Alaska Airlines rearranges flight to view solar eclipse

A flight from Anchorage to Honolulu was purposely delayed so that passengers could view the complete solar eclipse.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
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The eclipse as seen from Alaska Airlines flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu on March 9, 2016.

Alaska Airlines

Wednesday's total solar eclipse across Indonesia generated, according to Alaska Dispatch News, thousands of people making a pilgrimage to the southeast Asian nation to observe the magnificent spectacle.

And a rare few, just 163 people, got to see the rare sight from above the clouds. They were aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu, which had changed its flight plan to intercept the eclipse.

The request came from passenger Joe Rao, an astronomer who had calculated that the flight would intercept the eclipse's "path of totality", the area on Earth from which the total eclipse could be viewed. The problem was that the flight would depart 25 minutes too early to view the eclipse. So Alaska Airlines agreed to his request to delay the flight.

Rao was just one of a dozen eclipse chasers aboard the flight. His fellow eclipse aficionados included Hayden Planetarium astronomer Craig Small, who has now seen 31 total solar eclipses, not missing a single one since 1973.

"I'm not one for hyperbole, but you don't just see an eclipse, you experience it with every fiber of your being," Small said in a statement. "It is the most spectacular naturally occurring event that anyone could witness in their lifetime."

The next total solar eclipse will occur across the entire North American continent on August 21, 2017. You can read up on how to prepare for it here.