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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I Am Become the Minister of Astronomy

Thank you, Bibi, for making me the Minister of Astronomy. Now where's my chauffeured car?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Quadrantids Meteor Shower Peaks January 3-4

“Celebrate the start of the New Year as the Quadrantid meteor shower peaks late evening of January 3 into the predawn hours of January 4. Considered one of nature’s best fireworks shows, this New Year’s shower is known for fireballs with unusual colors and brightness.

With the moon being mostly out of the sky at peak time this year, skywatchers under dark skies with no light pollution can expect as many as 60 to 100 meteors per hour at peak time.

The Quadrantids get their name from the obsolete constellation – Quadrans Muralis – they appear to radiate out from in the northeast sky just off the Big Dipper’s handle.”

Friday, December 6, 2019

Geminid Meteor Shower peaks Thursday, Friday, Saturday December 12-14

The Geminid Meteor Shower is usually the best of the year, although it falls out during the cold winter months which makes it less popular than summer's Pereseid meteor Shower. This year it also falls just after the night of the full moon on December 12 whose bright light makes all but the brightest Geminid members less visible. Peak numbers are usually around 88/hour but this year because of the bright moon the numbers will be more around 20/hour or less. Nonetheless, this shower is famous for bright, colorful, exploding fireballs so it is worth going out to look for.

The Geminid meteors originate from asteroid 3200 Phaeton as debris from it burns up from the heat of friction  in the earth's atmosphere. If you draw a line back from the path of the meteors they appear to originate from the constellation Gemini, hence the name. But they don't necessarily start there, and the best way to observe them is to just lie down on your back and look straight up at the sky. No optical aid is required or even desirable to see meteors. Just use your eyes.

The "radiant" of the Geminid meteors in the constellation Gemini. while the meteors appear to "radiate" of diverge from that point in the sky they don't necessarily start there and can be seen anywhere in the sky, Draw a line back from the path of the meteors and the point in the sky at which they converge is the radiant. Not all meteors will be shower members. If their path doesn't converge to the radiant they are just randoms or sporadic meteors that are seen every night,

The radiant of the shower in the constellation Gemini rises around 9:00pm local time in the northeast, two bright, nearly identical stars that are hard to miss. That's the best time to start watching. Peak hours are after 2:00am local time, but the nearly full moon interferes with seeing all but the brightest members of the shower. There are usually meteors from the shower that begin to become visible about a week before and a week after the shower. A dark sky is best for viewing meteor showers, although the nearly full moon will make all skies bright.

Come join us for a meteor shower star tour every night except Friday, December 13.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rare Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter on November 24

November 24 - A rare conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. A conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible on November 24. The two bright planets will be visible within 1.4 degrees of each other in the evening sky. Look for this impressive sight in the western sky just after sunset.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Rare Transit of Mercury, November 11, 2019

A rare transit of Mercury will occur on November 11. The closest planet to the sun will be seen crossing the sun as a small black dot, the planet seen in silhouette, as it passes from the evening sky into the morning sky.

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth on May 9, 2016 in a transit which lasted seven-and-a-half-hours. On Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, Mercury will make another transit, visible from the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein via AP

In Israel the transit will begin at 2:35pm IST. In the US the transit will begin at 7:35am EST. The entire transit will last 5 1/2 hours, so the sun will set in Israel as the transit is still in progress. The next transit isn't until 2032 and North America won't see another transit until 2049. There are only 13 or 14 Mercury transits visible from earth per century.

This should make for some wonderful photo opportunities, especially as the sun sets, IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT. You should never stare at the sun with your naked eye without proper solar filters. You can damage your sight permanently. If you have solar eclipse gasses you can put them on to try viewing the transit with your naked eye, but Mercury will be a very tiny dot and probably not visible without optical aid.  Don't put binoculars up to your eyes with solar filter glasses on. The sun will melt them instantly and shine into your eye. All proper solar filters need to be in front of the main optics to block the light of the sun from entering. The same goes for your cameras. Without a proper solar filter in front of your lens you will burn out the camera's sensor. It will take a minimum of a 300mm lens to show the silhouette of Mercury against the sun. Bigger is better. As the sun sets with Mercury in transit it should make for some special photos from Machtesh Ramon.

Astronomy Israel (me) is setting up solar telescopes for viewing at Har Gamal in Mitzpe Ramon. We should be out by 3:00pm. Just put "Har Gamal Mitzpe Ramon" in Google Maps or Waze to find us. No charge for this event. You are welcome to join us for a star tour at 9:30pm Monday night. To get all information and book a tour click:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Milky Way Trail in Mitzpe Ramon

I want to make people aware of a little-known, new special attraction in Mitzpe Ramon. I’ve lived here almost 10 years and didn’t discover it until last night.

There is a new paved, serpentine trail that leads from the KKL forest at the entrance to town to the edge of the Machtesh. It’s roughly 1/4 mile long. What’s special is that it’s paved with iridescent stones that glow in the dark. It’s like walking down the Milky Way to the crater’s edge. At the end there’s a surprise ( I won’t spoil it by telling you) and a great view of the Machtesh below. This effect is obviously only visible in the dark, but it looks like a nice walk in the day time. Benches and explanations posted along the way. You don’t need a flashlight but useful if you want to look around.

This would be a great jaunt on the way to Eilat or a must experience if you’re staying in Mitzpe Ramon. Truly a wonder. Handicap accessible and strollers and carriages can be pushed on the somewhat pebbly surface.

The Milky Way Trail at night in Mitzpe Ramon
The Milky Way Trail is located at the entrance to the Sculpture Garden. At the entrance sign bear hard right into the small parking lot. Don’t go down the gravel road.

Sculpture Garden
Israel National Trail, Mitzpe Ramon
Milky Way Trail Start

/Ira, The Starman of Mitzpe Ramon ✨


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