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Monday, December 4, 2023

Chanukah Star Tour Adventure

 With Chanukah🕎  approaching the Festival of Light will not affect dark skies in Mitzpe Ramon. The candles will blaze bright but we will still have our dark skies. Take a little time to star gaze with Astronomy Israel and /Ira Machefsky, the Starman of Mitzpe Ramon™ 💫. We will have star tours at 6:30pm every night of Chanukah (7:30pm on motzei Shabbat), December 9-18.

This is the week of the peak of the Geminids meteor shower which puts on the best display of the year. Many shooting stars explode like fireworks at the end of their fall. Perfect for Chanukah. See if you can count at least 8! Peak night of the meteor shower is December 14-15 but is usually well seen throughout the week. Also featured will be the best telescopic views of Jupiter and Saturn. Come see Saturn before the rings turn edge on next year and disappear for 18 months. 😢

Star tours are suitable for all ages and are handicap friendly.

To get information and book a tour: 

Star tour shenanigans will include light saber duels (what could be better on Chanukah), 2100 year old Chasmanoyim chocolate Chanukah gelt and a specially minted double flag Astronomy Israel/Israeli flag commemorative pin. (One per family until stock runs out.)


To get information and book a tour:

Monday, August 7, 2023

Perseids Meteor Shower 2023

The peak of the Perseids Meteor Shower will occur on the nights of August 12 and August 13, 2023. The predicted peak is between the hours of 10:00AM IDT - 5:00PM IDT on August 13, daylight hours in Israel. So the night of Saturday August 12 and Sunday August 13 are equally good for peak observing.

For people who can't make it on peak nights I always am asked what will the shower look like on nights either side of the peak. The Perseids has a very sharp peak on a single night of 100 meteors per hour. On nights off peak the rate quickly drops to 1/10th that, around 10 meteors per hour. (See graph below.)

The x-axis shows dates of the month, the y-axis shows zenithal hourly rate (ZHR), which is the theoretical maximum number of meteors you can see per hour lying on the ground, staring straight up, and looking in all directions simultaneously. This chart gives the average numbers from 2014-2020. As you can see, the numbers fall off rapidly away from the peak. Nevertheless, experience shows that the Perseids do not disappoint around 5 days before and 5 days after the peak, while not putting on as good a show as the peak night.

Best viewing is always after midnight, and this year there is a very tiny, waning crescent moon rising at 2:00AM on the 12th and about an hour later on each succeeding night, so it will not pose a problem.

The Perseids has become a phenomenon and this year there are many programs, star parties, and star shows in and around Mitzpe Ramon. As they are mostly in Hebrew search for them on social media in that language or search engines in that language.

I will have my own star tours the week before and after the peak, but not on the night of the peak,  August 12. In past years over 30,000 people have descended on Mitzpe Ramon for the peak night. Traffic can be jammed up on Rt 40 all the way back to Be'er Sheva. So, check Waze before heading down to see what your drive time will be. Because of all the people, cars, noise, camp fires in and around town I choose not to go out on the night of the 12th. I will be having my star tours on all other nights except Shabbat. To get information and book a tour: 

If you do not already have accomodations reserved you will probably find them all sold out. Check for them on this web site at the Places To Stay tab.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Conjunction of Saturn and Venus

Saturn and Venus will be in close conjunction with each other on the night of Sunday January 22 and the rest of that week. Conjunction appears when the planets are closest together in our line of sight.

On January 22 the two planets are just 1/3° apart at sunset, less than the diameter of a full moon. On that night Saturn will be just above Venus. By the next night, January 23, Venus will have moved upward and will be above Saturn. It will be joined on the 23rd by a beautiful new moon crescent, making a spectacular tableau.

To see them look westward toward the sunset point starting at 5:30pm. Venus will be unmistakable in its brightness with Saturn very close by but much dimmer. Binoculars will help, but not necessary. You will only be able to see the rings of Saturn with a telescope, otherwise they are just points of light.  Y 6:30pm they will have set and disappeared below the horizon, so you just have a 1 hour time window to view the beautiful sight.

During the conjunction you have the opportunity to see all 4 of the naked eye planets. To the upper left of Venus and Saturn is bright Jupiter, almost as bright as Venus and nearly overhead is bright red Mars. Mercury will not be visible, so 4 out of the 5 naked eye planets at once, not too shabby.

Saturn and Venus on January 22, 2023

Saturn and Venus on January 23, 2023

My poor smartphone photo of Saturn and Venus on Saturday night January 21 about 6:15pm, setting over Machtesh Ramon. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Tau Herculids Meteor Storm Watch May 30-31

Star trippers! Keep an eye out the night of May 30-31, Monday night through Tuesday morning. A heretofore unseen stream of meteors may create a meteor STORM, not shower during which dozens of meterors per SECOND may pummel earth. Or not. No one knows for sure until the earth crosses the path of Comet SW3. The peak, if it occurs, is expected at 8:00am IDT the morning of May 31, during daylight hours. (1:00am EDT ON May 31 in the US). So the most favorable time to view in Israel is closest to dawn the morning of May 31, before dawn's light. Good luck to the world on this event!

More details here: Tau Herculids Meteor Storm

Monday, May 16, 2022

Supermoon and lunar eclipse create King Tides on Sea of Galilee

Tonight's Supermoon (full moon at perigee, closest to earth) combined with a lunar eclipse (sun and moon in exact conjunction) create King Tides on Yam Kinerret (Sea of Galilee).


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