Skip to content

Shadow Chasers

Residents and friends met unexpectedly in Arkansas to see the 2024 total solar eclipse.


In the fields of Russellville, Arkansas, population 30,000, a small group of Castle Pines residents found connections by way of the April 8 total solar eclipse. Most of the viewers had planned to view in Texas, but weather changes sent the star gazers to alternate locations.

Although there are many eclipses each year, the 2017 and 2024 ones passed over the continental United States providing millions with the opportunity to view partial eclipses or eclipses in totality – the term when the moon covers the face of the sun completely. Scientists predicted totality across parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Those who viewed the eclipse outside the path of totality (like those of us here in Colorado) enjoyed a partial solar eclipse, where the moon appeared to take a crescent-shape bite out of the sun.

For some, viewing the shadow is pure curiosity, while others may not think twice about an eclipse. Then there are those who plan their lives around being within the path of totality. These “shadow chasers” travel with purpose,to experience the moment over and over again, forming bonds and friendships along the way.

Chris and Shirelle Claggett are two such shadow chasers. They experienced total darkness with the 2017 eclipse in Imperial, Nebraska. “Nothing makes you realize how small you really are in comparison to the universe like when you experience a total eclipse,” said Shirelle. In that moment, the couple began their plans for this year’s event with family members in Austin, Texas. Because Texas weather had its own ideas, the Claggetts learned from fellow travelers that Russellville had a clear view and the family headed northwest. The Claggetts are already making plans for the next eclipse in 2044.

Matt Murphy, along with his wife Elizabeth Ericson and two daughters Keara (16) and Cat (11), experienced total darkness in the 2017 eclipse in the middle of Wyoming. The family traveled to Portland last year to see an annular eclipse. This year’s eclipse marked the third for the family. They, too, altered plans and rented a car to head to Russellville. “What a great excuse to travel,” said Elizabeth, who plans the family excursions. “After our first experience, we all knew we would be planning trips around eclipses whenever it is possible; so, I guess you could call us shadow chasers,” said Matt.

Both Matt and Elizabeth are STEM and science teachers at American Academy and love all things to do with astronomy.


Close-up of the solar prominences seen during the eclipse along with the corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere seen during the April 8 total solar eclipse.


By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of Mira Brand



Posted in ,


Recent Stories