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Is It Safe to Fly During a Solar Eclipse?

Credit - Illustration by TIME; Getty Images

Ahead of the solar eclipse passing through the U.S. on April 8, many people may be wondering if it is safe to take a flight during the event. TIME headed straight to the experts for an answer, which was resoundingly positive.

“Yes, absolutely. There's no reason not to [fly],” Paul Bryans, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, tells TIME. A solar eclipse happens when the moon blocks the light from the sun. In terms of being on board an aircraft, this doesn’t make the sun any more of a threat than it is on regular days. “There's nothing dangerous about a solar eclipse,” says John Gianforte, director of the observatory at the University of New Hampshire, during a video call.

Nevertheless, eclipses are often accompanied by safety warnings from concerned scientists and authorities warning the public about the importance of wearing eye protection. The phenomenon of eclipse blindness has been documented throughout modern history. After an eclipse in 1976 in Turkey, 58 patients sought medical treatment for eclipse-related eye damage. While most made a full recovery, some reportedly had permanent vision loss. Similarly, in 1999 after a solar eclipse passed through parts of Europe, 45 patients attended the eye casualty of a hospital in Leicester, England, after viewing the event.

Read More: Helpful Tips for Planning Your Solar Eclipse Trip

All this has led many people to believe that eclipses are inherently dangerous phenomena, but this is not true. The only reason we see more eye injuries on solar eclipse days is because people are intrigued and are purposefully looking at the sun. “The fact that there is an eclipse doesn't make it any more dangerous to look at the sun, but it makes people want to look at the sun,” Gianforte points out. “If you look at the sun on any given day, without eye protection, you're going to damage your eyes.”

As such, you can rest assured that flying during an eclipse is safe. In fact, Delta airlines is offering a flight specifically for people who want to view the eclipse in-air.

The plane will have extra large windows to enhance the viewing experience. It is set to depart from Austin, Texas, at 12:15 p.m. CT and land in Detroit at 4:20 p.m. ET to give passengers the best chance possible of viewing totality.

Read More: How to Use Your Smartphone to Take Photos of the Solar Eclipse

What is it like to fly during an eclipse?

The biggest advantage that comes from flying during a solar eclipse is that you may be able to stay in the path of totality for a longer period of time, since the plane can try to follow the sun’s path. This can be especially useful to scientists trying to conduct experiments that can only be done above ground, says Bryans.

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“Instead of getting, like, four minutes of totality on the ground, you can get something like seven or eight minutes from the plane. So that helps a little bit and some of the people that I spoke to said that it was really good for science reasons,” he tells TIME.

Being in the air can also guarantee that you will, at some point, be above the clouds and might be able to avoid having bad weather interrupt your viewing experience.

Read more: What happens if it’s cloudy during an eclipse?

However, viewing an eclipse from a plane may not be the optimal experience for a more casual observer. Planes will have to alternate between turning right or left in order to get the best angles for viewing the sun. Additionally, a big part of viewing an eclipse is observing how the surroundings on the ground may change. For example, animals including cats and dogs may react differently when an eclipse takes place. Those viewing an eclipse from a plane may miss out on this experience. “It’s not the same personal experience that you would get on the ground,” Bryans says.

Contact us at letters@time.com.