Nine Minutes in the Shadow
Some eclipse chasers even beat the rules of nature! TWAN photographer and world-known eclipse specialist Fred Espenak who co-author the NASA’s bulletins for total and annular solar eclipses was on board Eclipse Flight 2010. Departed from Papeete (Tahiti) the 7 hour return flight took passengers to the middle of the eclipse track, 39000 feet above the clouds over Pacific Ocean and some 2500 km east of Tahiti. Seats on one side of the Airbus A319 were completely removed for better viewing of the eclipse at 45 degrees altitude above the horizon (click on the second photo to see Fred Espenak preparing for the eclipse few minutes before totality). But most striking was that the eclipse lasted 9 minutes and 23 seconds as the plane chased the shadow of the moon on this region where the ground speed of shadow was slowed down to “only” 2200 km/h. In fact the observable totality from the flight was about 2 minutes longer than the theoretical maximum of 7m 32s that nature will ever allow for a ground-based observer.