A. The next total solar eclipse will occur on 01 August 2008. The Moon's umbral shadow will "touch down" on the Earth at 09h 24m Universal Time (U.T.) and "lift off" at 11h 21m U.T.
A. The "path of totality", the region on the Earth's surface which will be swept by the Moon's umbral shadow and where the total phase of the eclipse can be seen, begins in the Canadian Arctic, sweeps the north coast of Greenland and passes only 6.2° from the North Pole before turning southward. The path of totality then crosses between, and grazes the northern islands of Kvitoya and the south western tip of Franz Joseph Land (Nagurskoye) and over Nova Zemlya before traversing northern Russia on its southward journey eventually passing centrally over the Novosibersk, the 3rd largest city in Russia and capital of Siberia. The Moon's shadow then moves over the region where the borders of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Russia all nearly come into confluence. Straddling the western edge of Mongolia the path of totality turns southeastward and ends in Sunset in eastern China.
A. From the high polar north, at a latitude of appx 83°N, north of Svalbard, at mid-eclipse 444 nautical miles fron the geographic North Pole from a jet aricraft at 37,000 feet above the Arctic Ocean.
A. There is no record of any solar eclipse observations as far north as we are now planning for the 01 August 2008 total solar eclipse flight, only about 7° from the North pole.
A. No, but accessibility is difficult. Until this
in time (and technology) very high latitude (north or south) total
solar eclipses have been elusive. The total solar eclipse of 23
November 2003 was the first in history to have been observed from the
A. We will use an Airbus A330-200 twin-engine
long-range aircraft certified for ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine
Operational Performance Standards) flight which
is extremely well suited to our needs. The
aircraft has been chartered from LTU/airberlin and the flight plan
optimized specifically for the purpose of flying into the Moon's shadow
and viewing the total solar eclipse. All of the
many detailed, and unusual, requirements of our flight have
been evaluated and satisfied (including all identified contingencies to
minimize risks to eclipse viewing and optimize the observing
experience) with arrangements by the air charter company Deutsche
Polarflug. Deutsche Polarflug
(AirEvents) has previously operated
successful North Pole siteseeing flights with the same aircraft.
A. At this time, we know of no other aircraft.
A. Only those seats immediately adjacent the (two-seat wide) windows on the starboard (right) side of the aircraft will be used by eclipse chasers to view the eclipse. Approximatley 55 people will be observing totality through whe windows adjacent to those seats (some used individually, some sharing, as per individual preferences and arrangements made by each).
A. Our planned mid-eclipse intercept, when our LTU/Airberlin A330-200 aircraft will be co-located in the center of the Moon's shadow, is at 09h 43m Universal Time (note that UT = German summer time - 2 hours). We remain flexible, and can centrally intercept the shadow earlier in time (closer to the coast of Greenland) or later (closer to Franz Joseph Land), in the very unlikely event of turbulent air or any other reasons that might arise in situ suggesting a better location to view the eclipse.
A. In the absence of any winds, as seen from our aircraft with a mid-eclipse at 22h 44m UT totality will last will last 2m 56s.
A. It does. From the Arctic Ocean below, totality (at the location where mid-eclipse occurs at 09 h43m U.T.) will last only 2m 12s, forty-four seconds shorter than we will experience in our aircraft. Note that the difference is longer than both the maximum duration of totality experienced during the recent total solar eclipse from Australia on 04 December 2002, and anywhere along the path of the 04 April 2005 total solar eclipse, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.
A. Our true airspeed will be 483 nautical miles (894.5 kilometers per hour; Mach 0.85) during the planned 13 minutes of the "totality run".
A. At the 09h 43m UT instant of mid-eclipse the Moon's shadow will be moving at: 4,313 kilometers per hour (2,383 nautical miles per hour) relative to the Earth's surface.
A. The aircraft will be moving with a speed of appx 20.3% of the lunar shadow (at 09h 43m U.T.). Our aircraft heading is optimized to enable the best visibility of the eclipse out the (sun side) passenger cabin windows, which is not quite in the same direction as the motion of the Moon's shadow (we "cross" centerline at an angle, rather than flying along it). Nonetheless, we do get a "boost" that prolongs the duration of totality relative to a stationary observer and the Moon's shadow will overtake and pass us significantly more slowly than a observer on the Arctic Ocean below.
A: For the following "baseline" flight parameters:
U.T. Intercept: 09:43:00 UT
Flight Altitude: 37000ft
Air Speed: 483.0nm/h
Wind Speed: 0.0nm/h
Wind Direction: 0.0°
the circumstances of the total phase of the eclipse are as follows:TOTALITY DURATION = 2m 55.9s
SECOND CONTACT (START OF TOTALITY)
UNIVERSAL TIME = 09:41:32.5 UT
AIRCRAFT LATITUDE = 82° 31' 10.2"N
AIRCRAFT LONGITUDE = 17° 17' 19.9"E
Solar Altitude = 24.9°
Solar Azimuth = 160.1°
Position Angle of Contact = 119.9°
THIRD CONTACT (END OF TOTALITY)
UNIVERSAL TIME = 09:44:28.4 UT
AIRCRAFT LATITUDE = 82° 38' 43.7"N
AIRCRAFT LONGITUDE = 20° 09' 32.3"E
Solar Altitude = 24.9°
Solar Azimuth = 163.9°
Position Angle of Contact = 283.6°
Conditions in flight may call for a mid-eclipse intercept at a different altitude or Universal Time.
