Projected path of solar eclipse may be WRONG! - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Projected path of solar eclipse may be WRONG!

Will you be in position to see this? Maybe, maybe not. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Will you be in position to see this? Maybe, maybe not. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(RNN) - Do your plans for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse include being in the path of totality?

If so, make sure you know where the path of totality is. That might be difficult to do because, well, its exact location isn't known.

Oh sure, there are plenty of maps showing where it will be, including one below. But can you trust them?

According to someone with a title that makes it sound like he would know something, you can’t.

Mike Kentrianakis, the solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society, told the Kansas City Star that all those maps are misleading.

Yes, even this one:

The path is right, it's just the width of that path that is the problem.

Kentrianakis said the 70-mile wide strip could be only 69 miles wide, and if you're at the edge of the projected path, you may miss out on totality. The Star also sources a NASA map-maker and a French engineer who concur that the maps are wrong, but differ as to how much.

Why is this? Well, as it turns out, we don't know how big the sun is, and that plays a significant role in determining whether the moon will cover its entire surface.

The sun's brightness causes all sorts of problems with determining its size, and different satellites that take pictures of the sun in different color spectrums give different measurements. And unlike the surface of Earth and the surface of the moon, which are solids, the sun is a "roiling ball of gas."

Altitudes on Earth also play a role, they say, making the path of totality different widths in different places.

So, if your plans involve being right at the edge of totality you should probably plan to go at least a couple of miles toward the center line just ensure you get to see totality, just in case these projections are also wrong.

You were only going to see it for a second or two, anyway, and it's worth driving a few miles to extend that time to a couple of minutes.

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