NEW YORK - Hey New Yorkers! If you're out at the bars late tonight, you might want to check out a very rare cosmic treat happening above the Big Apple. An asteroid the size of Rhode Island will pass in front of one of the brightest stars in the night sky during the wee hours of tomorrow morning (March 20), and some astronomers are taking to NYC's bars to spread the word.
The 45-mile-wide (72 kilometers) asteroid 163 Erigone will eclipse the star Regulus after midnight on Thursday. The giant space rock will briefly blot out the star for observers in part of North America for a few seconds starting at around 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT). Weather permitting, Regulus' wink will be visible for skywatchers in about a 100-mile wide path north and west of New York City, but anyone with an Internet connection should be able to watch the cosmic show as well. The online Slooh Space Camera will host a live Regulus eclipse webcast, and you can watch the broadcast on Space.com or directly through the Slooh website.
Interested night owls in New York will have the chance to check out the Regulus eclipse (technically called an "occultation") with a few different events hosted around the city. While the weather forecast looks somewhat terrible, a few events are still rain or shine. Astronomy On Tap — a group of professional astronomers who present about the cosmos at bars and other venues — will dispatch members to bars around New York City for the night. The astronomers will be on hand to take barflies outside once the eclipse begins and answer any burning cosmic questions people might have in a bar at 2 a.m. (Thanks to Gothamist for alerting us to this cool event.) [Rare Asteroid Eclipse of Star Regulus: A Photo Guide]
The Astronomy on Tap bars of choice are:
- Manhattan — Upper West Side: Ding Dong Lounge (Columbus Ave btwn 105 & 106)
- Manhattan — West Village: Art Bar (8th Ave between Horatio & Jane)
- Brooklyn — Park Slope: Pacific Standard (4th Ave between St. Marks and Bergen)
- Brooklyn — Prospect Heights: Way Station (Washington Ave between Prospect and St. Marks)
- Queens — TBD
Space fans can also watch the rare occultation from the deck of the Intrepid aircraft carrier. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (which is also the home to NASA's space shuttle Enterprise) is hosting a viewing of the event with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York from midnight until 2:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday.
While observers won't be able to see the asteroid itself, those looking skyward from the viewing area should be able to see Regulus wink for at least 14 seconds, so long as clouds or rain don't spoil the show.
Editor's note: If you snap a great photo of rare asteroid occultation of the star Regulus, or any other night sky view, and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery please send comments and images to managing editor Tariq Malik at: firstname.lastname@example.org.