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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lunar Eclipse in Israel, July 16, 2019 - ECLIPSE PARTY TIME!

A partial lunar eclipse will be visible in Israel the night of Tuesday, July 16. Israel is nearly ideally placed for the timing of the eclipse whose partial phase begins at 11:01PM IDT. Maximum partial eclipse is at 12:30AM July 17, when a little over half the moon will be eclipsed. The partial eclipse ends at 1:59AM on July 17.

The moon orbits the earth, moving from west to east in the sky. As it does so on the night of July 16 it passes through the earth's shadow. A little over half the moon will become covered at mid-eclipse.

Astronomy Israel will be having a lunar eclipse party starting at 10:30PM the night of July 16 with special party pricing of 100nis/adult, 75nis/child between 6-12 years old, no charge under 6.

A lunar eclipse occurs only when the moon is full, so it will be very bright and visible from almost anywhere in Israel. (Unfortunately for the Americas, the eclipse will be over before moon rise there so not visible to enthusiasts there. Come to Israel to see it!!) So, unlike many astronomical events that require a dark sky, you will be able to see it from wherever you are. (Do I have to tell you how to find the moon?) Nevertheless, we are having an eclipse party in Mitzpe Ramon beginning our regular star tour at 10:30PM on July 16 instead of  9:30PM, half an hour before the partial phase begins. We will be able to watch the eclipse through our telescopes and binoculars, point out features on the moon visible only through telescopes, and look for the Apollo 11 landing site, only 4 days before the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon of July 20, 1969.

This is the last umbral lunar eclipse, where the moon passes through the dark part of the earth's shadow, until May 26, 2021. All of the four lunar eclipses in 2020 are penumbral eclipses, which are hardly visible even as they occur, so be sure to go out and watch it.

Lunar eclipse timings for Israel, July 16-17, 2019
You can sign-up for the star party at this link:

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

SpaceX to Launch Israeli Moon Lander Beresheet on February 21/22, Thursday Night/Friday Morning

Elon Musk's SpaceX will launch Israeli Moon Lander Beresheet on Thursday February 21 at 8:45PM EST (February 22 at 3:45AM IST, 1:45 GMT February 22) on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. If the mission is successful this will make Israel just the 4th nation to land on the moon after the US, China, and the Former Soviet Union.

Read full details and real-time streaming sites here:

Israel shoots for the Moon with Beresheet lander

Eitan, a volunteer with SpaceIL on tonight's star tour.

Real time location of lunar lander Beresheet and simulation of orbit to the moon:

Highlights of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Total Lunar Eclipse in Israel, January 21, 2019

Early Monday morning, January 21, 2019, a total eclipse of the moon will be visible from Israel and most of the Western Hemisphere. Here are the timings of the eclipse in Israel:

Timings of the January 21, 2019 lunar eclipse. These timings are exact for Tel Aviv but virtually the same throughout the country. 

This eclipse occurs very close to moonset and during dawn. Totality occurs just after moonset so a tiny sliver of the moon remains uneclipsed when the moon sets. Since the eclipse begins close to moonset you will need a very clear western horizon to view the event. Even better would be a high location with a clear horizon. In the East, Jupiter and Venus will be the bright pair of objects rising in the East, almost in conjunction with each other. (Actual conjunction will occur the next day, January 22, when the two planets are closest together in the sky.)

Since the moon will be so close to the horizon, the dense atmosphere may make it hard to see as the eclipse progresses and darkens. Binoculars will be useful in that situation.

The lunar eclipse begins at 4:36AM in Israel, with the moon setting in the Weat. This is an all-sky photo from the SkySafari Pro app.

Timings of the event are pretty close to those in Israel from everywhere in the world in Israel’s time zone which is GMT+2. You can look up your exact time and circumstances of the eclipse here:


Because totality occurs at moonset (6:39am) in Israel a very rare event called a "Selenelion" may be visible. Sunrise is at 6:37am; total eclipsed moon sets at 6:39am. Celestial geometry says the sun and totally eclipsed moon should never be visible simultaneously in the sky, since the moon is eclipsed because it passes through the earth’s shadow with the sun opposite in the sky. But due to refraction caused by the earth’s atmosphere when objects are near the horizon, both the sun and moon appear higher in the sky than they actually are. Thus you can see them both at the same time, the sun rising in the east, the eclipsed moon setting in the west. You must be viewing an eclipse at just this right time, as occurs in Israel and other similar time zones during this eclipse to see a Selenelion. 

