The Perseids meteor shower has been known to mankind for around two millennia,
but while it is theoretically visible to the naked eye – especially during its
peak on Monday night – it will be invisible to most Israelis who are not in the
Negev town of Mitzpe Ramon.
The regional council is preparing for the
annual August event by turning out all the lights of public buildings,
scheduling astronomy lectures and inviting people from around the country to
attend, look skyward and watch the shooting stars.
The celestial show
occurs when ice particles and dust from the Swift-Tuttle Comet turn up and enter
the atmosphere. The best view is expected to occur between 10 p.m. Monday and
before dawn on Tuesday. Mitzpe Ramon – with its high altitude and isolation from
other populated areas – is one of the few places in the Middle East where the
sky remains in its natural state, unpolluted by surrounding
According to the Mitzpe Ramon authorities, at the peak, as many as
100 meteors will be visible per hour, but some of them will be faint. In 2004,
the rate of falling meteors was unusually fast at up to 200 per hour. One should
look at first around 40 degrees over the horizon. The later the hour, the higher
the shower of meteors appears.
Dr. Yoav Yair, a physicist and head of the
natural and life sciences department at the Open University, explains that the
meteors appear at the zenith in completely dark skies.
The Negev town’s
“meteor festival” is being organized by the council, the Har Hanegev Field
School, the Davidson Institute, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv
University’s astronomical club. Events will begin on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at
Mitzpe Ramon’s soccer stadium.
Residents of the town get free entrance,
while others will be charged NIS 20 for adults and NIS 10 per child
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