Flight to longer days

This picture shows the shortest way from London to Puerto Vallarta.

Great circle flight

Airplanes generally follow such a “great-circle” route, though maybe not exactly.  The time is 2 PM in the local time zone, an hour before arrival, so as to visualize how the arrival will look.

If I knew how to, I might convert my Fortran program with which I made this into an app that people could use when about to fly somewhere, so as to see whether to ask for a window seat on the left or on the right.  The most important is to get a window seat; next in importance are not to be over the wing, and to be on the side away from the sun; and then, if possible, to be on the side where you’re more likely to see coastlines and other wonderful features.

As you can see, in this case it’s a hard call, because the sun will be ahead – to the right at first, maybe just to the left in the final hour.

But in this case, it will be moot: I should have thought about it earlier and created this diagram earlier.  It turns out we won’t have a window seat, because of the lousy airline.

Another thing you can see is that the sun is overhead almost as far south as the Tropic of Capricorn, so that the terminator between daylight and night reaches only just north of the Arctic Circle, in Alaska and Canada.  The solstice won’t be till December 21, but December 7 – today – is the day that seems shortest, for latitude about 40° north, in the sense that the sun sets earliest – about 4:35 by natural time.  As that curve of darkness rushes toward us, the sun has been grazingly low and the afternoons shudderingly short!


8 thoughts on “Flight to longer days”

  1. Nice to think of you in a warm place. The temperature in Montreal has been between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit this week, but of course that indicates clear skies, so yesterday I saw the following shortly after 6 a.m.:

    14 Thu. (17) Moon 4.1° N.N.E. of Jupiter (39° from Sun in morning sky).

    This morning was even more beautiful with an even skinnier silver sliver.

    I am hoping you will continue to post your list of the year’s astronomical events in 2018.

    With best wishes for the coming year, and sincere thanks for making our lives richer.

    Marcia L. Barr

    1. Hear, hear! Spica, Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon have been dancing a beautiful ballet. And the weather has been clear here in San Francisco. Good for skywatching, but not a good portent for taking showers next year.

      I too would love it if Guy leads us on another yearly astronomical tour, but if he takes a break it would be well deserved.

  2. All that is needed is a globe and a piece of string. Juan Trippe, of Pan American Airways fame, had in his office a large globe with a string attached. The string was marked in flying hours, based on his Martin and Boeing “Clipper” flying boats, so as to make route assessments and predictions.

  3. Looks like alot of your flight takes you right over the path of totality for the eclipse of the sun in April 2024. Enjoy your trip.

  4. The last time I flew in an airplane was on a trip to Iceland to see the aurora borealis in April 2012. My companion made the plane reservation and got us both aisle seats, which was an accomplishment from her perspective. The last hours of the flight were in darkness, and the passengers with window seats to port were oohing and aahing about the aurora they could see in the northern sky.
    We were in Iceland for eight days on a Sky and Telescope group tour. I saw very modest aurorae one night, none the rest of the trip. (But I fell in love with Iceland.) There was a confident prediction of very strong aurorae the night after our departure! I tried to postpone my return home by one day, but the airline wanted over 2000 USD to change the flight, and I couldn’t afford that much. The return flight was entirely during daylight.

  5. In my younger days, I too opted for window seats, preferably forward of the wing. Now though, I choose comfort. To me this means an aisle seat so that I can get up and walk around and also not have to climb over others on my way to the bathroom.

  6. I also always try to get a window seat for the great views. I like to figure out which city, highway, river or mountain is below me. Having an atlas or a smart phone with google maps is helpful. Sometimes I’ll book 2 window seats in consecutive rows so my travel companion and I can converse while looking out our windows.

    It looks like you flew right over me in Cleveland at about 1 pm EST. I wonder if you can simultaneously see both the north and south shores of Lake Erie from 5 miles high.

    If you lean over the person next to you and look out their window they might offer to switch seats with you, especially if you forget to brush your teeth that day :)

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