Super Full Blood Wolf Moon

You may have read that this full moon (the moon can only be eclipsed when it is full with the earth between the sun and moon) is being called a Super Full Blood Wolf Moon. Kind of scary. In modern times a full moon at perigee, it’s closest approach to earth, has come to be called a Supermoon because it appears larger in the sky. (Actually only about 10% larger than a normal full moon). This is the first of three consecutive full Supermoons in 2019. Every full moon has a name from indigenous cultures and the Native Americans called the first full moon of January the Wolf moon, possibly because the wolves could be heard howling at it in the winter night. Eclipsed moons are frequently called “blood moons” because of the red color they take on when fully eclipsed, hence the name “Super Full Blood Wolf Moon”.

Now for the bad news. Skies are expected to be cloudy throughout Israel the morning of January 21. But you may still be able to see the eclipsed moon peeking out from between the clouds. Good luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Comet 46P/Wirtanen Shines Brightly in December Skies

Comet 46P/Wirtanen, the brightest comet of 2018, puts on a good show in winter skies this month. It is well placed for viewing through most of the night. It should be visible to the naked eye in reasonably dark skies and with even small binoculars or a telescope in even light polluted skies. Below is a finder chart showing the stars and constellations of winter from December 13-17.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen finder chart for December 9-17. The comet is about 4th magnitude and slowly moves through the sky between the Hyades star cluster and the Perseids star cluster December 14-17. It is brightest on December 16, the night before its closest approach to Earth.
Take a look at more photos and information about the comet here:

December 13 is the peak of the Geminids meteor shower, so the sky should also be putting on a good display of meteors for your enjoyment.

Astronomy Israel will be having its usual star tours in Mitzpe Ramon Sunday-Thursday and some Saturday nights throughout the month of December and beyond. Sign up by clicking a "Book Now" button.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Astronomy Projects for Children this Fall

The main spectacle in the night sky this summer and on into winter has been the presence of (at times) all 5 of the naked eye planets in the sky simultaneously. Right now there are “only” 4 as Mercury has moved into the dawn sky, but I can’t remember ever seeing so many naked eye planets simultaneously in all my years of observing. Starting at sunset, around 8:00pm, from West to East, you can see brilliant Venus setting, bright Jupiter high in the sky, Saturn culminating at the Meridian, and brilliant red Mars rising high in the east. The contrasting colors of creamy white Venus setting and red Mars rising are especially striking. See here for photos are more information: 

Since these are all bright naked eye planets all you need is your own eyes to observe them. They will be in the sky through September (all 4) with their slow change with the seasons and their motion around the sun. 

Many projects for children are possible. The night sky is very colorful. See if you can detect the color differences in the planets. It’s one way to identify them. 

The planets also move through the sky as they orbit the sun. The word “planet” in Greek means wanderer. See if you can detect the motion of the planets as they “wander” against the background of “fixed stars” of the constellations of the Zodiac. Using a star map try to identify these constellations and their pictures in the night sky. If you go out regularly you can draw your own star map and trace the path of the planets. See if any stop and move backwards in the sky (from east to west) called retrograde motion. This used to blow the minds of ancient astronomers because it was hard to explain. 

If you have a pair that of binoculars or small telescope you should be able to see some of the 4 (bright) moons of Jupiter. You can watch them change position from night to night as they orbit the planet. A miniature solar system! Try drawing their positions the way Galileo did 408 years ago! He discovered them as the first person to observe the sky with a telescope and record his observations. You can be a 21st century Galileo!

These planets will be in the sky for most of the fall and are the main spectacle of fall nights. 

Finally, in December the Geminids meteor shower peaks on the night of December 13. Quoting from my calendar: “Planning on staying up late (or waking up early) for this one. The Geminids is the "king" of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky. “

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review of the Perseids Meteor Shower Star Party

Well, the Perseids have come and gone for the year. The night was beautifully clear and dark. One of the best I have seen this year. The Alpaca Farm set up a wonderful location for the star party, dark skies and plenty of space to sit or lie down and watch the sky. About 100 people, including children, were in attendance. Ziv lead the Hebrew tour and I led the English tour. We were out from about 8:00pm to 3:00am. The meteor shower got off to a slow start, and we didn't start seeing lots until after midnight. But then the show picked up and we were sometimes seeing several every 10 seconds. But meteors fall in bursts, not continuously. I don't think we ever reached the maximum rate of 100 per hour but around 2:00am, near the peak time, we were probably averaging around 30 per hour. Most were short, bright bursts of light.

I held my meteorite raffle lots more than once per  hour, and many happy people went home with their own meteorites. I'm already looking forward to next year's show. In the mean time stay tuned for the next star party on December 13 (Thursday night) when the King of the Meteor Showers, The Geminids, peaks.

Perseids over Stonehenge


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