Category: Eclipse News and Updates

Announcements and news related to the world of eclipses will be made here, including any events and things of significance.

21 Sep 2023

It takes a village to create a Solar Eclipse Village


You will no doubt be aware that TWO solar eclipses are coming soon to the US – the first is an Annular Solar Eclipse (ASE) on October 14, 2023, followed six months later with a Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) on April 8, 2023.   Over 3,000 communities across the US are furiously planning for the TSE next year.  But the communities in the eclipse crossroads – where these two paths intersect in Texas – are planning for both.

Uvalde County, Texas, is in the eclipse crossroads, including the beautiful Texas Hill Country River Region (THCRR). This region is already a tourist draw, with the defining feature being the rivers, but it is also an incredibly important and diverse ecological crossroads.  The gem is Garner State Park, one of the most-loved State Parks in Texas.  Garner State Park happens to be in the premium location for the TSE in April 2024, very close to the centerline with an impressive 4 minutes 26 seconds of totality.

If you could travel to any location in April 2024 to give you the best chances of clear weather and the longest duration of totality, my top choice would be near Torreon in Mexico.  However, many are keen to experience this TSE within the U.S.  My top choice along the U.S. path is to position in Uvalde County, Texas, and to view within or near Garner State Park.  But shhhhhh…. don’t tell the masses.

And because all of Uvalde County is ALSO within the path of annularity this October, viewing from the region will give you that ‘ring of fire’ effect, where through solar filters, the Moon appears to be surrounded by the Sun.  Despite the catchy name, the ASE is nowhere near as thrilling, awe-inspiring, or exciting as a TSE. Still, the ASE is an interesting and informative experience that will certainly give you a feel for what is to come for next April’s TSE.  In Garner State Park, annularity will last 4 minutes and 55 seconds.

Other areas along the path of annularity have a greater chance of clearer skies for this October’s ASE compared to Texas, with many stunning parks and landscapes to view from.  As recently as early June, my viewing plan for the ASE was, in fact, New Mexico. I have since completely pivoted back to Uvalde County for the ASE.  This is the origin story of why this happened and what it has led to.

Doing the best you can with the resources you have at the time 

During the June 2023 AAS Eclipse Planning meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico,  I was able to spend time with Hailey and Erica, who are in charge of implementing the Eclipse Strategy for Uvalde County. We had already been working together via weekly Zooms from November 2022 to April 2023, as I completed the community Eclipse Strategy for the region.  This was the first time we met in person, and it was great to spend time socially together. But  I discovered some significant barriers had prevented them from moving forward with the eclipse strategy we had worked on together for so long.

I felt compelled to re-engage and support this region, especially as they were preparing for TWO eclipses within six months. As I was familiar with the region, having done the strategy, I could see what quick actions could be taken in the next few months to bring things back on track.  But I knew this would require a significant time investment and was something I couldn’t personally afford to do.

I was torn, and this led to some soul-searching.  What kept coming to mind was a phrase I use in my psychology practice:   “People do the best they can with the resources they have at the time“.

After a lengthy into-the-night heart-to-heart with one of my fellow sun-loving colleagues (who shall remain nameless), I decided to follow my heart, go where I could make the most impact, and help them implement what was needed specifically for the ASE.  And then things moved quickly – I committed, the THCRR committed, and everything happened all at once. I spent the rest of that AAS meeting connecting the Uvalde County folk to the wider eclipse planning network.

Days later, I traveled to Uvalde County, where Erica, Hailey, and I were inseparable for the next four days. We huddled, brainstormed, and plotted around the table as various stakeholders came and went. We did site visits, chopper flights for a birds-eye view, scouted for venues, and mapped out the strategy for the ASE weekend. Many people dropped by – some saying hi, checking progress, bringing us food. Much was achieved in this short period, laying the groundwork for the coming months.


On returning to Australia, I continued conversations within my extensive eclipse networks across the U.S. to see who could help out, and conversations were all quite similar:

Me – “Hey, nice to see you again. Whacha doing for the annular?” 

x – “Um, well, I’m deciding on x or y, but I’m not committed. I might do z.” 

