Sydney (CNN) – The Moon glowed a bright coppery red, large and resplendent in the night sky.And as people on the ground in Australia and New Zealand and parts of the western United States looked up to admire this rare super blood moon eclipse, on May 26, perhaps the best view of the astronomical wonder was 13,000 meters away, in the sky, aboard a “flight to nowhere” operated by Qantas.
For three hours, 180 travelers crossed the skies over Sydney Harbor and enjoyed a front row seat to this spectacular lunar event.
«It was wonderful, I think I had never seen [la Luna] that way from the ground, “passenger Abdullah Khurram told CNN.
Tickets for the flight sold out in 2.5 minutes as flight-hungry Australian travelers, currently limited to travel within the country or to New Zealand as part of the travel bubble, seized the opportunity for a leisure trip with a view. .
“An ‘unusual’ event”
A supermoon occurs when the Moon is at its closest to Earth, which means that the Moon looks brighter and larger to the human eye.
For its part, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth and, consequently, it appears darker and redder.
“The color red comes from sunlight that filters through the Earth’s atmosphere, a ring of light created by all the sunrises and sunsets that occur around our planet at that time,” explains NASA on its website.
Qantas worked with astronomer Vanessa Moss to create “the optimal flight path over the Pacific Ocean.” The airline mapped the flight path around the trajectory of the waxing moon and the time of the total eclipse.
The objective? Ensuring spectacular lunar views to all passengers on board, who had paid from AUS $ 499 for an economy ticket (US $ 386) to AUS $ 1,499 (US $ 1,160) for a business class seat.
Moss, who was also on board the flight to comment and entertain passengers with lunar ideas, told CNN before the flight that a super blood moon eclipse is a rather unusual event.
“Separately, a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse are not that rare, but when the two are combined, it can be quite unusual,” he said.
Australia won’t witness another super blood moon until 2033, Moss added.
Experience on board
The flight was carried out in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, chosen for its large windows that offer optimal opportunities to contemplate the Moon.
When the eclipse began at 9:11 p.m. local time, the crew dimmed the cabin lights. When the Moon crossed the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, passengers experienced totality for 14 minutes and 30 seconds.
Qantas Chief Technical Pilot Captain Alex Passerini flew the plane first north from Sydney Airport, and then south, with the intention of giving all passengers on board a chance to see the Moon. Take a photo or two and enjoy the experience.
“We normally follow fixed routes, but the Australian Air Services gave us the freedom to operate within a certain area of airspace, and that will allow us to continue maneuvering the plane, to keep the Moon in the best position,” Passerini told CNN.
The pilot, who has spent much of the pandemic flying repatriation flights and transporting cargo, commented on the “energy” of the passengers, saying it was a pleasure to fly with a group of excited travelers.
Aviation enthusiast Rory Ding told CNN that he was excited not only to see this rare lunar event from the air, but also to have the opportunity to fly a 787 Dreamliner aircraft for the first time since the pandemic hit Australia.
The view from the airplane window was “like nothing I’d ever seen before,” Ding said.
Ding, who was sitting economy class, said there was a great atmosphere on board, with passengers letting other passengers shift to window seats to make sure they could see the eclipse.
Passenger Aaron Seeto told CNN that although he had an aisle seat, his seat neighbor shared the window view with him.
“It was unbelievable,” Seeto said. “Especially because of the fact that I saw it so high in the sky with my eyes.”
Ding was also impressed by the lunar sight.
“There was a very intense red glow on the Moon, it was vibrant, detailed and captivating.”
Ding sees “flights to nowhere” as a “win-win”.
“The airlines manage to keep their planes in the sky and the personnel employed,” he said. “From a passenger’s point of view, it’s a great way to get that sense of excitement you used to get when you were traveling abroad on a long-awaited trip.”
“It’s a really cool idea, more of these flights should be done.”
Flight to nowhere
Like many airlines, Qantas has struggled financially during the pandemic, and with Australia largely closed to international travel, much of the company’s fleet has been on the ground for more than a year.
The supermoon flight is the latest in a series of Qantas ‘to nowhere’ flights, which started in october with a flight over some of Australia’s most famous landmarks.
Some have criticized Qantas for burning fuel unnecessarily during the climate crisis. Last fall, a Friends of the Earth spokesperson told CNN Travel that they viewed the flight as “essentially the definition of pointless travel.”
Qantas pledged to offset 100% of the carbon emissions from the October flight and plans to do the same for the supermoon flight.