New Delhi, July 19 : It's the opportunity of a lifetime and many Indians are not about to miss it. They are making a beeline for a special flight to watch a total solar eclipse next week from 41,000 feet above ground - even if it means shelling out Rs.70,000 for a window seat!
In fact almost 80 percent of the window seats on the chartered flight have already been sold for the July 22 celestial event.
The flight is being organised by Cox and Kings India, a travel agency, under the technical guidance of Eclipse Chasers Athenaeum (ECA), a wing of the Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE).
SPACE is a Delhi-based organisation working to make science and astronomy popular among youngsters.
"We have received a very good response for the eclipse flight. There have been inquiries and bookings from all over the country. After all, this is a once in a lifetime event. We have almost 80 percent sellout on our sun side seats," Karan Anand, head of relationships and supplier management, Cox and Kings India, told IANS.
A JetLite 737-700 has been chartered for people to watch the century's longest solar eclipse. The flight will last three hours. It will take off from New Delhi at 4.30 a.m., fly towards Gaya in Bihar and hover over the city while the eclipse is on.
Gaya is one of the regions where the eclipse will be total.
The aircraft window seats have been divided into two categories. The sun side seats are the 21 window seats on the right side of the aircraft.
"We have bookings from Delhi and Mumbai. Our oldest passenger is a 70-year-old gentleman and our youngest is an 11-year-old girl," said Anand.
The sun side seats are priced at Rs.79,000 while the earth side are being sold for Rs.29,000 each.
"The aircraft will be intercepting the middle of the eclipse shadow at 6.26 a.m. at a height of 41,000 feet. Eclipse chasers sitting along the sun side seats will be able to photograph the eclipse, while the chasers sitting along the earth side seats will be able to photograph the lunar shadow moving over the earth," said Anand.
SPACE has planned a series of activities for the passengers aboard the flight.
"There will be an astro magic show, explanation of the eclipse before and during the actual totality, a question and answer session and an eclipse parade," said Anand.
The total eclipse is expected to last six minutes and 44 seconds, making it the longest till 2132. It is starting at sunrise near Surat in Gujarat.
The shadow of the moon will be so large during this eclipse that even at sunrise the duration of totality will be over three minutes. The shadow very quickly moves across the breadth of India towards Arunachal Pradesh. It spans a third of the entire path in India, 900 km out of 2,500 km.