Me – “Fancy joining me for some eclipse outreach and to help support Uvalde County?” 

x – Sure! 

I had noted the non-commital position many had about the annular eclipse, which turned out to be the magic ingredient for success. Also, by linking with existing STEM providers, the eclipse brings in resources to the community between now and April next year. I have tried to showcase the region’s many natural assets and support and champion those on the ground so they can continue to do what they do best. The sense of goodwill, willingness to step up, and a desire to do something for the greater good have driven this project forward.

Assemble your team, develop your strategy, and boldly go 

Since then, we have curated a great weekend of festivities for the annular eclipse weekend this October. Erica and Hailey have pulled together a full UVALDE COUNTY STELLER FEST – PREPARTY – a varied program of events for the annular weekend in three key locations that will appeal to the local population.

For my part, I have pulled together the eclipse-focused SOLAR ECLIPSE VILLAGE in Garner State Park, which is one of these three location events. I have been able to create a unique structure that focuses on the ASE on Saturday October 14, and showcases the TSE on Sunday October 15.  Village Day passes are required in advance but are FREE!

When launching events, usually everything is ready to go at the time of launch.  Working within a much shorter time frame means that not everything will be readily available at the same time. But plans are made, people have pulled together, magic is happening, and the ASE weekend will be awesome all over Uvalde County.  Our next job is getting information out there – schedules are coming, booking systems will be set up soon.  All information will be made available on, and will be updated also on the associated FB page.   Please be patient if you can’t find what you are looking for straight away – we are doing the best we can with the resources we have.  

It does indeed take a village to create a village.




06 Apr 2023

Important update about Safe Solar Viewing for Australians for 20 April, 2023

Solar eclipse glasses - these are a safety device for viewing a solar eclipse
Solar eclipse glasses. These are a safety product that should be used to view a solar eclipse safely. Safety instructions are printed on the inside, along the compliance with international standards.

As everyone knows, looking at the Sun is NEVER safe.  Indirect methods of observing a solar eclipse, such as pinhole projection, allow for safe solar viewing with no risk of eye damage. For direct viewing, solar filters can be used to protect the eyes during the partial phases, while during totality, the Moon blocks out the whole sun.

Eclipse chasers like me have been using solar eclipse glasses for decades. Those of us involved in planning over the years refer to the standardized, evidence-based guidance endorsed by leading international groups and found on  This easy-to-follow guidance highlights risks but also shows HOW to view safely and has allowed for a consistent message to be reinforced year after year.

The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) now has an Eclipse 2023 site, drawing from the above resources and providing Australian-based practical guidance on how to view safely.   Australia will be experiencing five total solar eclipses over the coming 15 years, so this is an authoritative website for this and future solar eclipses.

Gone are the days when people are advised to view a total solar eclipse by staying indoors, turning their backs, or watching on TV. Or so we thought!

Decision-makers for the Australian “Ningaloo Eclipse” are taking a safety-first approach for the total solar eclipse on April 20, 2023. Official eye safety guidance is provided via an external link from the website of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). For the past year, this guidance has stated that there was no way to directly view a total solar eclipse safely and that solar eclipse glasses were unsafe and should not be used. The Chief Health Officer (CHO) advice drew from the ARPANSA viewpoint, and a recent ABC news article reinforced this message.

As an invited Solar Eclipse Reference Group member for this Australian solar eclipse on 20 April 2023, for the past year at every meeting, I have expressed my concerns at this messaging. I have provided information and links to evidence-based and internationally endorsed guidance. Beyond this forum, those involved in international standards, eclipse planning, and eye safety research have also attempted to challenge such out-of-date messaging.

Thankfully, there has been an important update.

This week’s joint press release from the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and the Lions Eye Institute is significant and gives clarity regarding how to view safely and prevent eye damage.

