German airline launches comet-watching trips

A German airline is offering astronomers and comet fans the opportunity of seeing a comet from the sky.

With the Pan-STARRS comet set to have a close encounter with our planet in 2013, the stage is set for enterprising business managers to offer novel means to view the transiting phenomenon. This year, comet enthusiasts will be given a special treat the chance to view the comet from the comfort of an aeroplane. The comet is expected to be at its brightest on March 16, this year, and already, stargazers are packing their equipment in preparation to visit destinations that will provide the best vantage points to view the comet.

However, Germany travel company Eclipse Travel has gone one better. The Bonn-based company is to take 88 people to see the comet from an airplane that will be flying at 11 kilometres (36,000 feet) above the Earth. The flight has been planned so that it will take place next Saturday, March 16, when the comet is expected to have the longest visible tail length and span. The company said that passengers on the trip would be able to experience better views of the comet than those on the ground.

The travel company has teamed up with charter agency, Air Partner, and Air Berlin, to take people high above the Earth to watch the comet in flight. A Boeing 737-700 flight, AB1000, has been chartered for the firm’s first comet observation trip. The one-time flight is to follow a zig-zag flight plan to give all passengers the best possible views. Flyers can reserve two adjoining seats or an entire row if they do not want to share their window.

The firm claimed that at 11 kilometres above the ground, the atmosphere is thinner and air is more transparent for a clearer view.

The comet, already visible in the Southern Hemisphere, is the first of two that will be visible to the naked eye this year.