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Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser by Kate Russo
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Jim Colyer

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Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser by Kate Russo

I wrote a piece about Russo's book at

Kate Russo is a psychologist. She is also an eclipse chaser. As of this book, she had seen 9 total solar eclipses. They are her passion, and she says she will chase them around the world as long as she is able. Being a psychologist, Russo is interested in the human aspect of totality. Why do people chase eclipses? How are they affected by them? What is totality like? There is fascination, awe, even fear, a connection with our primitive ancestors. Russo likes to call it a passion although "eclipse virgins" often deem it an obsession. Money and freedom to travel are factors, and Russo writes of an "eclipse chasing community."

Russo was born in Australia but lives in Ireland. She confides she was around 3 in 1976, so she must have been born around 1973. There is a picture of her taken in Turkey in 2006, after a total solar eclipse. She is in ecstasy!

Chapter 5 gets into the science of totality as Russo explains what a total solar eclipse is. Basically, it is a situation where the moon moves between the earth and the sun. For a short time, a long, narrow strip of the earth's surface is traversed by the moon's shadow, which is always cast somewhere in space. The path of totality can be thousands of miles long and up to 160 miles wide. Observers along the path see the sun covered by the moon and its light blocked. Daytime becomes night. Stars and planets appear. Mercury and Venus are seen near the sun. The sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, becomes visible, surrounding the moon's black disc. A solar eclipse occurs at new moon, unlike a lunar eclipse, which occurs at full moon. Total solar eclipses vary in duration, the longest being 7 minutes, 31 seconds. There is a TSE somewhere on the globe about every 18 months.

The stages of a TSE are called "contacts." First contact is when the invisible and moving new moon takes its first bite out of the sun. Second contact is totality itself. The 30 seconds before totality are intense! We witness Baily's Beads (sunlight passing through lunar mountains and valleys) and the Diamond Ring (the final Bead). At second contact, the moon is a black disc covering the sun. Third contact is when the Diamond Ring and Baily's Beads appear on the moon's other side. Fourth contact is the end of the eclipse with no trace of the moon. It takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the moon to cross the sun.

Russo gets back to emotional and physical reactions. Emotions run the gamut. There is anticipation, excitement, joy, exhilaration and happiness. There is wonder, calm, boredom between contacts, impatience, panic, anxiety and sadness. There is amazement, curiosity, energy and relief. There are shivers down the spine and ominous feelings as the light changes. There are chills, goosebumps and tears. Pulses quicken as the moon's shadow rushes toward the crowd of onlookers. Breathing becomes heavy! There is mumbling and screaming. There is a feeling of being connected to the universe. The eclipse is one thing. The experience is something else.

Russo includes interviews with eclipse chasers. Foremost is Patrick Moore, who had seen 7. Moore was the face of British astronomy for decades. He died in December, 2012, barely a year after this interview. He was 89.

Interviews continue. One chaser confides that the minutes of totality are the only times he is truly at peace. Another likens the lunar disc with the corona around it to "the eye of God."

David Makepeace is a film maker from Toronto. He sees each eclipse as an opportunity to connect with the universe even if it is really more a thing of connecting with the solar system. Makepeace likes to live "in the moment." Chasers often feel they are in another world, a place Russo calls "Shadowland." Makepeace calls himself "eclipseguy" and has a website at

Chapter 17 deals with upcoming eclipses 2012-2020. I am making plans for two of them. The first occurs on March 9, 2016. It begins in the Indian Ocean and crosses Indonesia: the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi. The second occurs on August 21, 2017. I want to see it in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Yet another TSE will cross the United States in 2024.

Russo recommends eclipse websites:

2 belongs to Fred Espenak, known as Mr Eclipse.
3 belongs to Jay Anderson. He is the man to consult about weather and clouds.
4 belongs to Bill Kramer
5 belongs to Michael Zeiler

I strongly recommend Kate Russo's book to anyone interested in solar eclipses and/or adventure travel. E-Day is coming! Got to get some eclipse glasses!

Attachment: kate russo.jpg
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Old Post Mar 29th, 2014 07:56 PM
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