Of particular note is the Position Statement from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). As experts in eye health, this guidance is really very helpful and practical. I recommend everyone to view this position statement. This is an excellent document for parents who are guiding their children on viewing safely – something that has been lacking.

The following three takeaways from the Position Statement answer the most common questions people ask me:

  • Solar eclipse glasses are safe, and should be used for direct viewing of the solar eclipse
  • Those within the path of totality can remove their solar eclipse glasses and safely view totality with the naked eye
  • Australian standard welding shields and goggles with a lens category higher than 12 may be used to safely view the eclipse.


I am delighted to see that ARPANSA has now updated its guidance for safe solar viewing and is no longer stating that solar eclipse glasses are not safe. This is a major milestone.

I just want to express my gratitude and acknowledge all those who have been working hard on this issue to finally get this change. Ultimately, the best way of ensuring a ‘safety-first’ approach is to provide consistent and evidence-based information on HOW to view a solar eclipse safely.  With only a fortnight to go, Australians now have this consistent information.

04 Jun 2021

An Antarctica flight into totality

Some say the number 13 is unlucky. I’m not one to believe in superstition, but I must say there feels as if something has been stopping me from successfully chasing my 13th total solar eclipse.

Travel restrictions stopped me and most of my international eclipse community from chasing totality in December 2020 in Argentina / Chile. Despite renewed optimism for international travel in 2021, the options for traveling to Antarctica for totality in December 2021 remain limited. Even if South American borders remain open to allow travelers to connect with their cruise ships to Antarctica, COVID uncertainties may still prevent some travelers from boarding. Once successfully on board, one then has to hope the high chance of clouds from the remote Weddell Sea will not impede the view. This is why many of my past eclipse tour community and personal chasing friends have opted out of any attempts to chase totality 2021 – there are too many unknowns and potential issues that are outside of our control.

But ….. there is now hope for us Aussie eclipse chasers. For those not in the know, Australians have been prevented from travelling internationally for over a year, and will continue to be restricted until 2022.

Most in the travel industry within Australia have had to ‘pivot’ and find new solutions to work around COVID limitations. Chimu Expeditions are based in Australia, and have an extensive history of offering interesting tours to Antarctica and other worldwide destinations. With COVID restrictions impacting upon Australian travel, they have recently opened up interesting domestic flight options which are of great appeal, including sightseeing flights south to view the Aurora Australis, and over Antarctica. These new options have been extremely popular.

Over the past few months interesting conversations have taken place regarding the possibility and viability of a flight from Australia being able to get into the path of totality. After much plotting and planning, Chimu are now going ahead with their planned charter flight with Qantas. Boom!

The plan is to fly from Melbourne, doing a scenic flight over Antarctica and then intersecting the path of totality to allow those on board to experience totality from above the cloud. To meet COVID requirements, this is a domestic flight, and open to anyone within Australia.

I’m excited beyond belief.

The flight is an incredible opportunity to view two wonders – the immense vastness of the Great White Continent; as well as seeing a total solar eclipse from the plane. It is likely to appeal not just to eclipse chasers, but to the traveling public of Australia who have been cooped up for so long and may decide that this is the perfect post-COVID lockdown experience. Just imagine the vibe on board!

I’m encouraging all chasers to get in early. Expressions of interest and the flight brochure can be viewed via this exclusive eclipse chaser link here:

It may just be that my 13th total solar eclipse chase is going to be the luckiest by far!

30 Mar 2021

Community Eclipse Planning – Zoom workshop 9-10 April 2021


I’ve been chasing total eclipses for over 20 years. While waiting for each chase, I usually channel my energies into community eclipse planning and working behind-the-scenes on projects for future eclipses.

Despite living in Australia, I am a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force, which is the key supporting organization for solar eclipse planning across the US. We have been meeting via Zoom regularly and are working towards future eclipse coordination in the US.

