Mother Nature Spoils Rare Asteroid Eclipse of Regulus Star

Mar 20, 2014 09:23 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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A large asteroid eclipsed a bright star in the sky earlier today, but many people couldn't see the rare celestial event due to Mother Nature.

Some people located in North America, who decided to stay up or wake up early to see asteroid 163 Erigone eclipse the star Regulus, got clouds and rain instead.

"It's miserable," astronomer Bob Berman said during Slooh's Space Camera webcast of the event, according to SPACE.com. "It's absolutely miserable. The weather is as bad as it possibly could be. It's really a double shame because it's been crystal clear for days. Isn't that the way it goes?"

The asteroid, which is around the size of Rhode Island, eclipsed Regulus, which is the 22nd brightest star in the sky. Erigone eclipsed Regulus for as much as 14 seconds in the constellation Leo.

The eclipse could be seen from approximately 100-mile path north and west of New York City, according to SPACE.com.

Officials from the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum were going to let New Yorkers try and see the asteroid from the U.S.S. Intrepid, but had to cancel the event when it became clear the weather was going to ruin the viewing.

"Folks have been scattered up and down the path from the New York City area on into Canada," Ted Blank, of the International Occultation Timing Association, said during a webcast, according to SPACE.com. "Everybody was hoping against hope that this front would speed up and clear out in time, but at the moment, I haven't seen any sign that anybody got any positive occultation observations."

A group of professional astronomers from the group "Astronomers on Tap," visited a number of NYC bars to make people aware that the 45-mile-wide asteroid would be blocking Regulus as well.

Experts confirmed that 163 Erigone is approximately 100 million miles from Earth in an orbit around the sun between Jupiter and Mars. Astronomers were hoping to learn more and analyze Erigone during the eclipse.

"By having people along the occultation path and timing exactly when that happens, we find out not just the shape of the asteroid, but whether it might have a little companion," Berman said. "We already know of cases where an asteroid is a twosome, where they travel through space with a little companion. So, it was very important astronomy that was being attempted."

The asteroid is not considered a near-Earth asteroid. 

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