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January-February 2018

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View from the Top: Studying the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse on the Flight to Nowhere

On August 21, 2017, Alaska Air Flight #9671 took off from Portland, Oregon, at 7:15 a.m. PDT, flew 1,000 miles west over the Pacific Ocean, turned around, and then returned to Portland. I was on that flight to nowhere to get a view, unobstructed by clouds, of the total solar eclipse of August 21 that later crossed the entire United States—the first eclipse in 99 years (since June 8, 1918) to do so.

As we hurtled toward totality, a series of questions rumbled through my head. Who in the world thought of creating such a flight? How in the world was I lucky enough to get on it? And what would the experience be like?


STANLEY DAVID GEDZELMAN is a retired professor of meteorology at City College of New York and an executive editor of Weatherwise.

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