Plans are now ramping up in preparation for the next total solar eclipse visible across the US, including Mexico and Canada, on 8 April 2024. If you thought the ‘Great American Eclipse of 2017’ was huge, then be aware that was just the warm-up. With so much more awareness, the ‘Greater North American Total Solar Eclipse of 2024’ is going to be huge! And an added bonus – an annular (‘ring’) solar eclipse will be visible across the US and parts of Mexico the year before, on 14 October 2023. Make sure to mark these dates in your diary.

This means community eclipse planning needs to start NOW for all communities who find themselves in the Moon’s shadow in 2023 and/or 2024.

To help you with this, the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force is hosting the next planning weekend workshop via Zoom on Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 April 2021, to coincide with the three-year countdown to the total eclipse in 2024. This online workshop will be of interest to anyone who needs to be involved in preparations for these two solar eclipses, and there is a great line-up of experienced presenters who are keen to support you. Day 1 of the workshop will provide a detailed overview of these solar eclipse opportunities across the US, and guidance about eye safety. Day 2 of the workshop is dedicated to eclipse planning. I will be delivering a presentation on community eclipse planning on Day 2, and then taking part in a panel discussion on the topic that will also feature others who will be sharing their planning experience from 2017.

There is a low fee of $20 to take part in the weekend workshop. Please CLICK HERE for more detailed information, any questions, and to register your attendance. If you cannot attend this workshop, then make sure to still link in with the Eclipse Task Force to be kept informed of future planning workshops.

I’ve been guiding and researching community eclipse planning for many years now, and my top three nuggets of advice based upon my own direct experience and the many, many hindsight interviews I have done after each eclipse: start planning early; focus on the community; and consult with eclipse experts. This workshop will help you get started – you will be warmly welcomed by the Solar Eclipse Task Force, and you will have an opportunity to connect with others who are also starting out with their planning too. I look forward to seeing you there.

11 Mar 2018

Totality 2020: Tour Announcement

Join me in the path of totality in 2020. (c) Kieron Circuit


I have some exciting news!

My 2020 tour in collaboration with The Independent Traveller is now finalised.

This will be my third eclipse tour with The Independent Traveller. After our incredible experience of totality in Wyoming in August 2017, we are again offering something special and unique in astronomy travel, suitable for both new and experienced chasers.

The tour will be led by me, and will be of appeal to those who want to have a great eclipse experience with a beautiful scenic outlook. Clear skies, glacial lakes, and volcanos anyone??

Rosemary, the owner of The Independent Traveller, has been running tours in South America for many years, and has extensive contacts on the ground. During her visit in January, she was able to secure exclusive use of a really beautiful viewing location in an area with excellent weather prospects, and some quite exclusive accommodation too. A difficult mix to achieve in this part of Patagonia.

Here are the bare details:

  • Six-night tour, commencing and ending in Buenos Aires
  • Viewing from the Argentinian side of the Andes, giving us excellent weather prospects
  • Very comfortable hotel options, ensuring a quality experience
  • Pre- and post-eclipse briefings
  • Exclusive eclipse viewing site
  • Transport options in the unlikely event of poor weather at our primary viewing location
  • Estimated maximum numbers of 60


For more details of this tour, including pricing options, please register your interest here – and mention our special code word: OPTIMISM. Rosemary will answer all of your questions and will be delighted to help you with the tour and some pretty incredible add-ons as well.

Interest is high, and there is no doubt that this tour will sell out.

We will not be offering a tour for 2019, although I will of course be traveling independently.

I look forward to welcoming you on this tour in 2020.





14 Jun 2017

Press Release – New Eclipse Book Describes the First-Time Eclipse Experience

book launch, eclipse experience, totality, eclipse, author, Dr Kate Russo, eclipse 2017, total eclipse

An eclipse-chasing psychologist is coming to the US to launch her book and share personal stories of what it is like to experience a total eclipse. And her message is clear – don’t miss this.

Talk to any eclipse chaser, and they will tell you that the total eclipse is one of the world’s most fascinating and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Yet it is very hard to convey what it is like to those who have never seen one before. How does one describe the indescribable?

