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 Total Solar Eclipse of 2013 November 3
 from a private jet leaving Bermuda

The greatest point of eclipse (totality phase during 1 min 40 sec) lies in the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The weather prospects aren’t that good at this time of the year over the area crossed by the eclipse path, nevertheless there are quite a few interesting land-based locations, particularly at the end of the path where the Baily’s beads display will be amazing (view the simulations) and where totality will last less than twenty seconds. To observe this short total solar eclipse, I was onboard the very challenging eclipse flight from Bermuda as the expert navigator and we had a spectacular zero second grazing total solar eclipse on the edge of the stratosphere.

This hybrid solar eclipse starts as an annular and soon after becomes total when using the usual eclipse classification based on a smooth lunar limb profile. However when taking the lunar limb profile into account this does a lot of damage to the eclipse classification, so much so that the eclipse could never be seen to be annular, not even briefly. So most of the central line will only show a total eclipse, but even then a truly total eclipse will not be seen until about 11:06:45 UTC. Before then neither a total nor annular eclipse is possible as no umbral outline exists on the surface of the Earth.

You can use this solar eclipse calculator to compute the local circumstances of the eclipse, and the solar eclipse timer notifies the beginning of the various events. A time exposure calculator is there to help you choose your camera settings.


Click on thumbnails for a larger version

 
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This hybrid eclipse manifests itself first as a broken annular at the beginning of its path and then switches very soon, a good minute later, southeast of Bermuda, to a total solar eclipse. At the transition point in space and time where such an eclipse changes from annular to total, the long, conical, apex of the lunar umbral shadow just touches the surface of the Earth for a brief instant. It could have been interesting to travel to that precise location, however intercepting the shadow cone there is next to impossible as the umbra races at speeds over 50.000 kph or 30,000 mph at this instant (11:05:20 UTC at the bottom page).
Nevertheless this eclipse flight will be a milestone as intercepting the umbral shadow racing at such speeds has never been done before. Depending on the chosen intercept location, the shadow will be traveling at speeds in excess of 13,500 kph or 8,400 mph. The magic of the spectacle with its spendid circumferential chromospheric arc and Baily’s beads flashing all around the lunar limb for a few seconds was more than enticing for the happy few intrepid eclipse-chasers embarking on this private jet. The next similar opportunity for such an eclipse flight will be on 2031 November 14, that is the next eclipse in saros 143 but this time over the Pacific Ocean either from Hawaii at the beginning of the path or from Costa Rica at the end. The 20 April 2023 one will be easy to view from Australia and accessing both ends of the path will be expensive because of the remoteness.
My Solar Eclipse Maestro software was used in-flight to adjust in real-time the flight parameters and make sure the Falcon 900B jet hit the high-velocity target. In that regard, late September a live simulation was done during a flight from Madrid (Spain) to Tenerife (Canary Islands) to check the software’s capabilities and the twelve GPS satellites position lock from inside the cabin. The deviations in distance, heading and altitude from the planned intercept course are constantly updated so that adjustements can be made every second if necessary. Unfortunately a hard drive failure 24 hours before the eclipse flight prevented the use of this special version of the software, making the navigation even more challenging!

The animation below show the execution of the flight, in green, compared to the optimal trajectory, in navy blue. During the flight adjustments to the planned intercept course had to be made, mainly because of the weather conditions in the area (very high cumulonimbus coulds and strong changing winds), and it is clear that two minutes before our mid-intercept we were very close to an ideal execution. However, even thought I asked to speed up at that time it didn’t really happen and our trajectory deviated too much toward the west likely due to the strong head and cross winds (35 to 50 knots, 60 to 100 kph) coming from the south-southeast. All this led to a rather imperfect execution of the intercept as the aircraft arrived a bit late on location, after being well in advance all the time before. Nevertheless this fantastic eclipse flight was a milestone and showed that the eclipse computations are fully correct. Solar Eclipse Maestro can indeed be used to guide the aircraft to its destination. Get ready for a much easier flight and nearly three minutes and fifty seconds of totality over the North Atlantic Ocean on 2015 March 20.

