One of the largest and brightest stars in the night sky will disappear in an instant when an asteroid passes in front of it, causing a unique eclipse.

The rare and fleeting spectacle, which will be visible from late Monday to early Tuesday, will be visible to millions of people along a narrow stretch stretching from Tajikistan and Armenia in Central Asia, through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain, to Miami and the Florida Keys and parts of Mexico.

The star that will disappear in an instant is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation Orion.

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The asteroid is (319) Leona, a slowly rotating elongated space rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers hope to learn more about Betelgeuse and Leona through the eclipse, which is expected to last no more than 15 seconds.

Observing an eclipse of a much fainter star triggered by Leona in September, a Spanish team recently calculated that the asteroid is about 55 kilometers wide and about 80 kilometers long.

It remains unclear whether the asteroid will hide the entire star, causing a total eclipse. Scientists speculate that the eclipse may rather be of the "Ring of Fire" type.

"Which scenario we'll see is uncertain, which makes the event even more intriguing," said astronomer Gianluca Massa, founder of the Virtual Telescope project, which will provide a live webcast from Italy.

Betelgeuse is located about 700 light-years away and is visible to the naked eye. Binoculars and small telescopes will enhance the view.

The star Betelgeuse is a thousand times brighter than our sun and about 700 times larger. It is so huge that if it replaced the Sun, it would extend beyond Jupiter, according to NASA.

Betelgeuse, with its 10 million years, is significantly younger than the Sun at 4.6 billion years.

Scientists expect Betelgeuse to have a short lifespan, given its mass and the rate at which it burns its material.

After countless centuries of variable brightness, Betelgeuse dimmed sharply in 2019, when a huge chunk of surface material was ejected into space. The formed cloud of dust temporarily blocked the light of the star, which later became visible again with its former brightness.

Scientists expect Betelgeuse to become a supernova in a violent explosion within 100,000 years.

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