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Friday, June 21, 2013

Supermoon of June 22-23

The full moon of June shines at 2:32PM on June 23, Israeli Local Time. So, it will be full as it rises that evening and look pretty much the same the previous evening, Saturday night. This moon is considered a "Supermoon" because it occurs at the moon's perihelion, it's closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit. In fact it will be the closest approach for all of 2013. Although the moon will look somewhat larger and brighter because of this perigee full moon, you will probably detect nothing with your naked eye, since you have no other moon to compare it to.

In fact, the term "Supermoon" is of modern vintage, probably having been invented by a blogger looking to make up something newsworthy to write about. So, write about it I will. :) Nevertheless, a full moon is always a lovely site, so watch it rise in the east just after sunset, especially if you have a beautiful setting like Machtesh Ramon to watch it rise over.

Comparison of an average full moon with a supermoon.

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Today is the Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice occurred today, June 21, 2013, at 8:04am Israeli Local Time. It is the longest day of the year. At the Tropic of Cancer the sun stands overhead at noon; it is Midsummer Night's Eve. At Stonehenge, the sun rose above the Heel Stone this morning. According to Professor Steve Rosen of Ben Gurion University, there is an ancient Stonehenge-like structure in Machtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater). He is giving a tour of it this evening at 6:15pm, starting at Be'erot Campground on the way to Ein Saharonim. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it since it is Erev Shabbat. This evening calls for a reading of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Better still, go find a live performance and watch it.

The sun rises over the Heel Stone at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice.
 And now, a few memorable lines from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which always remind me of this night.
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enameled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

Titania sleeps in a midsummer night's dream...
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Druze Beetle

After last night's star tour I found this Druze Beetle drinking water from a spill one of my guests had left on the desert ground. Druze beetles disappear in the winter cold and return in the summer. They have a unique method for gathering water. They turn their large bodies up into the wind to lower their body temperatures and encourage dew to form on their shells. The drew drips down their backs and into their mouths where they get a cool, refreshing drink. They are miniature weather makers with their own little bodies. I had never seen one drink water before. But this was a warm, windless night and this bug was not going to coax a drink out of the air, so I'm glad he found this puddle to slake his thirst. He sat motionless in it for a long time, then scurried off into the desert.

A Druze Beetle slakes his/her thirst in a pool of water from a guest's emptied water bottle. Astronomy Israel photo.


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