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One of the brightest stars in the sky will vanish next week

Published Dec 8th, 2023 5:06PM EST
Image: NASA, ESA, and E. Wheatley (STScI)

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One of the most famous stars in the night sky will vanish for 12 seconds during an ultra-rare eclipse as asteroid 319 Leona passes in front of it. The event is set to happen on December 12, and the star Betelgeuse will appear to “blink out” of existence for a short time when the asteroid passes in front of it.

Betelgeuse is usually the 10th brightest star in the night sky, making it an iconic image for skywatchers. The eclipse is rare and will be quite the spectacle for skywatchers. But astronomers also say it will finally give us a chance to create a map of Betelgeuse’s surface, which could help us better understand the star and its quirky behavior.

It is, of course, extremely unusual for a star of Betelgeuse’s caliber to ever be eclipsed by anything. As such, skywatchers will likely want to take advantage of this opportunity. Unfortunately, the rare eclipse of Betelgeuse will only be viewable by a limited number of skywatchers in the right position to see it.

According to The International Occultation Timing Association, the path of the eclipse – which will include a beautiful ring of fire in the main path – will spread across Asia and southern Europe. The short event will only be visible in a small path, though, so unless you plan on traveling, you’ll likely miss the main event.

Luckily, those who want to see the rare eclipse of Betelgeuse but aren’t within the path will be able to take advantage of virtual events surrounding the eclipse. The Virtual Telescope Project will have a livestream for the event, and it will begin at 8:00 p.m. EST on December 11. The occultation is expected to take place at 8:17 p.m. EST, so you’ll need to tune in quickly when it starts. That time could shift, though, as astronomers work to refine the orbit of 319 Leona.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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