Astro Bob: Cosmic communion at 39,000 feet

We departed Minneapolis just after 3 a.m. Thursday, headed for Ontario and the annular eclipse. (Bob King)

As the sky brightened, the passengers ambled one by one to the windows on the plane’s starboard side to get ready or the big astronomical event. Some, like me, toted cameras with long telephoto lenses, while others opted for mobile phones. A few carried only a handheld solar filter, unbothered by the need to record. Somewhere along the wild, northeastern shore of Lake Superior, the pilots would pivot the plane and tack to the northwest, bisecting the broad path of annularity.

For a little more than 4 minutes the silhouetted moon would lodge inside the brilliant solar disk before sliding away, not to return until the Dec. 4 total eclipse over Antarctica and the south Atlantic. Closer to home, the next eclipse visible in the Americas, another annular, occurs on Oct. 14, 2023.

Chris Alexander of Austin, Texas preps and checks his camera setup just prior to the eclipse. The astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope put on the flight. (Bob King)

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