“During a total solar eclipse, you experience the impossible. It is an exhilarating, eerie and moving experience. Changes occur above you, around you, and within you”, explains Dr Kate Russo, an Australian eclipse-chasing psychologist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Dr Kate Russo is unique as an eclipse chaser as she has a background not in astronomy – but in psychology.

Since seeing her first total eclipse in 1999, she has traveled the world and has now seen 10 total eclipses. She researches and shares different aspects of the total eclipse – from how communities prepare, the motivations of eclipse chasers, to what it is like to experience the total eclipse for the first time.

She is a regular in the media before every eclipse, and has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of people before and after a total eclipse. No one understands more about the human experience of totality.

“Many people think that a total eclipse is only of relevance to geeks or bearded men with telescopes. They do not realise it is an emotional and other-worldly experience for everyone. People are quick to turn off at facts and figures, and stories of traffic Armageddon. Personal stories convey WHY people are so excited by the eclipse on August 21st. You will feel a primitive and eerie fear; it will suddenly go dark, you are likely to feel goosebumps and then cry out in surprise as you experience the beauty of the Universe before you. You will feel insignificant, and connected as you witness the impossible. You may even then become an eclipse chaser yourself. It is a profound experience for many people. But you MUST get into the path of totality.”

To help share personal stories, Russo has just launched her third book, Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Total Eclipse Experience. This non-fiction book features stories from six ordinary people, and is aimed at ‘eclipse virgins’ – those who have never experienced a total eclipse. This includes all Americans under the age of 40, and most above. This is not your typical ‘how to see an eclipse’ book.

Russo is known for being a passionate and inspiring speaker, making the eclipse experience come alive and leaving her audiences wanting more. She is soon traveling to Nebraska from 17-28 June to deliver public lectures and to promote her new book. Signed copies will be available at all of her events.

She will be viewing the total eclipse on August 21 from Teton Village, Wyoming, where she will again be leading a small group of international eclipse chasers with her tour group The Independent Traveller.

Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Eclipse Experience can be purchased on for $16.99 for paperback, and $8.99 for the ebook, which can also be downloaded directly from the author website.

Email for bulk orders and journalist review copies.


FB: @Beingintheshadow

Twitter: @DrKateRusso

08 Jun 2017

On becoming an author

Dr Kate Russo, Author, Psychologist, Eclipse Chaser, Being in the Shadow
Being an author. @ Kieron Circuit

Today is a very special day. Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-Time Eclipse Experience – my third book – has just been published. It has been quite the journey, and I wanted to share a little personal back story into how I switched from being an academic to becoming an author.

I will rewind to just before the launch of my first book Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser. It is September 2012. At that time, I was Assistant Course Director of a doctoral training programme in clinical psychology. I had, by then, completed honors, masters and doctoral research theses – huge academic volumes requiring seven years of work in total between them. I had also published research articles and contributed to book chapters as a psychologist and academic. After 14 years or so of clinical work, I was fully immersed in the academic world, and spent many hours per day writing. Total Addiction was a passion-project – something I did on the side.

Two days before the launch of Total Addiction, I walked through the Botanic Gardens to the Queen’s University main library to meet Julie. She was sent from Springer – the publisher – to sell books at my Belfast book launch event. She was waiting for me, sitting on an outdoor bench with a trolley bag full of books – my books. We connected instantly. We talked about what I had planned for the launch, and how she would take care of the book sales. She was asking probing questions about how I was marketing myself as an author.

I found the word ‘author’ jarring – I didn’t feel like an author. I must have frozen, as Julie had stopped talking, cocked her head to one side, and said very matter-of-factly: “Dude, why is this so difficult. Of course you are an author.”

After our meeting, I went home and googled the definition of an author, to see whether I was indeed one. (In case you are wondering: a writer of a book, article, or document). Technically, I was already an author and had been one for many years. Yet I had never called myself one, nor had I considered I was one. Even though I was about to launch my first book, I was not convinced that I was worthy of the title of author.

