A massive star called Betelgeuse will be briefly obscured by an asteroid Monday night


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This image made with the Hubble Space Telescope and released by NASA on Aug. 10, 2020, shows the star Alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, a red supergiant that is about 700 million light years from Earth.

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This image made with the Hubble Space Telescope and released by NASA on Aug. 10, 2020, shows the star Alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, a red supergiant that is about 700 million light years from Earth.

AP

It may not be your typical eclipse, but a celestial event expected to occur for a fleeting few moments this week may still have you star-struck.

An asteroid is slated to pass in front of the star Betelgeuse and obscure it Monday night in an event known to astronomers as an occultation.

Experts estimate the rare event will only occur for as many as 15 seconds, according to Space.com.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant located roughly 700 light-years from Earth and forms part of the constellation Orion. At 10 million years old, Betelgeuse is significantly younger than our sun, but it’s also about 700 times larger and 7,500 to 14,000 times brighter.

The asteroid 319 Leona is nearly 50 kilometers wide and orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers say the occultation is more than a mere sight to behold and could actually provide some new insights into both Betelgeuse and Leona.

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“This kind of occultations are very useful to constrain the shape of the asteroid involved,” Gianluca Masi, director of the Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project, said in a statement. “Here, we hope to even investigate the surface of the involved star, too: Betelgeuse.”

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Sky & Telescope reports that scientists may also be able to use the occultation to map the star’s “strangely large convective cells,” which enable it to brighten and dim for months on end.

Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! An Outer Space SUPERNOVA

Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! An Outer Space SUPERNOVA

The occultation will be visible in a narrow strip of locations across the world, including Miami and the Florida Keys as well as parts of Mexico, according to a map on the website OccultWatcher.

Viewers in parts of Europe and Asia should also be able to see the event, which is expected to occur at 8:16 EST.

For sky-watchers located elsewhere, the Virtual Telescope Project plans to host a livestream.