Tag: totality

17 Mar 2022
White Paper 2nd Edn cover

OUT NOW – 2nd Edition of White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning

White Paper 2nd Edn cover
White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning (2nd Edn), is available to download freely from my website.  This version is focused on those planning for TSE 2024, and the annular in 2023.

 

We are now almost two years out from the biggest event in North and Central America for 2024 – the next total solar eclipse. This eclipse will be even bigger than the 2017 eclipse — I know this is very hard to imagine. The path of totality is much wider crossing over higher-population areas, and with FOMO from 2017, it really will be the event of the decade.

This time, over 3,000 communities are located within the path of totality in the US alone. This equates to tens of thousands of people who will be directly involved with eclipse planning over the coming two years.

Planning for something as major as a total eclipse needs to happen across organizations, and with local/state/national coordination. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force is doing a great job at coordinating efforts, and I enjoy being part of this team of highly motivated people who are guiding the way in preparations for 2024.  Our next virtual planning workshop is only a few weeks away and is timed to coincide with the two-year countdown (and you can register here).

Every community within the path of totality will initially struggle to get started with their planning. Usually, they wait for direction from above and then realize over time that only they can figure out the eclipse planning strategy for their own community.

This is exactly where my White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning comes in.

Having been involved in community eclipse planning for a decade, I see this gap time and time again and have made it my mission to support communities to develop their strategic approach to planning for the eclipse. No one will do it for you. **SPOILER ALERT** For maximum benefit, the eclipse should not be seen as a one-off event, but as a focal point for your community development plans.  

The first White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning was released in 2015, with the purpose of helping communities across the path of totality in the US to prepare for the ‘Great American Eclipse’ in 2017.  Since then, I have used the thousands of hours of my free zoom consultations, repeated sessions, in-community visits, post-eclipse sessions with coordinators and Mayors, to effectively capture the key lessons from those coordinating the eclipse planning efforts in their communities. I use an evidence-based approach and do this voluntarily in my own time, so it is a slow process.

And so, after years of work behind the scenes sorting through all this material, the 2nd Edition is now ready for distribution.

This document is more detailed and focused on developing a community-based eclipse strategy for maximum benefit. Like last time, this document is free and can be found at the bottom of this page on my website.  The document is large, so it is best shared via a link to my webpage rather than as an attachment.

This 2nd edition will have multiple versions tailored for each specific eclipse, up to 2030.  An earlier version for the 2023 total eclipse visible from Australia/Timor-Leste was circulated to those involved last year.  The version now available to download from my website is suitable for those planning for the total solar eclipse of 2024 in the US, Mexico and Canada — while also including details of the 2023 annular eclipse.

I am no longer in a position to offer free individual consults to communities. However, I will be offering planning masterclasses for eclipse coordinators, where each month a maximum of six coordinators can come together and we will deep-dive into various topics. I will only be making announcements about these to those communities who complete the form on my website, and the first one will be in May.

Remember – no community volunteers to be within the path of totality;  the Universe chooses YOU!  Use this opportunity wisely.

 

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 Amazon.com 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.

Email:  Kate@beingintheshadow.com

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.

 

09 Mar 2013

Beyond language

 

mongolia sand dune

At my Brisbane book launch, I was speaking with Terry, an eclipse chaser who did a lot of media during the last total eclipse in November 2012.  Terry recounted how every local person he interviewed immediately after the eclipse to share their experience could only say a few words – “It was awesome”.  “It was amazing”.  People repeatedly struggled to find words.   I was not surprised to hear this – this is how I felt after my first eclipse experience, and it really did take quite a while to be able to put language to the experience.  Many eclipse chasers have stories of being near others who experience it for their first time, and seeing their reactions – being totally overwhelmed and unable to speak, or just repeatedly saying ‘wow’.

Even when we then are able to connect again with our brains after the experience, our language seems unable to express the intensity of what we have felt.  The experience of totality requires us to expand our mental structures in order to understand – not unlike the experience of childbirth or other significant life-changing experiences.   This is why we cannot explain it to those who have not experienced it – it is ineffable.

The problem is, when intense things happen to us, we want to share our experiences.  We want to talk to others – to connect with others.  When we try to explain to others who weren’t there, we sound a little crazy and fanatical, and it becomes frustrating.   We just cannot convey the power of the event, how it impacted upon us personally, and the ‘addictive’ nature of the experience.

I have now spent hundreds of hours interviewing people about their eclipse experiences – eclipse chasers and people who have just seen their first total eclipse.  These interviews usually are very fluent until we get to the point where totality occurs, and people stumble, slow down, pepper their words with ‘you know’, ‘it was like….’, ‘um, you know’, ‘…just awesome’.    People are reassured that I understand what they are trying to convey as I have been there, and this allows them to continue on with their struggle of finding the words, and with prompting and continued discussion we usually get to a point where the full experience is shared.  With all of these interviews, I have now noticed a few patterns when people try to explain the inexplicable:

Adding extra prefixes and suffixes –   The ‘specialness’ of the experience and the ‘unfathomability’ of the darkness of the Moon that looks out at you like an eye just cannot be described, along with other features.  For example, the ‘unduplicability’ of the colors on the horizon.  The ‘unstoppability’ as the Moons’ shadow races towards you, and the ‘inevitableness’ of the eclipse happening and there is nothing that we can do about it.  We just feel the need to add extra dimensions to our words to convey how amazing it is.

Overuse of similes – When people struggle with finding the words, they then try to find similar experiences to compare to, so that the things can be communicated through experience rather than through words.  ‘It was like CGI graphics’;   “light was like a 50’s film’;   the eclipsed Sun was ‘like a hole in the sky’, or ‘like the eye of god’, and the remainder of the partial eclipse grinned down ‘like a Cheshire cat’.   Totality felt ‘like anything could happen’, and you are shocked ‘as if a dead relative just walked into the room’.  The similes usually relate to feeling that something unnatural had happened, something so amazing that it had to be computer generated.

Attempts to use other senses – People sometimes start to use other ways of communicating, or using other senses in an attempt to convey their words.  Hand gestures increase without words coming out.  Some use an imagined sound to describe the experience – ‘like it all just popped into place’,  the darkness ‘came roaring towards us’.   It was like ‘it made a noise’ and was alive.

It’s fantastic that as adults we can experience such wonder in the world that makes us speechless.  The Japanese refer to this as Yugen – where we experience the full wonder of the Universe on a phenomenological level.   It is these experiences that make us feel the most alive.

 

22 Jul 2012

Awesome research

 Huangshan Mountains, China

A recent article on awe published in Psychological Science by three American business school researchers has been making the rounds of online magazines and blogs this weekend.  

In this experimental study, the researchers explored the impact of awe by either eliciting memories of experiences of awe, or by creating awe using images.   They found that those who experienced awe subsequently reported having more time available to help others, increased patience, a less materialistic outlook, and were more willing to help others.

“The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to bring us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”

Eclipse chasers are well aware that awe has this impact upon our perception of time, our sense of self, and our experience of the world.  These themes were identified in my book following the analysis of phenomenological interviews.  These findings confirm real-life research with eclipse chasers is consistent with experimental studies.

Melanie Rudd, Jennifer Aaker and Kathleen Vohs. Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Psychological Science, 2012