Asteroid to black out bright star during once in a lifetime event

An asteroid will pass directly in front of Regulus, one of the brightest stars in our night sky, next Wednesday — briefly blacking out the star in what astronomers are calling a “once in a lifetime” event. Better yet, New York City falls directly within the viewing path which is literally paper-thin on the earths scale. The event is so small, and so brief, that it will only be visible over a sliver of area. And this area happens to encompass millions of people in New York City, Northeast NJ and Long Island.

Late Wednesday Night March 19 (or early Thursday morning March 20) at 2:06am, the asteroid Erigone will very briefly pass in front of Regulus, the first magnitude star which shines bright enough in the sky to be noticeable even in the metropolis of New York City.

The predicted path of the eclipse of Regulus as the asteroid passes in front of it. Image credit: Geoff Hitchcox / IOTA / Google Maps.

The predicted path of the eclipse of Regulus as the asteroid passes in front of it. Image credit: Geoff Hitchcox / IOTA / Google Maps.

Finding the star will be easy. Around the time of the transit, walk outside and face the moon. Extend both arms outward at your sides, and look directly above your right hand. You won’t be able to miss Regulus, which will be brightly shining. Around 2:06am, the asteroid will pass in front of the star, causing to dim or black out completely. The event will only last 7-14 seconds. Asteroids eclipse stars quite frequently, but extremely rarely are they predicted or do they eclipse such bright stars.

For viewing and recording the event, the naked eye will suffice. As mentioned earlier, Regulus is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Watching it dim out won’t take any astronomical expertise or practice. For recording, a telescope will do wonders — but a digital camera or high quality zoom recording camera will make for a permanent memory.

Stay tuned during the next several days for updates on the weather — which could play spoiler in what otherwise would be an astronomical event that not many ever get to experience.

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