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See the Most Jaw-Dropping Photo Ever Taken From a Commercial Airplane

One intrepid photographer went to great lengths for this shot.

On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States looked up at the sky to witness The Great American Eclipse—a total eclipse of the sun that won't happen again until April 8, 2024. And while social media was flooded with some truly unbelievable images of this natural phenomenon, the best photo of all has only recently been released.

As Americans witnessed the eclipse from the ground below, photographer Jon Carmichael was furiously snapping 1,200 photographs in a two-minute span from 39,000 feet in the air. The result is a stunning mosaic that has gone viral since he shared the image on his Twitter account on the one-year anniversary of the eclipse.

While most people take planes to get from one place to another, Carmichael was on the flight for the express purpose of achieving a lifelong dream.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to go to space and be an astronaut. And I thought this might be the closest I get," he told Inc. "It's the only time you'll ever see our sun on a black sky, which changes your whole perspective."

Eager to get a chance to view the eclipse from up above, he entered an Alaska Airlines contest that would grant him a seat on a plane flying through the perfect path, and was devastated when he lost. But then he did some digging and realized that there was a Southwest Airlines flight going from Portland, Oregon, to St. Louis, Missouri, that would offer a prime view of this cosmic event. He flew all the way from New York to Portland to catch the flight, and brought $600 in cash with him in the hopes of being able to bribe other passengers to bump him up to a window seat.

Fortunately, Southwest Airlines were sympathetic to the lengths he had gone to achieve his dream. Once he explained his situation at the gate, they let him board first, and the captain even cleaned the window from the outside of the plane to make sure he had the clearest view, then did five 180 degree turns once the eclipse was in totality. It took about a year for Carmichael to stitch all of the photos together to create the finale image. Southwest Airlines flew his family out to New York for the unveiling of the photo, which was streamed at every Twitter office around the world.

Of course, Southwest Airlines did not pass up the opportunity to create a promotional video about the experience that showcases their customer service, but it's still worth watching to see how people came together to help Carmichael achieve his dream. And given how much bad press airline flights have been getting recently, it's nice to see some evidence that restores your faith in airline humanity.

"If you witness totality…the entire day sky turns to night." Carmichael says of the eclipse in the video below. "It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed…It changes you."

And for more fun with photographs, don't miss these 100 Photos That Kids Born After the 20th Century Will Never Understand.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more