It took a few months before I was more comfortable with the role. By then, I had engaged in enough ‘author behaviors’ to feel like I could call myself an author. I had been doing book launch activities, had regular discussions with my publisher, was signing my books, giving author talks, and had even run author workshops. But it was all on the side of my main academic job. I was not an author when I was engaged in my academic work.

After publishing Total Addiction, I wanted to take things even further. I wanted to bridge the gap between psychology and astronomy, and translate that for a general audience in a more engaging way. I wanted to use personal stories to share the power of the total eclipse with others. I wanted to be an author who wrote about eclipses; rather than a researcher who studied them. This is where the idea for Being in the Shadow was born.

I used the 2012 total eclipse in my home region as an opportunity gather research for this next project. Following the eclipse, everyone wanted to share their stories, and I wanted to give people a place for their stories to be told. I put Being in the Shadow on hold, and I diverted my focus to publish my second book Totality: The Total Eclipse of 2012 in Far North Queensland. This was more of a souvenir book written from a community perspective. It was my way of giving back to the community, to ensure that there was a lasting record for everyone who had experienced the total eclipse. Again, I worked during the day while writing this project in the evenings. I wasn’t an author – I was simply writing another passion project on the side. The problem was that I associated being an author with the things that happen after publication, rather than the writing itself.

But after the publication of Totality in late 2013, my life fell apart. I became seriously ill. I had already started to look forward to all the author things – a launch party, promoting my talk, speaking events, author workshops. Yet I was physically not well enough to do anything, and I could no longer even function. There was nothing to mark launch day, just collapsing in an exhausted heap. My proposed launch party had to be cancelled. My new book just sat there, in boxes. To this day, Totality is a little like a ghost book to me – I wasn’t an author writing it; and I could do the author things after publication.

Anyone who has ever experienced changes in neurological functioning will know the fear of not being able to return to your former self. For a while, I thought I was never going to be able to return to a working life at all. It has actually taken me a good few years to get properly back on my feet again. Whereas in the past I could complete multiple projects while also working full time, I had to slowly build up focusing only on one thing at a time. And that one thing was eclipses. It was my passion for sharing the eclipse experience that really got me through some dark days. Now that I’m cognitively back up to speed (physically there is still some issues), I’ve been able to again work on multiple projects. Instead of writing on the side, writing became my main focus. I had finally learned that to write is to be an author. Writing about eclipses was no longer something I did on the side – I wanted it to become my main focus.

In the year it has taken me to write Being in the Shadow, I have been able to embrace the fact that I am an author.

I love the process of writing, and now I love calling myself an author. I have joined writer groups, have run more author workshops, and engage in what I consider to be author behavior. And now I have just published my third book. Today. It is a great achievement for me, on so many levels. Today, I am an author. I feel proud that I have been able to write a book that is written for a general audience – and is not academic in nature. Narrative non-fiction is a new style of writing for me, and I have a lot to learn. Having my psychology background, and using a phenomenological approach, are the reasons why this book is so unique. I can go deep into people’s experiences, and help to share their stories. It is through personal stories that we truly understand.

This time, I am going to make sure that I enjoy the achievement of publishing my third book. There will be a launch party – not today, but soon. There will be events, and author activities. There will be book promotions, and signings. All the things I was not ready to do with book one; and not able to do after publishing book two. Today, I am an author who writes about eclipses.


13 Mar 2017

Changing plans – lessons from Wile E. Coyote


I’ve been feeling a lot like Wile E. Coyote lately. Clever and creative in his planning to achieve his one goal – to get the bird – his plans would backfire spectacularly in the execution. I’d like to think my plans are a little sounder than Wile E’s plans. Unlike him, however, I’m facing one key obstacle that is stopping me from achieving my goal. My immigration visa is needed before I can get to the US, and it seems just out of my reach.

