Friday, July 21, 2017

Perseids Meteor Shower 2017 in Mitzpe Ramon

The Perseids Meteor Shower is visible from July 17-August 24, with a sharp peak of 60-90 meteors per hour on the night of August 12-13. This year the waning gibbous moon will interfere with visibility of the shower as it rises on August 12 at 10:30pm and on August 13 at 11:11pm. By August 15 the last quarter moon rises shortly after midnight giving us a dark sky for the two hours of our star tour from 9:30-11:30pm.

The moon will be quite bright and will interfere with the visibility of the dimmer members of the meteor shower. The brighter members of the shower will still be visible but it's hard to say how many of those will be seen. Add to that the fact that we've had very hazy skies this summer from the Chamsin-like weather we've had and the shower may disappoint this year. As you can see from the shower intensity graph below, the best nights to view the shower, ignoring the moon, are August 11-15.

Intensity of the Perseids Meteor shower, meteors per hour on each day of the shower. 

We never have star tours on Shabbat so our first star tour  of the shower period will be held on the peak night of the Perseids, August 12 starting at 10:30pm. (We will have our regular star tours the preceding week of August 6-10 at 9:30pm, but that is a full moon week and the bright moon will interfere with viewing all but the brightest members of the shower.) We are usually out for two hours, but if the shower is good we will stay out longer. Star tours from August 13 and onwards will start at our regular time of 9:30pm.

In past years Mitzpe Ramon has held its annual star party on the night of August 12, the peak of the meteor shower, turning off all the town lights and army-base lights in the vicinity. About 9,000-10,000 people used to come to Mitzpe for this event. The town is not doing that this year. Instead the town is hosting astronomy nights during the 4 weekends in August. Special astronomy events will be held in the Spice Routes Quarter of town. Local lights there will be turned off during these 4 weekends. That makes it possible to see the sky from there but does nothing to reduce the overall light from town - a bit disappointing but Mitzpe is still a very dark region of Israel. The problem for this year's Perseids is the waning gibbous moon, not Mitzpe Ramon's town lights.

You can find out more about Mitzpe Ramon's astronomy weekends in August here:


You don't have to come to Mitzpe Ramon to view the meteor shower. All you need is a dark sky with an open horizon. Just sit back or lie on the ground and look up. Watch the skies with your naked eye. No optical equipment required. While you can watch in any direction, looking east if you can't look straight up, is usually best, as that is the direction the radiant of the shower rises in the constellation Perseus, which gives the Perseids its name.


The nights of August 11-August 15 are best for viewing this year's Perseids Meteor Shower. A bright, waning, gibbous moon will interfere with seeing the dimmer members of the shower which will considerably affect the hourly rate. The nights of August 14 and 15 may be a good compromise between intensity and darkness for early night viewers of the shower. Check the forecast for haze on the nights of August 11-15. Haze combined with a bright moon do not make for good meteor viewing.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tour May’s Sky: Big Dipper Leads the Way

Tour May’s Sky: Big Dipper Leads the Way: Listen to May's astronomy podcast to learn why stargazers think of the Big Dipper as the 'Swiss Army Knife' of the late-spring northern sky.

The "sickle" of Leo

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Praise for the Starman of Mitzpe Ramon

…you were the highlight of our trip to the Negev. I was worried that a two hour plus astronomy talk would be a step too far....but it was truly fantastic and loved by us all. Was sorry when it ended. It is a must for all - you are a STAR man on many fronts.
C.K., April 2017
Fabulous program. Thank you so much!
H.B., April 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

NASA Shares the Highlights of January 2017 in the Night Sky

First Meteor Shower of the Year Peaks January 4

The Quadrantids meteor shower peaks tonight, January 4th. The greatest number of meteors will be seen after midnight, but they can also be seen earlier in the evening. During last night's star tour we watched for Quadrantids but only saw a handful. On a good year as many as 40 per hour can be seen. All you need is a dark sky, a relatively clear horizon, and your naked eyes. Just look up! We'll be looking for them again on tonight's star tour.

NASA explains more about the Quadrantids meteor shower.

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