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For The New York Metro Area, A Chance To See A Rare 'Occultation'

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

People in the New York City metropolitan area — including parts of New Jersey and Connecticut — will be able to see one the brightest stars in the night sky blink.

In scientific terms, Regulus, the brightest star of the constellation Leo, will be occulted by an asteroid just after 2:05 a.m. ET on Thursday.

As Space.com reports, this is an exceedingly rare event:

"Calculations show that the roughly 67-mile-wide (108 kilometers) path of the asteroid's shadow will move on a southeast-to-northwest trajectory and will extend from New York City — as well as adjacent western and central Long Island, a slice of northeast New Jersey and part of southwestern Connecticut — up to Oswego in New York State. The visibility region extends approximately northwest across the length of Ontario that includes Belleville and North Bay, and continues up to the Hudson Bay shore of Manitoba.

"This will be the very first time in history that an occultation of such an obvious naked-eye star will be evident over such a large, heavily populated area. An estimated 20 million people live within the predicted track of the asteroid's shadow."

There is one problem though: Clouds are threatening to put a damper on things. Scientific American reports:

"'They're forecasting about 90 percent cloud-cover, with a 65 percent chance of rain,' says astronomer Bob Berman, who will co-host a live Webcast of the event hosted by the Slooh Space Camera. 'That's pretty dismal.' In fact, the weather is so bad that Steve Preston, an observer with theInternational Occultation Timing Association (IOTA), which has been anticipating this event for about 10 years, is sitting the night out. 'I was going to fly to Albany, but I changed my mind yesterday and bailed on my plans. I hope I made the wrong decision,' he says, adding that a break in the clouds could give some viewers a chance to see the occultation."

If you're still game, here's NASA's instructional video on how to watch:

And this is where Slooh will live stream the event.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

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