Orange Alert

The Psychology Behind “Eclipse Chasers”

Solar enthusiasts view a partial solar eclipse through special protective glasses at the Griffith Observatory to watch the solar eclipse in Los Angeles Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

While we’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality for April 8’s “Great American Eclipse” here in Syracuse, not everyone in the United States (or even in Central New York) can say the same. That, however, won’t stop some of the most dedicated people across the globe from packing up their bags, jumping in their car or hopping on a flight, and joining us here in the Salt City or in any of the other cities along the path of totality, to witness the total solar eclipse in person.

“Eclipse chasers,” as they’re known, travel around the world aiming to put themselves in the path of totality whenever it’s time for the next total solar eclipse. But why? According to Dr. Kate Russo, an Australia-based author, psychologist and eclipse chaser who works to document and analyze the experiences of her fellow eclipse chasers, it’s because “it’s probably the strongest awe we can feel.” Russo, who has seen 13 total eclipses in locations all around the world, even created an acronym to describe the life-changing experience viewing an eclipse can cause – SPACED.

So, what does SPACED stand for?

S“sense of wrongness”

P“primal fear”




D“desire to repeat”

The phenomenon created by the coming-together of all these strong feelings, it seems, is what eclipse chasers are really chasing after. It is a surreal moment that can cause those among us to embrace, shout for joy and even weep. “It’s one of these very unusual events — it breaks down any barriers that are there,” Russo told TODAY in the lead-up to 2017’s total solar eclipse. “During those moments and afterwards, you just feel connected with everybody.”