Today, a total solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. Despite the vast amount of hype surrounding the event, total solar eclipses actually aren’t all that rare, occurring roughly about once every year and a half. Of course, they’re not all visible from everywhere, and that’s why we’re seeing the hype we’re seeing here in the US. The last total solar eclipse visible from anywhere in the US was back in 1991, and the only US location you could see that from was Hawaii.
It might not surprise you to learn, then, that because of eclipses sort of regularity, there are people who travel around the globe to catch sight of the phenomenon as often as they can. They call themselves, appropriately enough, eclipse chasers, and many of them also have an interest in astronomy. While they might not have the formal credentials to work for, say, NASA (although many of them do!) they still spend a good chunk of their free time studying eclipses and trying to figure out ways to get to see them.
You know, just like how some people spend a lot of their free time reading science fiction and trying to figure out how to get to various science fiction conventions. Or how some people spend their free time developing costumes and trying to figure out how to get to locations where cosplay is encouraged. Basically, these eclipse chasers are fans, in much the same way that Trekkies, Cheeseheads, and Beliebers are.
Naturally, these different fan groups, by and large, have pretty different demographics and I don’t mean to suggest that they’re interchangeable. But at the root, fans get together and become fans so they can share their interest with others who have that same interest. Whether it’s Star Trek, the Packers, Justin Bieber, or solar eclipses. They each have some interest that they love, and love sharing with others. They get together when they can to celebrate that, even if it’s only once every eighteen months.
The point I’m making is that, while it’s easy to point to Star Wars or Harry Potter and see a fan base that involves fictional characters and a huge commercial licensing steamroller, or a small indie band that’s only known by locals because they haven’t signed a recording contract yet, people can be fans of just about anything. And while eclipse chasers don’t regularly get the headlines that Star Wars fans do, they’re still a valid fan community in exactly the same way that any other fan group is.