‘Star Wink’ asteroid will eclipse bright star Regulus at 2 a.m. Thursday

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WATCH THE STAR WINK LIVE ABOVE

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Skywatchers, get ready to see a rare vanishing act — and don’t blink.

In the wee hours of Thursday, a 45-mile-wide asteroid will eclipse the brightest star in the Constellation Leo. The asteroid is 163 Erigone in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The star briefly disappearing will be and give the impression of a “Star Wink.”

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This so-called occultation will last no more than 14 seconds, around 2 a.m. EDT. It could be as short as a fraction of a second.

asteroid-occultation-animation

Via Astronomy on Tap

However, according to the PIX11 Weather Center, tonight will most likely have cloudy skies and rainfall in New York, thus making it difficult to spot the fleeting asteroid. 

What makes this unusual is the brightness of Regulus and the potential viewing audience. The eclipse should be visible with the naked eye from New York City and elsewhere along a populated swath in the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada.

Pathofstarwink

New York City will be right on the path of the incoming asteroid’s shadow. (International Occultation Timing Association)

A group of astronomers will gather at different pubs throughout New York City to try catching a sight of the asteroid.

Sky and Telescope has good advice on how to see the celestial event:

If the sky is clear, Regulus will be a cinch for anyone to spot — no astronomy experience required! Around 2 a.m. or a bit before, go out and face the Moon. Extend your arms straight out to your sides. Regulus will be straight above your right hand, roughly as high as the Moon is. It’s the brightest star in that area.