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Is Eclipse Chasing the Ultimate High?

What makes the cosmos so fascinating to us? Is it the mystery? The intrigue? Perhaps it’s simply the sense that nobody, from Carl Sagan to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, really and truly knows what’s going on up there. 

Just ask any eclipse chaser and they’ll tell you: Once you’ve seen one, you’ve simply got to see them all. 

This year, celebrities and diplomats from all over the world–including the likes of Bill Clinton and Robert Downey, Jr.–flocked to Chile’s Atacama Desert to see the Great South American Eclipse in action this afternoon. But why? What is it about the sight of the moon passing in front of the sun that makes us so dazzled and giddy? 

Just ask any eclipse chaser and they’ll tell you: Once you’ve seen one, you’ve simply got to see them all. 

According to folks who chase eclipses year round, there’s something of a natural high to the experience.

Eclipse chaser Joe Rao told Vox that chasing captures something close to the thrill of early love. “They say you never forget your first kiss, you never forget making love for the first time,…” he says. “As far as an eclipse chaser goes, you always remember your first time in the shadow.”

An 1860 solar eclipse.

Chaser Bill Kramer described his experience in the eclipse’s shadow as like “looking upon the eye of God.” For many chasers, there’s a kind of religious element that makes it worthwhile to spend time, money (over $5,000 for folks headed to Chile on short notice) and resources trying to chase a split-second experience. Still, the impact of the eclipse isn’t immediately clear to everyone. 

In a Thrillist article by Vivian Kane, the appeal of eclipse chasing becomes a little bit clearer. When Kane asks her mother, a notorious chaser whose idea of family vacation consisted of dragging the kids across the world in search of eclipses. 

“It’s like the world’s ending,” Kane’s mother tells her. “And you just have to have faith the sun’s going to come out the other side.”

According to folks who chase eclipses year round, there’s something of a natural high to the experience.

In light of where the nation–and the world–is at right now, this makes total sense. In the wonderful 2012 film “Melancholia”, a cosmic event is used as a metaphor for mental illness. The moon gives us the word “lunacy.” There are all kinds of connections between its many phases and our own internal states. But the idea of traveling the world in search of something truly remarkable, something that by its very nature forces us to feel hope again, has never sounded more magical. 

 

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