The need to immigrate

Australians and British citizens are able to visit the US for three months easily with a visa waiver. However, to work in the US you require a visa, and usually an employer willing to sponsor you. As ‘Eclipse Planning Consultant’ is not really a job that has an employer, I went down the route of immigration as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”. That is, I had to be a highly educated professional (three degrees – check!); an internationally recognized expert (author, researcher, and pretty much one of the only eclipse consultants around, who wrote the only guidance document on how to plan – check!); and to be engaging in activities that are of national interest (total solar eclipse for the first time in the US in almost 40 years, visible from 14 states with a partial across the whole continent – check!).

card genius

After submitting a two-volume opus of my life’s work as evidence, twice, I was judged to have met these criteria back in November. And what a happy day that was!

I was informed that there was a process that would take an additional two months or so. There remained additional steps in the meantime that I undertook as quickly as possible – police checks from two countries, listings of every single place I lived since the age of 18 years, and disclosures of all sorts of other personal information that are then used to judge you in ways you can’t really understand. More documents, submissions and explanations, along with payments at every step along the way. I am THIS close.

Things you can control…

In January I went ahead with an Expressions of Interest for my path of totality planning tour, which helped to determine what communities on the ground were looking for. From this, I identified:

  • 31 communities expressed strong interest in being part of my tour
  • 90 days of activities were requested
  • 10 states were represented across the path of totality

I then started to make more detailed plans. However, as time was marching on my estimated leaving date was fast approaching – still with no visa interview date.

… versus things you cannot control

Then came some sudden changes to US immigration rules. Although my visa application is not directly affected, the indirect effect is that there are more demands on the work involved at the National Visa Centre, where my application still awaits, sitting on a desk somewhere and waiting for a final confirmation before it can be sent to London for the last remaining interviews.

In early February I made the decision to delay the start of the tour for a further month to allow for more time. This took a bit of revision, and compromised some of my activities, but I knew it would still be possible.

Unfortunately, further delays were announced last week now make my tour plans unviable. I have already requested permission to expedite my visa processing on grounds of national interest, and this has initially been unsuccessful. I am trying repeatedly, and will continue to do so, until I have my visa in my hand.

What this means in practice

After two years of planning, I have had to let my path of totality planning tour go. Anyone who knows me personally knows how long I have been talking and planning this, and how difficult this decision has been. Much like Wile E. Coyote does, I have gone back to the drawing board to come up with a new creative way of meeting needs on the ground in a much-reduced time frame.

I am frustrated that I have had to turn down requests to participate in community events, eclipse planning conferences, astronomy events, documentaries and other media. I have had to instead direct my energies towards overcoming the many visa hurdles by collating and documenting detailed evidence, completing forms, chasing up requests. In my years of being involved in eclipse planning, I have never faced barriers quite like this.

Despite this, I have been supporting many communities from afar as best I can, and I am still planning to be available for in-community support along the path of totality.

Although it is likely that I will arrive in May, currently I am not able to agree any events or activities for that month. I am, however, now confirming activities for June and beyond. The biggest changes:

  • I will no longer be doing a LINEAR tour of the path of totality
  • I will no longer be visiting all states within the path
  • I will no longer be based in a fifth wheel camper, and instead will use hotels as my base

There are a few benefits from my new revised plan. I can be more flexible with my schedule, as I do not have to travel in a linear fashion. I also have been able to review my fee structure too. So if you are interested in bringing me to your community, or to have me as part of your event or conference or as a speaker, then get in touch.

When I eventually do make it to the US, I will do all I can to share my experiences, knowledge, research and expertise. My window to do this will be much smaller than I ever intended, however I am keen to reach as many people as possible.

I have seen 10 total solar eclipses all around the world, in my 18 year chasing career. Every one is special and unique, but there is nothing like experiencing totality within your home community. This happened for me in 2012, and is the reason why I am so passionate about helping communities prepare. I’m not giving up.

catches at end

How can you help?

Many have already got in touch with offers of support, and some of you have already put something in writing to help expedite my case. If you are in a position where you feel I have already benefited you, or am about to benefit you, then please do consider putting something in an email to me that highlights this that I can send on. It can be short, like a testimonial, or longer – whatever you wish to write. These comments will be passed on in my requests to expedite my visa, and every little bit helps.

