Falcon 900B Used To Capture Rare Annular Solar Eclipse
In what the organizers claim is a first, an aircraft–in this case a chartered Dassault Falcon 900B carrying 12 photographers and amateur astronomers on November 3–was used to intercept an extremely short total solar eclipse with a “perpendicular crossing” of the eclipse path. While aircraft have previously been used to capture solar eclipses, they flew with the eclipse path and waited for the shadow to catch up with the airplane. “There was high risk for our flight in being a hair off in timing and missing totality, but we did it anyway,” noted photographer Ben Cooper.
The Falcon 900B, piloted by Longtail Aviation captain Martin Amick, precisely hit a point some 600 miles off the Bermuda coast over the Atlantic Ocean at the exact time while at 44,000 feet, allowing passengers to get a seven-second glimpse of the eclipse. Meanwhile, the jet was traveling at nearly 450 knots and the eclipse path at 8,000 mph, adding more complexity.
While it was a total solar eclipse, it was “annular” during a very short section at the western end of the track south of Bermuda, precisely where the Falcon 900B captured the event. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun but it is so far away from Earth that it cannot obscure the sun completely, forming a “ring of fire” around the moon.