Ready your telescopes (or computer screens), because tonight (actually around 2:05 EDT Thursday morning) an asteroid the size of Rhode Island will eclipse one of the brightest stars in the sky.
This rare celestial event will only be visible to a small swath of North America -- New York City and the surrounding countryside -- but the occultation will also be livecast by the Slooh Space Camera beginning at 1:45 a.m. EDT Thursday.
"In my entire 40 years as a professional astronomer, I've never witnessed a star as bright as Regulus -- Leo's alpha luminary -- being blocked as seen along a populated Earthly path in an easily accessible region," said Slooh astronomer Bob Berman.
"That's what will happen early Thursday morning," Berman added. "It’s hard to describe the excitement of this event. Regulus will vanish, and the constellation Leo will temporarily look totally different for as much as 14 seconds, as seen from New York City and about a 100-mile wide path extending to that city’s north and west."
Researchers say the eclipse will provide valuable information about 163 Erigone, the 45-mile-wide asteroid that orbits our sun as one body of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.