A. No, this occurs at a location corresponding to a mid-eclipse near 10h 21m 08m U.T in northern Russia near Nadym. From the ground the duration of totality on centerline there will be 28.7 seconds shorter than we will experience from the air at 09: 43 UT at 82° 35'N latitude.
A. We will observe the eclipse at the maximum altitude which can be supported at this phase of the flight, without necessitating using any fuel margins. This will depend somewhat on the actual pre-eclipse low-level siteseeing flight plan over Svalbard, as well as weather en route and winds aloft. The "baseline" plan for the eclipse observation described HERE is for 37,000 feet above mean sea level. If conditions permit we will observer the eclipse higher altitude, (or if necessary at a slightly lower altitude) which will change the details of the local circumstances by a small amount. This possibility is anticipated and is easily accommodated in real-time with no significant change in the duration or viewing aspects of the total eclipse.
A. Because the Moon's shadow is moving much faster than the aircraft, the change in relative speed even with high winds does not have a big effect on the duration of totality. For example, a headwind of 100 nautical miles per hour (much more than is expected) would reduce the duration of totality by only 10.1s (to 2m 45.8s), whereas a comparable tailwind would increase the duration of totality to 3m 06.2s.
A. The Sun will be 24.9 degrees above the astronomical horizon at mid-eclipse. At 37,000 ft, the apparent horizon is depressed by 3.4 degrees, so the Sun will appear to be 28.3 degrees above the apparent horizon. This is sufficienly high to fully take advantage of the viewing conditions afforded by the rarified air at 37,000 ft, and simultaneously comfortably low for viewing the eclipse through the aircraft windows.
A. The eclipse intercept is planned such that the
will be "straight out" the starboard (right) side cabin windows, i.e.,
to our direction of flight. This will maximize visibility
of the eclipse, and shadow phenomenae out the cabin windows.
A. We have defined an area of operations, where we can elect to observe totality over a wide area from near the coast of Greenland to near the coast of Franz Joseph Land. We can elect to change our position and still optimally intercept the Moon's shadow on centerline at mid-eclipse anywhere along that portion of the path of totality. See this schematic map that shows our defined area of operations. The black line is our nominal (baseline) flight plan, the dashed red lines show the extrema that we are contemplating if the need for relocation should arise.
A. The intercept itself is, but our flight plan has both contingency and margin built in, and we remain highly flexible. The eclipse-observation portion of the flight is nominally planned to be conducted after about an hour and twenty minutes hours of low-altitude sightseeing in the Svalbard region. That time (plus an additional appx 10 minutes) can be used in contingency on the ground or in the air. If we are delayed by as much as about an hour and a half we can head straight to eclipse and achieve an optimal flight through totality.
A. The flight pre-planning, including baseline and contingency (alternate) scenarios have been carried out using a highly specialized software package called EFLIGHT which symbiotically synthesizes dynamical ephemerides generation for the eclipse from a moving platform with aircraft navigation information. EFLIGHT (which is fully described HERE) was designed for in situ on the aircraft flight deck and real-time airborne eclipse navigation. It will be used in this manner on the 01 August 2008 flight to "guide" the aircraft to an optimal "totality run" and eclipse intercept.
A. We have made no special plans, nor levied any requirements on the flight profile for viewing first/fourth contacts or most of the ingress/egress phase of the partial eclipse, as this nominally will occur during the sightseeing and cruise phases of the flight. The orientation of the aircraft, as it maneuvers for pre-eclipse low-altitude siteseeing over Svalbard and post-eclipse at the North Pole, will likely allow some serendipitous viewing of the partial phases. About a half an hour before totality (the exact time dependent upon the position of the aircraft) we will break off the site-seeing portion of the flight and head to a pre-determined base leg to fly just ahead of the start of the planned flight path for the "totality run". Ten minutes before mid-eclipse we will complete a heading alignment maneuver to put the aircraft on a nearly "straight line" course for a mid-eclipse intercept with the center of the umbral cone at 09h 43m. During the run up to totality the Sun will be essentially perpendicular to the direction of flight, "straight out" the left side cabin windows at mid-eclipse. This will provide an opportunity to view (and prepare photographic equipment during) the latest stages of the partial ingress phase of the eclipse, including the approach of the umbral shadow and the onset of second contact. After third contact the aircraft will continue on the totality run track for a few minutes minutes to view the first stages of the partial egress phase of the eclipse and the recession of the lunar shadow before heading due north to the North Pole.
A. Send email to: Glenn Schneider (open email window to: email@example.com)