Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our sun. Officially third brightest star in the night sky after Sirius and Canopus, Alpha Centauri is actually a star cluster known as a binary system, consisting of Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri. Proxima is closest at 4.22 light years, Alpha Centauri’s A & B roughly 4.35 light years or 39,900,000,000,000 km. from Earth.
This video speaks for itself – watch and ponder NASA’s warp drive vision of Alpha Centauri in two weeks.
Regulus is considered the 20th or so brightest star visible from Earth. A measly 77 light years away and part of the constellation Leo – Regulas couldn’t be easier to find. With apologies for the late notice – residents of New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia ( assuming clear skies prevail ) bundle up around 2 AM for the Regulus occultation.
Shortly before 2 Am head out and find the moon – extend your arms and voila! – Regulus is the brightest object above your right hand, roughly the same height as the moon and certainly the brightest object in that corner of the sky.
Looking southwest (90° to the right of the Moon) around 2 a.m. EDT on the morning of March 20th. Regulus will appear roughly as high as the Moon. It’s the brightest star in the area; you don’t need to know, or see, the constellations! Click image for larger view.
IOTA / Stellarium / Sky & Telescope
At 2:06 AM EDT asteroid 163 Erigone will pass Regulus – completely blacking it out for 14 seconds. An unprecedented asteroid occultation, never witnessed let alone observed by the naked eye in North America.
If nothing else, remember to look up the next clear night to familiarize yourself with a shining star. Dazzle your friends when pointing out constellation Leo, astound them when identifying Regulus , and tuck that nugget of star power under your belt.