Edge of solar eclipse path of totality may slightly shift, experts warn

Edge of solar eclipse path of totality may slightly shift, experts warn


solar eclipse 2024

Your opportunity to see Monday’s eclipse may have just gotten smaller.

A new calculation by John Irwin, a master in eclipse computations, suggests that the solar eclipse’s path of totality — where the moon will completely blot out the sun — is actually 600 yards narrower than the official NASA projections.

This means that if you were planning to watch the eclipse from a place on the edge of the path of totality, you might have an even shorter window.

A new projection on the solar eclipse’s path of totality shrinks the zone where it will be seen by some 600 yards. Google Maps
The edges of the zone of totality for Monday’s total solar eclipse could be 600 yards narrower than previously estimated, based on one expert’s new map.

Some spots will miss out entirely.

Based on this new data, locales that were expected to see the total eclipse for a few seconds — like Rome, New York; Effingham, Illinois; and Montreal’s Cité Jardin park — are now just out of the zone.

The change in the 115-mile-wide, 9,200-mile-long path of totality was first reported by Forbes.

A NASA scientist confirmed that the long-standing official map might not be entirely accurate and advised people right on the edge to travel a mile or so into the zone to guarantee they see the moon completely obscure the sun.

The cause of the discrepancy: disagreements about how big the sun is.

“Calculations that use a slightly larger radius for the size of the sun yield an eclipse path that is slightly narrower,” Dr. Michael Kirk, a research scientist in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told Thrillist Wednesday.

“This difference would only affect cities on the very edge of the path of totality, where blanket predictions are difficult, regardless.

A map showing where the moon’s shadow will cross the US during the 2023 annular solar eclipse and 2024 total solar eclipse. NASA

“A few city blocks one way or the other could mean 20, 10, or zero seconds of totality.”

The zone of totality could also be slightly impacted by “uncertainty in the Earth’s rotation,” Kirk said.

“Traveling towards the center of the path of totality — even a mile or two — will quickly increase the length of totality that people can see.”

Any small nuance in the zone would not affect the vast majority of the estimated 34 million people who are expected to witness the total solar eclipse on Monday.

Many major US cities like Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo are still squarely in the center of the path, and will see nearly 4 minutes of complete darkness.

Southern parts of the US will actually see a slightly widened path of totality if Irwin’s projections are accurate, including San Antonio and Austin, where the Lone State State capitol’s Mckinney Falls State Park is suddenly now narrowly in the zone.

Several hours north from there the zone starts to narrow, squeezing Denton, Texas and Lewisville Lake slightly out of the blackout area.

Everything to know about the 2024 solar eclipse

  • The solar eclipse will take place Monday, April 8, blocking the sun for over 180 million people in its path.
  • The eclipse will expand from Mexico’s Pacific Coast across North America, hitting 15 US states and pulling itself all the way to the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
  • New Yorkers will experience the solar eclipse just after 2 p.m. Monday.
  • A huge explosion on the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection, is anticipated, according to experts. This happens when massive particles from the sun are hurled out into space, explains Ryan French of the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.
  • To avoid serious injury to the eyes, it is necessary to view the event through proper eyewear like eclipse glasses, or a handheld solar viewer, during the partial eclipse phase before and after totality.
  • The next total solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2026, and totality will be visible to those in Greenland, Iceland, Spain, Russia and a small slice of Portugal. 

As the totality zone snakes to the northeast, Effingham, Illinois, and Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Kokomo and Fort Wayne, Indiana, were set to lose a sliver of visibility — as were Canton, Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, according to Forbes.

In New York’s Finger Lake region, the small towns of Penn Yan, Dresden and Romulus were negatively impacted, and the city of Rome was now almost entirely squeezed out of the zone, the projections show.

In Canada, parts of Toronto, Montreal, Drummondville and Lumsden were also losing a piece of the once-in-a-lifetime show in the sky.

Irwin’s collaborator, Luca Quaglia, explained to Forbes that he believes their projection is more precise because they used a more accurate measurement of the sun and moon instead of widely used figures that are based on a calcuations of the sun’s size that has been used since the 1800s.

The new path of totality map shows a significant portion of Rome, New York, will not be able to see the full eclipse. John Irwin

“Measurements and observations in the last decade have demonstrated that [the traditional measurement of the sun] is slightly too small,” said Quaglia, adding “There is evidence that the solar radius has changed over the centuries.”

He also maintained that the jagged edges of the Moon’s topography, which have now been exactly calculated NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, would narrowly impact the path of totality, 

Still, there was no guarantee that the new measurements are completely precise. 

“How far outside the eclipse limits the solar corona ceases to be visible is anyone’s guess,” said Quaglia. “There is no experimental data to back any distance up.”

The longest period of darkness in the zone will be in Torreón, Mexico, where the sun will be blacked out for 4 minutes and 28 seconds.

By the time the eclipse is visible in Lake Placid, New York, the length of totality will have decreased to 3 minutes and 21 seconds.

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