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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Begins Today in the Northern Hemisphere

Summer begins today, June 21, in the northern hemisphere as the sun reaches the summer solstice. It is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees, 26 minutes north latitude), the longest period of daylight and shortest period of night occurs today. From here on the days begin to get shorter. In Israel the summer solstice begins at 8:16PM local time.

Tropic of Cancer

Also, magical things happen this night:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight; (Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream")

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Monday, June 20, 2011

"Blow, Winds, and Crack Your Cheeks" -- King Lear

Lunar libration. see below for more descriptionsImage via WikipediaWe went up with Barbara and Harvey Brown tonight, they from Jolly Olde England, to whit, Londontown. The highlight of the night was the gibbous moon, suddenly rising as a great, orange, half-eaten tangerine. The sky immediately brightens and long shadows are cast behind us on the observing plateau. The moon rises at a regal pace, first gigantic on the horizon then diminished as it reaches altitude. It was grand in the giant binoculars.

The wind blew at a good clip on the plateau, and all were well frozen before the end of the night. If you want to avoid looking like King Lear in the Storm, remember to bring warm clothes, even in the summer.

Harvey Brown and wife Barbara, looking like characters from King Lear, as the tangerine moon rises behind them over Machtesh Ramon.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Report on June 15 Total Lunar Eclipse

From the Negev in Israel the sight was spectacular. No clouds, perfectly transparent sky, all stages of the eclipse visible from 8:22 on. We had a star party, about 18 people coming from the hotels here, including one couple, Jay and Julia, who drove all the way down from Jerusalem! The best view was with my William Optics 22x70 giant binooculars. And it was incredible. I've never seen the moon look so 3D, like a giant balloon hanging in the sky that you could reach out and touch.

The eclipse was very dark, with some central reddening on the moon as the eclipse progressed. I would class the eclipse at 1 on the Danjon Scale. As totality came to an end the western edge seemed to become very ashen and grey, with the 3D effect even stronger. It was uncanny how it seemed to be set off in relief from the sky through the binoculars. As totality progressed it quickly became darker around us and in the sky, and everyone was impressed with as how we were able to see clear shadows before the eclipse, we could barely see each other now. The Milky Way made a special appearance, and the many dim stars around the moon, it being quite close to the Milky Way, stood out sharply. Everyone said it was a memorable experience they would never forget. 

We packed it in at around 12:30AM as fog began to roll in, making the ending partial phase of the eclipse look very spooky.

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Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad - New Israelite Weekly

We got a nice write-up in the Dutch, Jewish newspaper, "Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad",  The New Israelite Weekly. Thanks to reporter Joanne Nihom for the mention.

The caption reads: "A look at the stars.
The desert provides a stunning view of the night
stars. Enjoy the wonders of the universe, learn
astronomy and experience spectacular and unforgettable hours
with astronomer Ira 

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Did You See Us in Today's Jerusalem Post?

Our interview about last night's total lunar eclipse made front page news in today's Jerusalem Post! Did you see it? Thanks to all who have helped to make us a success!!

Starman says Israel has best seat for total lunar eclipse

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

Speaking of all of the volcanic eruptions occurring around the world, Mt. Puyehue in Chile erupted on June 6th, showing that Mother Nature is not happy about something. Look out below!

Puyehue erupts with stunning force. (Click for full size image. ABC News photo.)

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Halachic Intricacies of Kiddush Levana During a Total Lunar Eclipse

Total eclipseImage via Wikipedia
I received a phone call last week from the publisher of the OU journal "Torah Tidbits". He had seen my post on the upcoming total eclipse of the moon and had discovered some interesting halachic intricacies having to do with saying Kiddush Levana (the blessing of the moon) in a month with a total lunar eclipse.

Usually one can say Kiddush Levana as long as the moon is waxing, including the entire night of the full moon. However an interesting exception comes into play when a total lunar eclipse occurs. The exception is as follows: If one personally witnesses the total lunar eclipse, and if one understands what a total lunar eclipse means, i.e. that the moon has reached its fullest light, then as soon as the eclipse begins, one can no longer say Kiddush Levana.

The intriguing part of this halacha is that BOTH conditions must apply. One must both experience the eclipse and know what it means. If either condition alone applies, then one can continue to say Kiddush Levana the entire night. It is unusual for both the experiencing of an event and an understanding of it to be required in halacha. For example, Pesach begins at a certain time, whether or not one experiences the full moon of Nissan or even knows what it means.

I hope I have conveyed this correctly. If not, all of the errors are mine.

(Caution: I am not a Rabbi or a halachic authority.) :)

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Ubbi's Eruption Makes Beautiful Sunset Colors and Bodes Well for Tomorrow's Total Lunar Eclipse

Mt. Ubbi in Eritrea, dormant since 1861, erupted this week, sending its cloud of volcanic ash, aerosols, and little glass beads into the upper atmosphere of the Middle East, where it created the beautiful sunset seen today in these photos from Mitzpe Ramon. There have been an unusually large number of recent volcanic eruptions, which usually create atmospheric conditions for very dark total lunar eclipses, since the volcanic ash tends to block sunlight from being refracted through the earth's atmosphere onto the eclipsed surface of the moon. But these things can be quite unpredictable, since volcanic materials high in the atmosphere can also create beautiful colors as the sun's rays are scattered through them. All of this makes the June 15 lunar eclipse all the more intriguing. Be sure to watch; anything can happen! And Keep on lookin' up!

Pre-eclipse moon rising during sunset on June 14, 2011
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Lunar Eclipse Star Party Update for June 15-16 in Mitzpe Ramon

We will be out in full force for the upcoming total lunar eclipse on June 15-16, Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. We will be setting up at the Alpaca Farm parking lot, a nice, large, flat area in the hidden valley where the Alpaca Farm is located. It is very easy to get to. Follow the main road in Mitzpe Ramon (Ben Gurion Boulevard) through town and keep going straight where it exits the town. You will see signs for the Alpaca Farm. After a few kilometers, the road has a right turn and a left turn and also continues straight ahead. Turn right, following the signs to the Alpaca Farm. The road dead ends in the parking lot. Metropoline Bus 60 ( or *5900 from any phone) goes to Mitzpe Ramon from Beer-Sheva, and during certain hours it even goes to the Alpaca Farm. Ask the driver if he does. If you need a ride to the Alpaca Farm from town or from the hotels give us a call at 052 544 9789. Remember the desert can be cold and windy at night so dress appropriately if you want to stay warm.

We will be out from about 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM. The first "bite" of the earth's shadow can be seen starting at 9:22PM, and totality begins at 10:22PM, lasting until Midnight, making this one of the longest total lunar eclipses possible. And remember, you can watch the eclipse from anywhere in Israel if you can't make it to Mitzpe Ramon!

We will have our telescopes, binoculars and giant binoculars available for use, or BYOT! Special rates for this special event apply: 50nis per adult, children under 13 no charge. Hope to see you there!!

The Alpaca Farm parking lot is located at "A", just a few kilometers behind Mitzpe Ramon.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Team Building with Conduit Under the Stars

We were privileged to host the entire marketing group from one of Israel's top Internet companies, Conduit, for a night of team building under the stars. The entire marketing team was in the Negev for a day of team building activities, culminating with a night of star gazing with us in Mitzpe Ramon. It was warm, and cold, at the same time as you can see from the photo. It was challenging to keep 14 Internet marketing mavens on the same page, but with Rykkei's and Ziv's help, I think we managed to keep everyone together. If you have a corporate group interested in team building activities in the desert, give us a call!

The Conduit marketing team enjoys a night of team building with Astronomy Israel in Mitzpe Ramon.

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