Special flight provides lifetime experience to eclipse chasers

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New Delhi/Onboard, July 22 (ANI): Around 30 astronomy enthusiasts boarded a chartered plane at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday to chase the total solar eclipse up to Gaya above the clouds at a height of 41,000 feet

It was an initiative of travel agency Cox and Kings India, under the guidance of Eclipse Chasers Athenaeum (ECA), a wing of the Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), an organisation working to make science and astronomy popular among the youth.

Though quite popular in other countries, the idea of an eclipse flight was new in India and garnered a good response in the country.

"We did not even bother how many people would come here or not. Just to have that first flight. We did not even bother what are we going to do? How many tickets are we going to sell? But since the response is so good," said Sachin Bamba, owner, SPACE, organiser of the flight.

Priced at a whopping 70,000 rupees, a seat in the plane might have caused a dent on the eclipse chaser's pockets, but the excitement of witnessing the grand celestial event of the century surely overshadowed the money factor.

"It was really good. You are never going to see it ever. Just a black spot and it is totally beyond words," said Shreya, youngest eclipse chaser on the plane who went with her mother.

What made the flight all the more special was the fact that next such event will take place 105 years later, in 2114.

"If there is rebirth then again I will witness it in my next birth," said Asha Bamba, an eclipse chaser.

The turnout on the flight, though not much, was still something to go by, and that too in a country where an eclipse is associated with lots of myriad superstitions and is considered inauspicious.

The eclipse flight and the enthusiasm it generated, sent out a strong message to the people across India to shed their apprehensions and fears and enjoy an eclipse as another natural phenomenon, at par with rains or hailstorm.

"All those who stayed at home today for whatever reasons, superstition or whatever, I think they have missed out a big thing and it's a shame. They should come out and watch the eclipse whether at this height or from earth and they should leave behind all their notions about what is bad about an eclipse. There is nothing bad about an eclipse. Once you see it, you'll be hooked on to it for life," said Mahesh, another eclipse chaser.

The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century was visible along a roughly 250 km-wide corridor, according to the U.S. space agency NASA, as it travelled half the globe and passed through the world's two most populous nations, India and China.

The eclipse then swept through Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and over the crowded cities along China's Yangtze River, before heading to the Pacific.

The eclipse lasted up to a maximum of 6 minutes, 39 seconds over the Pacific Ocean, according to NASA. By Smita Srivastava (ANI)

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