There is going to be a solar eclipse in 2017 and I thought it would be cool to fly along its path to make it longer than the approximately two and a half minutes you would see on the ground.

Is this a bad idea?

Should I go to fast or slow for the solar eclipse?

I think it would be fun to fly during the solar eclipse, even if I can't keep pace with it.


2 Answers 2


The speed at which the shadow of the Moon crosses the Earth varies according to time of day and latitude. However, 1500mph is a good starting point.

The only supersonic commercial aircraft to enter service was Concorde, top speed around 1350mph. And, of course, Concorde is now out of service.

Flying something subsonic along the path of totality will give a longer view, but most airliners top out at around 600mph.

You've really no chance of keeping up with it. You're probably better off finding a spot with a good view and enjoying your 2.5 minutes!

Nasa have a range of materials dedicated to this. If you fancy a little mental gymnastics take a look at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/challenge-5-%E2%80%93-estimating-speed-lunar-shadow. In particular, download the PDF worksheet and do the maths!

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    $\begingroup$ Too bad the SR-71 is retired... $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    May 3, 2017 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ Are there any regulations of flying under a solar elcipse? $\endgroup$
    – William
    May 3, 2017 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ @William you could edit that into your question or ask a separate question asking about regulations of flying during an eclipse. $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    May 3, 2017 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ @William See this. $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    May 3, 2017 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Because the light source (sun) is larger than the object casting the shadow (moon). The shadow is a cone. But you, as an astrophysicist should know this! (see comments on this question $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    May 3, 2017 at 19:02

It is possible. The shadow of the moon goes too fast to keep up with that, but there are other reasons to do it. Firstly, when you fly over the clouds, you can be sure they don't obstruct your view. Second reason is that sometimes solar eclipse, or the best part of it, only appear over an ocean.

Here is an article from last year. Couple of interesting quotes from it:

"Taking to the skies during the sun being eclipsed out of view behind the moon, is not a new concept. In fact in 1887, Dmitri Mendeleev, the Russian inventor, was so keen to see the eclipse without cloud obstruction that he rode in a hot air balloon when it took place."

"In the past private operators have capitalised on the event by offering special eclipse flights."



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