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Island stargazers may witness asteroid block star’s light

Bermuda stargazers could help an international astronomy body track a rare event.

An asteroid is due to block out one of the brightest stars in the sky — and volunteers have been asked to help follow and time its progress.

Astronomers from the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) say the event — when asteroid 163 Erigone passes in front of the star Regulus — is extremely rare.

The association's website said: “Astronomers have been predicting occultations of stars by asteroids for almost 40 years and Regulus is the brightest star to ever be predicted to be occulted by a sizeable asteroid anywhere in the USA.

“So it really is likely to be a once in a lifetime experience for most who live within the path.”

According to experts, the asteroid may block Regulus — the brightest star in the constellation Leo — for up to 14 seconds in the early hours of Thursday.

The event will be visible from parts of the US north east, Ontario in Canada, as well as Bermuda and viewers are likely to be able to see the event if the sky is clear.

But the asteroid's shadow will hit Bermuda first, before racing north west across the Atlantic Ocean.

Anyone interested in viewing the occultation — similar to an eclipse — are being asked to observe and time the event and report some basic observations to the IOTA.

The asteroid is expected to pass in front of Regulus around 3.06am Bermuda time (2.06am ET) on Thursday.

The IOTA has released a map and tips to help observers track the stellar event, as well as guidelines on how to time it.

The organisation said that people who submit their observations will be helping to build knowledge about the asteroid and the night sky.

And it added that even people who check, but fail to see anything unusual, should submit their findings as well.

For more information, visit http://www.occultwatcher.net/regulus-erigone/.

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Published March 18, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm)

Island stargazers may witness asteroid block star’s light

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