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The 'star wink' explained: Behind one of the brightest asteroid occultation

You're not drunk, the stars really are going to wink at you early Thursday morning.

The asteroid Erigone will eclipse the star Regulus (one of the sky's brightest stars) at 2:06 a.m. on Thursday, causing the star to vanish from view for about 14 seconds. This "asteroid occultation" is one of the brightest ever predicted, according to Alan MacRobert at Sky & Telescope. In fact, it will be so bright that you won't even need a telescope, it will be visible from the naked eye--if the weather cooperates, that is.

"The cool thing about this is if enough people observe this and time when the star disappears and reappears ... then you can actually reconstruct a silhouette of an asteroid that gives it a size and shape," MacRobert said. "There is no other way to do this precisely other than send a spacecraft."

A guide to the sky wink is below.

Regulus in the night sky

The view of Regulus looking southwest. It's 90
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sky & Telescope

The view of Regulus looking southwest. It's 90 degrees to the right of the moon.

Leo's sickle

Regulus' immediate neighbors. Notice how bright Regulus is
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sky & Telescope

Regulus' immediate neighbors. Notice how bright Regulus is normally.

Invisiblity

The projected view during the “asteroid occultation.” Regulus
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sky & Telescope

The projected view during the “asteroid occultation.” Regulus will be invisible.

Where to see it

A map to where the occultation is best
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sky & Telescope

A map to where the occultation is best visible. New York is right in the center of the path! Of course, that’s if the weather cooperates.

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