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What the 2017 total solar eclipse looked like from 40,000 feet up

By Joe Rao
August 23, 2017, 6:28:30 PM EDT

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Eclipse 40,000

Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao got this unique view of the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, aboard a special Alaska Airlines charter flight. Credit: Joe Rao/Space.com

For the second time in 18 months, Alaska Airlines maneuvered a B737-900 aircraft into the path of a total solar eclipse, thrilling some 100 enthusiastic eclipse watchers and reporters who were along for the ride.

Yesterday's (Aug. 21) flight plan was developed by astronomer and well-known eclipse chaser Glenn Schneider, of the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. Schneider, however, was not on board this particular flight, deciding instead to observe the "Great American Solar Eclipse" from the ground in Madras, Oregon.

It was the 12th time I had experienced totality and the fifth time I did so from an airborne vantage point. (I was also on the previous Alaska Airlines eclipse flight, which viewed the total solar eclipse of March 8, 2016.) The plane, piloted by Capt. Hal Andersen, gave us a magnificent view of totality from a point roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the Oregon coast.

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