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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wise Observatory Open House

The Wise Observatory lies high in the hills above Mitzpe Ramon. It is the only working research observatory in the Middle East, owned and operated by Tel Aviv University. I frequently get calls from people who either think I am the Wise Observatory or that I can give tours of it. Alas, neither is the case. The observatory is closed to the public every day of the year except one, Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, when the Astronomy Club of Tel Aviv University hosts an open house.

This Yom Haatzmaut was no exception, and the observatory was open from 4:00PM to 10:00PM. A good crowd totaling about 2000 showed up for the event. Amateurs from the astronomy club were there with telescopes for a star party and inside the observatory garduate students gave astronomy talks. I don't know if the 40 inch scope was available to see, but unfortunately, all of the observing was done with the much smaller amateur scopes outside. Next year, could we please get a look through the 40 inch reflector!
As I ascended the road to the Wise Observatory, these people were setting out on a sunset horse ride from the Alpaca Farm in Mitzpe Ramon.
Approaching the observatory from below
Wise Observatory flying Israel's colors on Yom Haatzmaut

The observatory on its hill from inside the grounds.
The 18 inch all digital telescope near the entrance. Very fast f-ratio of about 1.8.

A close-up view of the 18 inch scope.
Enjoying the star party. The telescope was pointed at Venus, very easy to see in the day time sky.

This old pad will soon be home to a new 28 inch telescope and dome.

Heading up to the observatory from below.
View of the surrounding desert and the far rim of Machtesh Ramon on the right from the observatory entrance.
Presentation about the composition of the universe. Yes, it's made of bubble gum.
The observatory at night.

If you didn't make it this year, try for next year. And by the way, the domes you see from Route 40 just north of Mitzpe Ramon do not belong to the observatory. Those are radar domes of the IAF.

Remember to Keep on Lookin' Up, and clear skies and Happy Observing to you all.


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