|Total Solar Eclipse 2013 ... zero seconds?
November 3, from a plane at 44,000 feet & 600 miles southeast of Bermuda
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Total Solar Eclipse of November 3, 2013, as seen from 44,000 feet over the Atlantic aboard a 12-person Dassault Falcon 900B jet chartered from Bermuda. For the first time ever, an aircraft was used to intercept an extremely short eclipse with a perpendicular crossing of the eclipse path. There was zero margin for error, with the plane, traveling near 500mph and hitting the eclipse shadow where it touched down on earth at some 8,000 mph, required to hit a geographic point over the ocean at a precise instant (read on). It is also just the second time a flight to intercept any such super-short eclipse was accomplished successfully! (It was calculated to be seven seconds in our case had we hit dead center, but it appears, being about one second off, we got an instantaneous totality of zero seconds.) The shorter-than-normal 2013 total solar eclipse was classified as a 'hybrid', which meant that for a portion of its narrow track across Earth (in this case, only a very short section at the western end of the track south of Bermuda), it was annular. The path of this total eclipse, which began there, then took it across the Atlantic and into equatorial Africa, ending in Kenya/Ethiopia/Somalia at local sunset. At that end of the path, as from here, the duration was some 15-to-ten seconds or less. At its maximum, in the ocean west of Gabon, totality lasted as much as 99 seconds, still much shorter than the majority of total eclipses. Only a few die-hard eclipse chasers made the trek or voyage to this area. While chartered flights to intercept total solar eclipses have become almost a regular event each time, a plane would normally fly with the eclipse path and wait for the shadow to catch up with the plane, making it easier. (Stay tuned for this at the next total eclipse, March 20, 2015.) Prior to this flight, in 1986, eclipse veteran Glenn Schneider was able to intercept a 'perfect' (sun and moon exactly the same size) zero-second eclipse over the north Atlantic (a similar intercept for a 1.4 second eclipse was attempted in 1930 without success). But for our flight, where the sun would have been in front of the plane and not to the side had we followed the path, we had to cross the path at close to a 90-degree angle at the moment the shadow passed by. There was high risk for our flight in being a hair off in timing and missing totality, but we did it anyway! (Debate is ongoing about whether we achieved an instant of totality or were right at the edge, but we were within about one second of it). Special thanks to veteran eclipse chaser and friends Don Hladiuk and Robert Minor for help taking the photos out our narrow windows, both literally and figuratively, of timing and space aboard the small aircraft. Special thanks to organizers Stephan Heinsius, Dirk Ewers and expert eclipse mapper & navigator Xavier Jubier, and of course the pilots! Our other group members (12 + crew) included eclipse veterans Liz O'Mara, Tony Crocker, Daniel Lynch, Leo Metcalfe, Hildegard Werth (ZDF German TV), Martin Amick (Pilot, Longtail Aviation), Hans-Williams Randriamanatena (Copilot), Arturo Garcia (Longtail tech), and also Ludger Nüschen (ZDF).
(NOTE: Telephoto images suffered some from a combination of focus & the windows or the turbulence encountered during our intercept).
Astronomy Picture of the Day!
From our group: Telephoto video (Stephan) Wide angle video (Leo) In-cabin video (Stephan) German TV report from onboard
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