Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mars is now it's closest to Earth

If you were wondering what that really bright "star" in the sky is, it is Mars!

Because of the way our orbits work, Mars and the Earth line up about once every 2 years. (You probably learned that watching "The Martian"). Mars now rises at sunset and is up all night. By about 9pm it is high enough in the southeast to be easily visible. Although it is hazy tonight, you can still find it near the full Moon. (After tonight, the Moon will be getting farther from Mars in our sky, so not as useful as a landmark.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mercury transit report

On the roof in Rosh Haayin (thanks to Monica)
On the roof in Rosh Haayin (thanks to Monica)

On Monday the weather was rather hazy here. I brought my Mead ETX 90 with a solar filter to the roof at work in Rosh Haayin to share the view with my co-workers. You can see how hazy it was by the lack of shadows in the picture above. (See more pics) We did get a few moments of good seeing when we were able to spot Mercury.

As it turns out later in the afternoon the sky did mostly clear up, but by then I was on the road. However my friend Gadi, in Petah Tikva was ready and captured some nice photos and video. See his report in English or Hebrew.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Transit of Mercury next week

When Mercury swung in front of the sun on November 8, 2006, it appeared as a small black dot (lower right of center), not nearly as conspicuous as the big sunspot at the left edge of the solar disk. Photo by Brocken Inaglory.
When Mercury swung in front of the sun on November 8, 2006, it appeared as a small black dot (lower right of center), not nearly as conspicuous as the big sunspot at the left edge of the solar disk. Photo by Brocken Inaglory.
Next week on Monday May 9th will be a rare transit of Mercury across the face of the sun. This means our innermost planet will be passing directly between the Earth and the Sun. The last time this occurred was 2006, but was not visible from Israel. It will not happen again till 2019. 

(For pictures of the 2006 transit captured in Efrat see here.)

In order to view the transit you will need special equipment. There will be a public viewing in Bet Shemeh by the Dubeh HaGedolah group. See this link for info and to sign up.

If you can't make it to Bet Shemesh you can see a great simulation at There will also be a live streaming event at starting at 2:00pm Israel time.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Updated Faroe Island slide show

I just realized there was a permission problem with the photos I posted in my eclipse report from the Faroe Islands. I have updated the post to include a new, correct link to the  photo slide show 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Orionid Meteor Shower this Wed night

The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks this Wednesday  night.

Like all meteor showers, the Orionids are visible from anywhere on Earth. All you need is a dark location, and clear skies to view them. So if you are adventurous, go down to the dark desert. Otherwise find a relatively dark corner away from street lights.

The shower peaks on the night of the 21st (Wed night, Thur morning) Like most meteor showers, this one peaks after midnight, with most meteors (about 10 per hour) visible as we get closer to dawn. This year the moon sets by midnight so it will be out of the way as a light source. The weather is a bit iffy, but Barry's forecast currently shows  clear skies for most of the night in the Jerusalem area.

You can read more about the Orionid shower and EarthSky.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

More on the lunar eclipse

I hope those of you who got up at 5am were not disappointed. My kids and I certainly were not!  I was up a little after 5:30 and saw a copper Moon fully eclipsed. A few minutes later I noticed a bright star in the west. Then I realized it was moving through Cassiopeia and realized that at that brightness it must be the ISS space station Others reported seeing the ISS and also bright Venus high in the east. (There was no view to the east from my porch).

Since it was Hag I could not take any pictures, but you can of course Google for lots of stunning pics and videos of this even. I want to share 2 of my favorite here.

There where several articles on APOD for the past few days, but my favorite is an older lunar eclipse montage that allows you to clearly see the outline of the earths shadow.

In addition, from one of my favorite astro sites Shadow and Substance, here is a collection of animation of the eclipse. Each animation shows a view from a different perspective that really give an insight into what is happening.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lunar eclipse on Monday morning

Eclipsed Moon from
I thought this eclipse would not be visible from Israel, but I got a heads up from Ira the Starman of Mitzpe Ramon that it will be! There is a media frenzy in the US as some fundamentalist Christians think that this final lunar eclipse of a foursome  (Tetrad) signals the end of the world.  I am not too concerned.

In the US the eclipse will be conveniently visible in the evening hours. Here in Israel however,  we will have to wait till the wee hours of Monday Sep. 28 in the morning (after the first night of Sukkot). The partial phase begins at 4:07am as the Full Moon begins to slip into the dark umbra shadow cast by the earth. The ashen shadow will grow progressively larger for about an hour till the whole moon is covered at 5:11am. During this total phase the moon gets a  coppery red hue which is sometimes called a "blood moon" encouraging modern prophets of doom to recall the words in the Bible from Joel 3:4:  "The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.".

 הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יֵהָפֵךְ לְחֹשֶׁךְ, וְהַיָּרֵחַ לְדָם--לִפְנֵי, בּוֹא יוֹם יְ-ה-וָ-ה, הַגָּדוֹל, וְהַנּוֹרָא.

The eclipsed moon will be very low in the western sky. So be sure to find a spot with a clear view to the western horizon with no buildings or trees in the way. If you are not sure which way west is, just note where the sun sets the night before, that is where the moon will be the next morning. (This does not necessarily work for all other days of the year). 

The total phase officially lasts till 6:23, but as sunrise nears at 6:30 the brightening dawn sky will likely make the moon invisible before then. If you are up and watching, do note the latest time you where able to see the moon before sunrise and drop me a note.

Local eclipse times in  Israel  (IDT)

04:07 Partial phase starts
05:11 Total phase starts
05:47 Mid-eclipse (darkest moon)
06:23 Total phase ends just before Moonset and Sunrise

For more details and nice graphics from NASA see