Alaska Airlines Flight 870 departed Anchorage 25 minutes later than usual on Tuesday. The reason? It wanted to give passengers a chance to enjoy a full solar eclipse at 37,000 feet.
Mike Kentrianakis of the American Astronomical Society was one of those on board the flight, and boy, does his enthusiasm for the fleeting spectacle come across in a video posted online (above).
The moment he spots the moon starting to edge between Earth and the sun, a deliriously euphoric Mike goes into overdrive, unable to contain his excitement.
“Wow, look at that, here it comes, oh my god, look at it!” Mike shouts from his seat while recording the rare celestial event.
A big part of watching it from such a high altitude is witnessing the enormous shadow roll over the Earth (or in this case, the clouds) as the sun’s rays become momentarily blocked by the moon passing in front of it.
Mike’s enthusiasm for the eclipse is utterly infectious. “The moon’s shadow is coming! I’ve never seen it like this, ever….oh my god, here we go….here we go.”
When the eclipse achieves totality, the ecstatic astronomer seems on the verge of short-circuiting but thankfully holds it together to provide a heartfelt commentary as the moon passes directly in front of the sun.
Following about 15 seconds of silent serenity where Mike is presumably contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, the sun begins to reappear, with the “diamond ring” effect (where just a tiny part of the sun is visible) almost sending the poor fella over the edge.
It’s a real joy to listen to. Oh, and the eclipse is pretty impressive, too.
The decision to delay the Honolulu-bound flight by 25 minutes to catch the full eclipse was a sweet PR move by an accommodating Alaska Airlines.
The idea actually came from Joe Rao, an “eclipse chaser” who works as an associate astronomer at New York City’s Hayden Planetarium.
Rao realized last year that this particular flight would cross the “path of totality,” the peak of the eclipse where the moon temporarily obscures the sun.
After calculating that the flight’s usual departure time would be a little too early to catch the special event, he contacted the carrier with the suggestion to turn the trip into something special for the 163 passengers on board.
Mike Kentrianakis, for one, was clearly delighted that Alaska Airlines went with Rao’s idea.