Simulation of the eclipse observation flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Nominal trajectory in navy blue, flight track in green.
[requires an H.264/MPEG-4 decoder: Windows users can install the Windows Essentials Codec Pack]

We did 1,238 nautical miles (2,292 kilometers or 1,424 miles) in slightly less than three hours. During the totality run, we had to increase our flight level to 44,500 feet.
In light of all the difficulties encountered on this eclipse flight, such as the failure of my hard drive 24 hours before the flight and my then inability to use the E-Flight module of my Solar Eclipse Maestro software, you may think of the curse of the Bermuda Triangle…
Longtail Aviation Falcon 900B VP-BMB Bermuda Track
Track from Bermuda of the Dassault Falcon 900B used to intercept the umbral shadow racing at 13,500 kph (8,400 mph)

Elevation Altitude Profile Totality Run Falcon 900B VP-BMB Bermuda
Elevation profile for the totality run with the Dassault Falcon 900B used to intercept the umbral shadow racing at 13,500 kph (8,400 mph)

The weather conditions were not very promising to execute such a challenging intercept. During the intercept course we had to modify in-flight our original flight plan at 43,000 feet and fly at 44,500 feet to clear cloud tops as high as 44,000 feet. All this was possible because of the operational capabilities of the Falcon 900B and also because the airspace from 35,000 to 45,000 feet in a radius of 200 nautical miles had been reserved only for us. During the flight the outside temperature went down to -64°C (-83°F).
High Level Significant Weather Western Atlantic 2013 November 3
Western Atlantic High Level Significant Weather Forecast at 06:00 UTC

Wind Temperature Shear Western Atlantic 30 Hour Forecast 2013 November 3
Western Atlantic FL450 Wind, Temp. & Shear 30-Hour Forecast at 12:00 UTC

NOAA GOES-13 Satellite 3 November 2013 11:15 UTC E-Flight Overlay Falcon 900B VP-BMB Bermuda
GOES-13 satellite image taken at 11:15 UTC and E-Flight simplified track overlay

In the end, with the harsh weather conditions and the hard drive failure, the flight execution was unfortunately far from perfect, but is nevertheless a huge success even though we observed only a zero second grazing total solar eclipse. Seeing from the cockpit the umbral shadow cone coming from space and going straight toward Earth and then piercing the white cloud tops was well worth it! Knowing the exact shape of the umbra was also part of the plan: it appears that its shape is indeed not ellipsoidal, thus confirming the computations.
On the image below on can see that with a one second difference we would have already experienced a total solar eclipse of more than two seconds. This is how close we were to a complete success.
Simulation One Second Advance Execution E-Flight Overlay Falcon 900B VP-BMB Bermuda
Simulation being one second in advance to the flight execution

Here is what happens when a group of eclipse chasers takes over a private jet! The day before the eclipse flight, we decided we wanted to remove the seats and table on the eclipse side of the aircraft, so we had to practice as we would have to do it again fast enough in-flight after takeoff and before landing.
A GoPro camera was installed behind the reddish anti-collision beacon light under the aircraft in order to film the umbra passing by and determine its precise shape. Unfortunately, it could not be activated remotely and in-flight.
Similarly, one of the GoPros located inside the cockpit –the one facing the eclipsed Sun– started filming too late!
Removal Seat Table Falcon 900B Front Cabin
Removal of the seats and table at the front of the Falcon 900B cabin

Work Falcon 900B Back Cabin
Some work at the back of the Falcon 900B cabin (thanks Art)

Middle Section Falcon 900B Cabin
Middle section of the Falcon 900B cabin


Location oGoPro Camera Behind Reddish Anti-collision Beacon Light Under Aircraft Falcon 900B
Location of the GoPro camera behind
the reddish anti-collision beacon light under the aircraft

Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB Longtail Aviation
Our Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB, operated by Longtail Aviation

Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB Longtail Aviation
Our Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB, operated by Longtail Aviation

Cabin Layout Floorplan Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB Longtail Aviation
Layout of the cabin of our Dassault Falcon 900B VP-BMB, operated by Longtail Aviation

After Practicing Everything Put Back Place
After practicing everything has been put back in place… for the next morning

Flight Preparation 4am
Flight preparation at 4am with Hans-Williams

Jet Fuel Loaded
Jet fuel is already loaded

Start Three Engine 5am Ready Roll
Start of the three engines at 5am… ready to roll with Martin and Hans-Williams

Last Check Before Takeoff
Last checks before takeoff

About Ten Minute Before Takeoff
About ten minutes before takeoff

Sunrise Eclipse Flight 3 November 2013
Shortly before sunrise and over the high clouds

The quality of my pictures is far from good and unfortunately by accident I changed the focus at the worst time.
Diamond Ring Lower Solar Corona 9 O’Clock Prominence 2013 November 3 11:07:59 UTC
Diamond ring, lower solar corona and 9 o’clock detached prominence at 11:07:59 UTC

Diamond Ring Lower Solar Corona 9 O’Clock Prominence 2013 November 3 11:07:59 UTC
Diamond ring, lower solar corona and 9 o’clock detached prominence at 11:07:59 UTC

