT 2010. The forty or so eclipse-chasing passengers high above the clouds will watch as the moon's shadow approach them from over 200 miles away before basking in the darkness of the lunar shadow and gazing at the sun's pearly white corona for nearly 10 full minutes - which Brown says will be a record viewing time.
Brown, an amateur astronomer who is a Wall Street commodities trader by day, has been organizing eclipse trips since 1991. "Nothing compares to a total eclipse," he says. A total eclipse completely blocks out the sun, versus a partial eclipse or an annular one (pictured). "It's pretty indescribable for people who have never seen an eclipse."
This is the first plane-viewing trip he has organized, however. After arranging a boat or ferry to usher viewers to the eclipse site 20 miles south of Tahiti proved problematic, Brown teamed up Dr. Schneider, who has organized similar eclipse flights.
The cost for this aerial umbral immersion is $9000 for an economy class seat and a single eclipse viewing window; or $6500 for those who share an eclipse-viewing window. (Flights to and from Polynesia are extra). The flight, aboard an Airbus 319CJ/LR, departs from Tahiti's Faaa International Airport in Papeete on the morning of July 11 for the 7-hour round trip flight.