Mike Kentrianakis/American Astronomical Society

WATCH: This is what Tuesday's solar eclipse looked like from a plane window

The best thing you'll see this week.

FIONA MACDONALD
11 MAR 2016
 

On Tuesday, the only solar eclipse of 2016 turned skies dark for those lucky enough to be in southeast Asia and the Pacific. But, arguably, the best view was from Alaska Airlines flight 870 from Anchorage to Hawaii, which was adjusted for the sole purpose of allowing passengers to witness the spectacular event. And if this video is anything to go by, it sounds like the best time anyone's ever had at 37,000 feet (11,000 metres).

 

The planning to make sure the flight would be in the right place at the right time started more than a year ago, when astronomer Joe Rao from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium discovered that the flight path would take the plane right through the path of totality - but 25 minutes too early.

Instead of accepting defeat, the self-confessed 'eclipse chaser' called Alaskan Airlines and asked them to reschedule... and they agreed.

When the moment finally came, Rao gave all 163 passengers on board a four-page booklet on what they should expect to see. And another eclipse-chaser on board the flight, Dan McGlaun, bought everyone specially filtered glasses so that no one would miss out on witnessing all the phases of the eclipse.

"You can’t be doing something that’s this exciting and not give everybody onboard the chance to at least participate," McGlaun told the Alaskan Airlines blog. This is the 12th solar eclipse he's seen.

Because of the flight plan, which was drawn up with the help of astronomer Glenn Schneider from the University of Arizona, passengers were able to witness the darkness of the total solar eclipse for an incredible 113 seconds.

"The most memorable feature of Tuesday's solar eclipse was the approaching elliptical lunar shadow, which moved at nearly 8,000 mph (12,875 km/h) and loomed like a 'tornado of darkness', as one passenger put it," Rao writes for Space.com.

As totality approached, a passenger in first class apparently started playing George Harrison's "Here comes the Sun", and, if the video above is anything to go by, there was a whole lot of cheering, applause, and cries of, "THE MOON'S SHADOW IS COMING," from economy.

Seriously though, witnessing an eclipse from an aeroplane has now moved up to the top of my bucket list, and I'm incredibly grateful that Rao had the foresight to set this up, and that Mike Kentrianakis from the American Astronomical Society filmed it for the rest of us. Magical.

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