This week Australia was blessed with a particularly beautiful view of the super blood moon. I was lucky enough to spy it from a plane flying at 40,000 feet. But what was that actually like?
A super blood moon is a rare occurrence. It’s the combination of a super moon, where the moon is particularly close to the earth, and a full lunar eclipse. It’s so rare that we won’t see another one for 12 years.
Qantas Super Blood Moon flight
Qantas chartered this flight specially for the occasion. 180 passengers boarded a B787-9 Dreamliner to go the moon via a flight path designed by the CSIRO.
“We had designated airspace set aside for us around 465 kilometres off the coast of Sydney and we mapped out the flight path based around the trajectory of the Moon rising and the timing of the total eclipse,” Qantas Chief Technical Pilot, Captain Alex Passerini, said.
“We executed a series of turns to ensure passengers on both sides of the aircraft got great views of the moon at various times.”
In addition to the flight itself, passengers were treated to a pre-flight soiree in the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge, as well as moon-themed goodies and a gift bag on board.
The flight was also attended by CSIRO radio astronomer, Dr Vanessa Moss, who gave some insight into eclipses and answered some fun science questions during the flight.
Captain Passerini also told Gizmodo Australia that for him, it’s beautiful views like this that are the highlights of his career.
In addition to the super moon and the Auroras, he has seen “lots of falling stars and satellites… and sunrises and sunsets.”
However he is yet to see anything weird or unexplainable.
“Nothing super weird. No plane I couldn’t identify – although we have heard stories of that. I wish I had something dramatic like that to tell you,” he said to Gizmodo Australia.
Could you actually see anything?
For those who shelled out for the window seats, yes you could!
The flight path was designed to give both sides of the plane a chance to see the lunar eclipse. This began with the partial eclipse from 7:44pm AEST through to the full eclipse with ran between 9:11pm and 9:26pm.
I personally only got a very brief glimpse, but it was truly lovely to behold a little closer to the stars.
But because it was such clear night it became quite obvious that those on the ground were getting a clearer and uninterrupted view of the eclipse. In comparison, many of us were pressed up against a plane window at odd angles or popping a squat in the aisles to grab a peek.
The photos that people back on Earth (even those on phone cameras) have been truly beautiful to behold. And they inspired me to stand out in the cold to bask in the super moonlight at midnight, hours after the eclipse had finished.
Considering that the tickets were far from cheap — $500 for economy and $1500 for business — it’s a good thing that Qantas made a whole production of the night. Because the real highlight wasn’t the brief appearances of the super moon, but the party atmosphere.
In fact, some people on board were saying that they should have realised that the moon wouldn’t be right outside their respective windows. But they were still having fun.
The pre-flight event in the Business Lounge was great, particularly for those of us who with no shame who changed straight into the custom-made PJs.
And on the flight itself spirits were high as strangers had a chat and tried their best to ensure everyone got a cheeky peek at the moon.
It was clear that Qantas put a lot of effort into the night to make it feel special. And considering that the next super blood moon won’t occur until October 8, 2033 — it certainly was.
Disclosure: the author attended this flight as a guest of Qantas. They also own shares in Qantas.