Photographer Chases the Perfect Eclipse Shot at 44,000ft and 500mph


Forget storm chasing, that’s a cinch when you compare it to what former NASA photographer Ben Cooper and some colleagues of his did last weekend: eclipse chasing. Cooper captured the shot above from a chartered jet going 500mph at 44,000ft in the air, but it was a near miss.

You see, they had to try and cross the Moon’s shadow as it moved across the Earth… and that puppy was shuffling right along at 8,000mph!

So you see why we say this is a bit tougher than storm chasing (no disrespect to storm chasers though… you guys have cojones of steel), when it comes to intercepting an eclipse you’ve got no time at all.

They were flying in a Dassault Falcon 900B, and as Cooper puts it:

There was zero margin of error, with the plane, traveling near 500mph and hitting the eclipse shadow where it touched down on earth at some 8,000mph, required to hit a geographic point over the ocean at a precise instant.”


This is only the second time a flight has successfully intercepted such a short eclipse. And, actually, because they were about one second off, what was supposed to be seven seconds of total eclipse turned into a calculated zero seconds. Whether or not they experienced even an instant of totality is still up for debate.

The eclipse itself was special as well, a rare “hybrid” eclipse that starts off annular and then, because of the curvature of the Earth, turns into a total eclipse for a bit (read full explanation here). If you can catch it as it’s transitioning between the two, explains’s Joe Rao, you’ve got a pretty amazing view on your hands:

Just before the transition from annular to total, the eclipse will become something neither annular nor total: for a few precious seconds it will be a broken annular.

As lunar mountains protrude onto the hairline-thin ring of the sun, it will be seen not as an unbroken ring but an irregular, changing, sparkling sequence of arcs, beads and diamonds very briefly encircling the moon: a “diamond necklace” effect!

What Cooper caught was more like a diamond ring, but man is it gorgeous! For more information or pictures from the exciting race across the Atlantic to capture the perfect eclipse photo, head over to Cooper’s website Launch Photography by clicking here.

(via PopPhoto and APOD)

Image credits: Photograph by Ben Cooper and used with permission.

  • 453


  • Upsala

    i make a better solar eclipse with photoshop and knoll light factory

  • Franz

    could it be a little smaller?

  • Rob Elliott

    Wish I could have been in NYC for this, the sun rose after most of it was over here..

  • Joey Duncan

    I seriously signed in just to tell you to grow up.

    Your comment isn’t needed, be an adult, if you are serious thinking it’s fake then back it up with SENTENCES, if you were “joking” don’t it’s douchy this is 2013, not 2001.

  • maynefzb828

    мʏ ʀօօмαтɛ’ѕ ѕтɛք-αυɴт мαĸɛѕ $82 нօυʀʟʏ օɴ тнɛ ƈօмքυтɛʀ. ѕнɛ нαѕ вɛɛɴ օυт օғ աօʀĸ ғօʀ ɛιɢнт мօɴтнѕ вυт ʟαѕт мօɴтн нɛʀ քαʏ ƈнɛƈĸ աαѕ $1з80з ʝυѕт աօʀĸιɴɢ օɴ тнɛ ƈօмքυтɛʀ ғօʀ α ғɛա нօυʀѕ. ɢʀɛαт ѕιтɛ fox200&#46­com

  • Chris

    It’s a cool story, but, when I see the actual photo, it lacks the impact. It gives me the feeling that this guy happened to be flying cross-country and snapped it out his window. Compared to the photos in “similar stories”, it’s not even close

  • Omar Salgado

    It doesn’t need to fill the frame, it does not need to be literal to impact. It could be as ambiguous as far you can take it.

  • Clipping Path

    Outstanding shot looking so fantastic. I am so wonder after visit your images. Please keep it up…..

  • Chris

    Funny, Ahab thought that too. But sometimes in chasing that white whale, you realize you invested all that time in chasing something that wasn’t worth it. Other times, you charter a private jet and go down with the ship

  • Cynical Bloke

    Perfect? Erm, nope.

  • Cynical Bloke

    It could have been faked, but if it was I’m sure they would make a shot better than this. So it’s real and the basis that it isn’t very good.

  • Omar Salgado

    That’s valid. I think that the results, although the very important they are because they are what we see in the final, are only part of a process. I think the way you take a photo, the resources you use, etc., play a role that lets you see into the conception of the photographer for his work. But that plays a role in criticism (in a serious and positive way I mean) if you’re too serious in photography. I catch your point. I may think his efforts were not up to par with the final ouput, but this time I would like to relax and let my imagination fly.