Chasing Shadows for Planetary Science

by Michael Wright

Ted Blank

Credit: Ted Blank

On March 20, 2014 at approximately 2:06 a.m. EDT the shadow of 163 Erigone cast by Regulus will race across the New York metropolitan area on its way to Ontario.  If skies are clear, observers within the shadows path will see Regulus disappear for up to 14 seconds.   Never before will so many people have the opportunity to witness an asteroid occultation of a star with their naked eyes.

Ted Blank of the International Occultation Timing Association will present Chasing Shadows for Planetary Science at AAAP’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.   Ted will not only tell us how and where to observe the occultation; he will tell us how we can contribute to science by timing the event with any camera able to record video.  Princeton is a short drive outside the shadow path so amateur astronomers could discover moons of 163 Erigone by timing the event from New Jersey.  As usual, the lecture will begin at 8:00 p.m. in Peyton Hall, 4 Ivy Lane, Princeton followed by a business meeting.

Ted Blank is a member of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA), a group of professional and amateur astronomers collaborating to promote scientific research by recording and analyzing the occultations of stars by asteroids and the Moon. He is the current President of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society and is in his fourth year as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. He enjoys Sidewalk Astronomy and public outreach, chasing the shadows of asteroids and observing from dark places with friends.


Predicted path of the asteroid shadow. Shortly after 2:05 am EDT on March 20, 2014, observers between the red lines have the best chance of seeing the bright star Regulus temporarily disappear as asteroid (163) Erigone passes in front of it. See the IOTA website ( for a more detailed plotting. Credit: IOTA

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