Friday, October 24, 2014

Love Under the Stars (Again!)

Astronomy Israel notches another proposal as Ben Waldhaus proposed to his bride-to-be, Joy, on the night of August 31. Joy is from France and enjoys the songs of Edith Piaf, so we had a little musical interlude of her songs during and after Ben's proposal.

Here is the couple pictured below just after Ben proposed. My bad for taking so long to post the news and wish the couple a big Mazal Tov!

Ben Waldhaus proposes to Joy on a star tour on August 31, 2014

Partial Solar Eclipse of October 23, 2014

The partial solar eclipse on October 23, 2014 was not visible from Israel. :'(  But observers in the US had a good view. My good friend Linda in Iowa sent me this unusual photo of the partially eclipsed sun reflected in her window. The sun is still too bright in the direct image to be captured properly. It is overexposed, hiding the notch to the lower left. The image reflected in the window is dim enough for the total disk of the eclipsed sun to be seen. Nice job, Linda!

Partially eclipsed sun, seen from Iowa on October 23, 2014

Full Moon Wins the Battle of The Perseids

The full moon totally dominated the sky on the peak of the Perseids meteor shower this August. We saw only about three meteors over a span of several hours, instead of the usual 60-90 per hour. Lesson learned. The full moon always wins the battle with the meteor shower.

The Orionids, which peaked this week on October 21-22, was very weak on the peak night. We saw only a handful of shower members, instead of the usual 20 or so per hour. But the nights of the 16th and 23rd of October, well before and just after the peak, were very active. I didn't keep count but we were amazed by many bright and frequent members of the shower over the course of star tours on both nights. And that is the marvel of meteor showers. They keep their own counsel and do their own thing.

Meteors on a meteor shower night

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Perseids Meteor Shower Star Party 2014 in Mitzpe Ramon

The Perseids meteor shower peaks on Monday night August 11/Tueday morning August 12 this year. On a good year upwards of 100 meteors per hour can be seen. 2014, however, is not a good year since this date coincides with a nearly full moon that will be in the sky all night, making dimmer members of the shower difficult to see. Because of this, Mitzpe Ramon decided not to hold the town's usual Perseids Star Party which usually attracts over 9,000 people.
After much back-and-forth deliberation and some phone calls from people who asked me to have a star party, I have decided to continue my tradition of hosting my own star party in Mitzpe Ramon on Monday night August 11 starting at 9:00PM. Only the brighter members of the meteor shower that outshine the moon will be visible, but it should still be a memorable event.

I will have telescopes, giant binoculars and chairs set up at a location where you can camp for the night. I will start my star tour presentation at 9:30PM and continue remarks throughout the night. Bring binoculars, camp mats, and sleeping bags to stay comfortable at night, especially if you want to stay the night. This location has no water or bathroom facilities (other than the great outdoors), so plan accordingly. And remember that the desert is always cold at night, even on the summer.

I will be located at an easy to find camp ground above and behind Mitzpe Ramon.

Enter Mitzpe Ramon at the main entrance at the traffic circle/round about on Route 40. You are on Ben Gurion Boulevard. Continue through town on that street and on behind town on a narrow road into the dark. You will pass Silent Arrow on your right, then the turn off to the Alpaca Farm and the Field School. Continue going straight for about 1 km. You will see a forest on your left. Just past a yellow sign on the right that asks you to dim your lights for the Observatory, you turn left onto a short dirt road and go around the forest. I will be set up on the plateau about 100 yards down. If you come to the end of the road at the Observatory, you went too far. Turn around (carefully) and go back about 1/4 of a mile.

What: Perseids Star Party 2014 in Mitzpe Ramon
When: August 11, 2014, Monday night
Where: Mitzpe Ramon (See map above)
Time: 9:00pm
Cost: 50nis/person; no charge under 8 years old
Contact: machefsky at gmail dot com
Phone: 052-544-9789
Reservations recommended

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May Camelopardalids - A New Meteor Shower

A new meteor shower may be in the offing at the end of May. Predicted to peak the night of May 23 and early morning May 24, this new shower is the result of the earth's encountering the orbit of periodic comet 209P/LINEAR. 

While the US and Canada are in the best position to see the peak of the shower, it should be visible from anywhere in the northern hemisphere. As with all ephemeral astronomical events, we won't know for sure what it is like until it happens. The only way to know is go out and watch. Some astronomers are predicting a meteor storm, where over 1,000 meteors per hour could be seen. 

Meteor showers are named for the constellation from which they appear to radiate: the point in the sky where all of their trails would converge if drawn backwards. In our case, this is the ancient constellation Camelopardalis, located near the North Star, named for a mythical camel/leopard chimera. Today it is just called The Giraffe. You don't need to look at or even near the radiant to see shower members. They can appear anywhere in the sky. Just keep on lookin' up!

According to models the best time to observe the peak will be early in the morning of May 24, close to sunrise, but while it is still fully dark. Unfortunately for us, this is a Shabbat morning so we won't be doing any observing. But do let us know what you see if you are out for the event.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Aurora Alert for April 1 and 2

A powerful X-flare emitted by the sun on March 29 is scheduled to give earth a glancing blow on the nights of April 1 and 2. There is a 60% chance of auroras being produced by it, according to These auroras should only be visible from higher latitudes, so Israel will probably not experience any. Still, it's worth going outside to check. We will!

Here is a short video of the X-flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME) as recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). 

March 29, Solar X-flare by NASA SDO


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