Eclipse Hunters Set New Record Chasing Moon in Airplane

Jul 23, 2010
Outside Magazine

Eclipse hunters set a new record on July 11 for longest eclipse ever observed by civilians, Wired reports. While hundreds of enthusiasts gathered in the South Pacific to watch the moon blot out the sun, astronomer Glen Schneider and team climbed to 39,000 feet to spend 9 minutes, 23 seconds in the moon's shadow. 

Typically the longest total solar eclipse that can be viewed from the earth is 7 minutes, 32 seconds, a limit set by the geometry of celestial mechanics. 

"We cheated Mother Nature by two minutes," Schneider said. 

Total solar eclipses occur every 16 months when the new moon passes in front of the sun, casting a round shadow on the Earth that turns day to night. During the few minutes the moon is directly in front of the sun, called totality, viewers get a rare glimpse of the solar corona, tendrils of gas that dance around the sun's outer atmosphere. Totality in a solar eclipse is only ever visible from a narrow corridor of the planet.

"It's something we're never going to be able to do again," Schneider said. "It was an opportunity we just couldn't pass up."

Above, check out the the stunning video of a solar eclipse.

--Shauna Sweeney

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