A Long Solar Eclipse

Copyright © Karl Dahlke, 2023

If you have experienced a total solar eclipse, then you are fortunate indeed. They are rare, one every two or three years, and they trace narrow paths across the earth, often over oceans or uninhabited lands. Some folks, known as eclipse chasers, travel far and wide to see and photograph these celestial events. For example, some chasers booked a South Pacific cruise for July of 2019. They didn't want to miss a single eclipse, even if it takes place off the coast of Chile. The eclipse of 2017 was more accessible, as it travelled the length of the United States.

The joy and wonder of an eclipse only lasts 2 minutes, as the moon glides across the face of the sun relative to your location. Deep blue, twilight blue, blueish black, Baily's Beads, a field of stars in the middle of the day, The impossibly dark hole in the sky, the wispy-white corona, and the red-orange horizon all the way around. All too soon the spectacle is over, as daylight returns. You spent months, perhaps years, preparing for a 2 minute event. If only it could last!

For a select group of chasers it did last, for 74 minutes.

A small black spot about 50 miles in diameter, the shadow of the solar eclipse races across the earth at Mach 2, approximately 1,370 MPH. In the 1970's we had a commercial airplane that could keep up. On June 30, 1973, the Concorde raced across the Sahara Desert, staying neatly in the moon's shadow for 74 minutes. The airplane flies above the clouds, so weather is never an issue. Scientists and astronomers performed experiments that could not be conducted on the ground, and everyone on board was treated to a 74 minute miracle.

Sadly, the Concorde was retired in 2003, and now only military planes can travel at Mach 2. Few, if any, will experience an extended solar eclipse again.