Monday, March 17, 2014
Watch the Bright Star Regulus Blink Out on March 20 2014.
On the Morning of March 20, just after 2:00 am EDT people in a narrow strip of land that runs across New York (the city and the state) and through Canada will see something amazing.
They will see a bright star wink out for 14 seconds.
At this time the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo (and the handle of the Sickle of Leo) will be occulted (that is covered up briefly) by the asteroid Erigone.
This sort of event is incredibly rare, even more so to have it occur over a highly populated area. While occultations of bright stars by the Moon occurs moderately often, asteroids are so small from our point of view the chances that a bright star will be covered is extremely small (but the star is a point to us, so even the tiny apparent diameter of the asteroid can completely cover it).
So it is well worth watching, even if it is in the small hours of the morning, you don't even need any special equipment, just your eyes.
This is a great time to get involved in some citizen science. By carefully timing the disappearance and appearance of the asteroid, you can help to determine its size and shape more accurately. See this page from the International Occultation Timing Association about how you can join this citizen science effort (and a host of helpful links).
Here's an interactive map of the path of the occultation. Another map of the path, and a good article from Sky and Telescope.