In the end, Wile E. Coyote did indeed catch the road runner. He is a lesson in perseverance and creativity. And I know my visa will come through too – it just can’t come soon enough.

28 Dec 2012

Being an author – and giving something back

Photo/Paul McErlane
Attending the launch of your first book – the most amazing experience

I had the idea for writing a book about my passion of eclipse chasing for many years. Many of my family and friends nagged me about it, saying that I should write about my eclipse chasing adventures. The idea was always there, in the back of my mind. But I always had doubts, or felt it wasn’t something I could do as I didn’t have the time. I just didn’t really prioritise the idea of writing a book.

This changed in September 2010, when I attended a one day writers workshop run by a local author. That was the day that I really took thinking about ‘the book’ seriously. I was able to spend time thinking about what it would look like, why I would write, and what I would get out of it. I learned so much by actually verbalising my thoughts about my idea. I also found listening to others who were in a similar situation very inspiring. My mind went into overdrive with ideas, and by the end of the day I bounded home from the workshop, feeling full of inspiration and energy, with a clear sense of how the book should be put together. From that moment on, it all flowed freely and it was like I was ‘driven’ to write.

Three months later, I had a book contract with a major publishing company to write my first book. And a year after that, I submitted my first book – I had become an author. I am now currently writing my second book, and I feel extremely motivated to continue writing for a long time. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I have published as an academic; I have written three different theses for my honors, masters and doctoral degrees. But there is something very special about having written and published a book about something you are passionate about. I still feel like I should pinch myself sometimes. For me, attending a writers workshop was the key that got the whole process started.

I really enjoy helping others begin this journey for themselves. I run workshops all the time in my day job as a Clinical Psychologist. I teach doctoral level students. I supervise research. I write academic papers. I run small classes. I coordinate a research discussion group. I also teach motivational interviewing to medical professionals, and those living with chronic illness. I teach communication skills. I help people change their lives for the better. I encourage people to live authentic lives. Workshops are what I do. I believe I have quite a unique set of skills to offer to first time writers. So, I aim to run workshops on a semi-regular basis wherever I am in order to inspire others to follow their passion and start writing. See Events for more details. It just feels like a great way of giving something back.

18 Sep 2012

The Euphoria of a Book Launch

The ephoria of a book launch

Two days ago, I had the Belfast launch party for the book Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser. I am now reflecting on how different the process is of publishing a book versus completing academic work.

Academic writing

I have spent many years in formal academic study, writing thesis after thesis for each of my honors, master’s and doctorate degrees. For each ‘book’, the writing would take around a year (two for my doctorate). Submission was stressful which involved juggling impossible deadlines and multiple demands while working full time. This was then followed by anxiety about the viva process. After each successful viva, the thesis was bound, submitted, and then left on the shelf. Although each of these achievements was celebrated at the time, the celebrations often came months later following the viva.

Personal book writing

Launching a non-fiction book about my passion of eclipse chasing has been completely different. The writing and work and deadlines are the same, but the motivation is different. With a personal book, there is no viva, but there is the anxiety about others reading and making public judgments about your work. The build-up to the launch is exciting, as you think of ways to increase your profile and that of the book. Momentum builds, as you stay with the project and roll with it. The launch itself – what a great experience. A public book launch is about celebrating and sharing this achievement with others. And how wonderful to see people queuing to have you sign it! And to see people reading it! For the whole of my launch, I was grinning from ear to ear. And I’m still grinning now.

Belfast Book Launch 2012. © Paul McErlane
Belfast Book Launch 2012. © Paul McErlane
Belfast book launch party. (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Belfast book launch party. (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Me and Terry Moseley, one of the nine featured eclipse chasers, at my Belfast book launch for Total Addiction. One of the best days of my life! (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Me and Terry Moseley, one of the nine featured eclipse chasers, at my Belfast book launch for Total Addiction. One of the best days of my life! (c) 2012, Paul McErlane