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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Great Mitzpe Ramon Perseid's Meteor Star Party is Tonight

Mitzpe Ramon will hold its annual Perseid's Meteor Star Party tonight Thursday August 11, 2016. The event will be held in the soccer stadium at the main entrance to town beginning at 8:00pm and lasting until dawn. About 10,000 people from all over Israel are expected to attend. Many people camp out for the night. Just find some open ground and throw down a blanket or tent. If you've never heard 10,000 people cheer when a bright meteor passes overhead, you're in for a treat.

These grape-nuts kernels are a good proxy for the size of many meteors. The bright light you see in the sky is called a "meteor". The object that causes it is a "meteoroid" while still in the sky. If it hits the ground it's called a "meteorite". The streak of light we see in the sky is caused by the friction of the meteoroid with the earth's atmosphere, which causes the atmosphere to heat up and glow by incandescence.  Meteoroids can be travelling at cosmic velocities in excess of 100,000 mph when they enter the earth's atmosphere.

This year is expected to be very favorable for the meteor shower, since the earth will pass through the center of the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, resulting in perhaps twice the normal rate of other years. NASA has predicted a peak of 200 meteors per hour, instead of the usual 100 or so. Of course we're dealing with Mother Nature here so all predictions are jut estimates. Mother Nature can always surprise. The peak of the shower is expected to fall between midnight and dawn Israel local time on the night of August 11-morning of August 12, so times between midnight and dawn tonight are optimal. Also, the moon sets around midnight tonight, leaving the sky dark for the expected peak of the shower.

Predicted rates of the Perseid's Meteor Shower. The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the number of meteors that can be seen when the radiant of the shower in the constellation Perseus is overhead. You will be able to seee Perseids throught most of the month of August, but as you can see the hourly rate quickly falls in the days following the peak. 

Mitzpe Ramon turns off all its lights and the lights in the surrounding area, so the sky should be especially dark. There are usually food and drink vendors nearby, so no one should go hungry or thirsty. Admission is free.

Details of the Mitzpe Ramon Star Party

If you can't make it to Mitzpe Ramon, find the darkest local site you can with an open horizon on all sides. You need no optical aids to view a meteor shower. Your naked eyes are best. Throw a blanket on the ground and look straight up. Good viewing tonight!

Excellent article on the shower from EarthSky.Org:
http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower

Sky and Telescope:
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/bumper-crop-of-perseid-meteors/

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