Scientists get air borne for special view of the eclipse

Some enthusiasts took flight to take a closer look at the sun; in contrast, people in villages took refuge in superstition

Updated - December 26, 2019 10:34 pm IST

Published - December 26, 2019 10:32 pm IST - Mumbai

A group of astrophysicists and space enthusiasts took to the skies for a special view of the solar eclipse on Thursday.

A six-seater Beechcraft C-90 aircraft flew at 21,000 feet with a clear view of the sun and the organisers dedicated this first eclipse flight to Narendra Dabholkar and Shreeram Lagoo, both of whom were associated with the anti-superstition movement.

Among those on the hour-long observational flight were Director of Nehru Planetarium Arvind Paranjape, Head of the Centre of Excellence for Astrobiology in Mumbai and Amity Space Centre, Delhi, Siddharth Pande, astronomer Ananda Hota; and Gateway House fellow of the Space and Ocean Studies Programme Chaitanya Giri.

The astro tourism event was jointly organised by Space Geeks — a group that promotes space and astronomy, — and private jet operator MAB Aviation. To ensure that the eclipse was clearly visible, Space Geeks had provided pocket-sized telescopes with filters that were fitted to the mobile phones of those on board.

The exercise has yielded amazing photographs.

Mr. Paranjape, who termed the experience amazing, said, “The sun above, clouds and earth below made it an exciting sight. The hour-long journey also gave experts an opportunity to converse and have a mid-air dialogue on amalgamating aviation, science and technology.”

The Nehru Planetarium director said he believed that such flights would add a new dimension in astro-tourism and educate people against superstitions associated with an eclipse.

“A partial eclipse was observed over Mumbai and nearby regions on board the Beechcraft C90 aircraft and Cessna 172S aircrafts. The key purpose of the event was to promote and popularise space and astronomy through aviation-based astro-tourism; aerial viewing of the eclipse as a unique event; and to counter the superstitious beliefs about eclipses,” MAB aviation said in a statement.

“The eclipse engaged in Mumbai at 8.04 a.m. and the maximum eclipse coverage was seen at 9.21 a.m. with 79% of the sun covered by the moon and the exit time was at 10.55 a.m. when the solar eclipse ended. The Beechcraft C90 took-off from Mumbai airport at 08.30 a.m. to cover the entire eclipse experience. The Cessna 172S did a quick sortie flight with some media onboard,” MAB said in its statement.

Chintamani Pai, co-founder Space Geeks said this pioneering event established the role of aerospace industry and its contribution in generating passion in science and technology.

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