Last Baily Bead Totality 2013 November 3 11:07:59 UTC
Last Baily’s beads before "totality" at 11:07:59 UTC

First Baily Bead Totality 2013 November 3 11:08:03 UTC
First Baily’s beads after "totality" at 11:08:03 UTC

Diamond Ring Umbra Cloud Wing Ben Cooper 2013 November 3
Diamond ring, umbra onto the clouds and wing, courtesy of Ben Cooper (APOD)

Series Baily Bead Ben Cooper 2013 November 3
Series of Baily’s beads, courtesy of Ben Cooper


Simulation of the Baily’s beads as seen from the eclipse observation flight over the Atlantic Ocean. It does match very well with the observations.
[requires an H.264/MPEG-4 decoder: Windows users can install the Windows Essentials Codec Pack]

Flash Spectrum Robert Minor
Flash spectrum, courtesy of Robert Minor

Flash Spectrum Analysis Robert Minor Jim Ferriera
Flash spectrum analysis, courtesy of Robert Minor and Jim Ferreira

The visible horizon is at about 80 kilometers (50 miles) —cloud top at about 42,700 feet (13,000 m)— and the umbra takes about 25 seconds to reach the aircraft at an average speed of 15,000 kph (9,300 mph).

Incoming umbra at over 13,500 kph (8,400 mph) - Dassault Falcon 900B at 44,500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean by Stephan Heinsius


Inside the cabin of the Dassault Falcon 900B at 44,500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean by Stephan Heinsius

Group Photo Bermuda E-Flight November 2013 Eclipse Chaser
Group photo of the 12 eclipse chasers, courtesy of Ben Cooper
From left to right (on board the flight): Ben Cooper (USA), Don Hladiuk (Canada), Dirk Ewers (Germany), Liz O’Mara (USA), Tony Crocker (USA), Robert Minor (USA), Daniel Lynch (Ireland), Leo Metcalfe (Ireland), Hildegard Werth (reporter, Germany), Martin Amick (pilot, USA), Xavier Jubier (navigation, France), Hans-Williams Randriamanatena (pilot, France), Stephan Heinsius (Germany), Arturo Garcia (maintenance supervisor, Bermuda)
Not on the picture: Ludger Nüschen (cameraman, Germany)

A couple of reports about the eclipse flight are available from the German ZDF TV news channel and the Bermudan Ber News.
ZDF Eclipse Flight Bermuda November 2013
ZDF: ZDF media library for solar eclipses
(then select a date from 2013 November 3 to 10)
Jagd nach der Sonnenfinsternis
Heute journal vom 3 November 2013 starts at 12 minutes 36 seconds
Jäger der Sonnenfinsternis
Heure sendung vom 4 November 2013 starts at 6 minutes 32 seconds
Forscher fliegen in die Sonnenfinsternis
Was apssiert bei einer Sonnenfinsternis?
Drehscheibe am 8 November 2013 starts at 34 minutes 30 seconds

Ber News Eclipse Flight Bermuda November 2013
Ber News: Private Jet Travel For Eclipse










GoPro camera filming the cockpit main front window where the eclipse and shadow would have been visible.
Unfortunately the recording started too late…
[requires an H.264/MPEG-4 decoder: Windows users can install the Windows Essentials Codec Pack]

HSE 2013 Moon Umbral Shadow Velocity UTC Time 44500 Feet Sea Level
HSE 2013 Moon’s umbral shadow velocity over an 5-minute window where the intercept was done

Below you can see a live simulation, of the E-Flight module with a connected GPS unit, that was done in September 2013 during a regular commercial flight from Madrid to Tenerife (Canary Islands). The current position of the aircraft is indicated by the little cross northeast of the Canary Islands. You can notice the aircraft’s true airspeed (442.9 knots) and heading (215.1 degrees) that are computed in real-time, but also the deviation from the totality run of the 1973 total solar eclipse that was taken as a sample.
Solar Eclipse Maestro E-Flight Module In-Flight GPS Satellite Position Lock Simulation
Solar Eclipse Maestro in-flight live simulation with twelve GPS satellites position lock (private E-Flight module)


Simulation just before the transition from annular to total where the apex of the umbral shadow cone races at speeds over 50,000 kph or 30,000 mph.
Use of this simulation is strictly forbidden without a written approval. All commercial uses are subject to a fee for every planned flight.
[requires an H.264/MPEG-4 decoder: Windows users can install the Windows Essentials Codec Pack]

Viewing Sites —>  E-Flight Bermuda Flag |  Pokwero Uganda Flag |  Lambaréné Gabon Flag |  Lake Turkana Kenya Flag
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Last page update on November 7, 2013.
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