Many who view a solar eclipse from the ground find it to be a remarkable moment - but seeing one at 12,500 m is an entirely different experience.
In July LATAM Airlines Group offered a crew of more than 50 experts the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse above Easter Island/ Rapa Nui, Chile, giving them a front row seat to witnessing complete darkness for a span of nine minutes on board.
While passengers were already thrilled to have this one-of-a-kind observation above a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, they were also privy to witnessing lead astronomer Dr. Glenn Schneider break the Guinness World Records title for most instances within the moon’s umbral shadow while on the flight.
From an astronomical perspective, the moon’s umbral shadow can be defined as dark shadow cast during a solar eclipse – known as the path of totality. This phase happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, giving a corona effect seen below.
Dr. Schneider gives us a run down on the scientific aspect: "A total solar eclipse occurs when you have the moon, the Earth, and the sun in alignment so that the shadow of the moon is cast on the surface of the Earth.
"And as the Earth rotates and as the moon moves, it traces out a path of the surface of the Earth along which (if you’re standing within it) the moon blocks the sun’s light out, and it does so perfectly, and forms a wonderful view where you can see the sun’s outer atmosphere glowing and shimmering – which is called the corona.
"It’s just an incredible thing to see, and the dynamics really connect you to the workings of the solar system. You really feel yourself in a celestial, mechanical sort of sense, as to the workings of the planets within our solar system."
Prior to this eclipse chasing trip, Dr. Schneider initially shared his record title with JB and Professor Jay Pasachoff with a record-breaking 34 eclipses, but surpassed that milestone upon viewing his 35th eclipse aboard this recent LATAM Airlines Group flight.
His fellow titleholders also increased their record after witnessing this solar eclipse as well.
The achievement would not have been possible without traveling to South America, as this particular eclipse was only visible from the south Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand to Central Argentina at sunset. Easter Island/ Rapa Nui, Chile was the backdrop for this particular flight.
Dr. Schneider played a key role in this unique flight, as he was among the experts at T.E.I. TOURS & TRAVEL who collaborated with the airline to design a specific route that would allow passionate attendees to see an extra five minutes and 30 seconds in utter totality which was not possible from ground level.
Later that evening at a banquet held on Easter Island, he was officially presented with his Guinness World Records certificate which honours inspiring achievement.
Dr. Glenn Schneider earned his first Guinness World Records title in 2010 for longest view of a total solar eclipse from onboard a commercial aircraft.
With a velocity of 900 kilometers per hour, the EFLIGHT-2019 (a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner) remained within the umbral shadow of a total solar eclipse for more than 8 minutes, earning him the title.
It carried more than 50 passengers and and seven crew members to view totality over the Pacific Ocean for 2 hours and 30 minutes NW of Rapa Niu, at an altitude of 41,000 feet.
A passionate eclipse chaser since the age of 14, Dr. Schneider has had a longstanding and accomplished career in the realm of astronomy.
"I've always wanted to be an astronomer – even when I was a kid, I got my first telescope at five years old as a present from my dad.
"I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else and I saw my first total eclipse at the age of 14, and the instant I saw it, It was just so overwhelming it just transformed me right from that moment – and there was no question that I could not miss another total solar eclipse ever for the rest of my life."
Born in New York, USA, he joined the Amateur Observers’ Society in his teen years which largely shaped his interest and enthusiasm for his future career.
Since 1994, he has served as the Project Instrument Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope’s Near Infra-red Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
He is currently a member of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses, where he is highly regarded for his expertise in precision numerical calculations of eclipse happenings needed for planning and observing total solar eclipses.
Two years of planning went into this one-off flight which involved predicting the trajectory of the eclipse, identifying the best route for passengers to experience the phenomenon, avoiding clouds and other weather factors.
"At LATAM, we are committed to showcasing the best of Latin America to the world and we are proud that the leading eclipse experts chose us as the airline to chase the path of this phenomenon on a unique flight over the Pacific that took off from remotest place on the planet: Rapa Nui," said Yanina Manassa, Customer Service Director, LATAM Airlines Group.
As the total flight took about six hours, LATAM Airlines Group will offset the flight’s emissions through a reforestation project in the Peruvian Amazon as part of their commitment to sustainability.
The next total solar eclipse is set to take place 14 December 2020 and will be visible from Chile and Argentina.
We expect to see Dr. Schneider and his fellow record holders increase their titles in the year ahead.
"It’s really a dedication of following the moon’s shadow around the world any time, any place, whenever it may fall, wherever it may fall. Being an eclipse chaser becomes part of your life and is a driving force that you really can’t escape," he added.
What will your adventure be?
Feeling inspired to attempt a Guinness World Records title yourself? Discover your Spirit of Adventure by finding out more about GWR Day, including how you can get involved on the day itself (Thursday 14 November). We realise everyone’s adventure is different, so whether it's taking on a new challenge, fulfiling a desire for adrenaline or perfecting your existing skills – there's a record waiting for you.