Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Festival of (star)light

The Geminids put on a nice show, though we only stayed out for an hour and the sky was half clouded over. We saw a good number of meteors, many of which were brighter than the brightest stars in the sky (including Jupiter). Even urban dwellers would have enjoyed this one.

For the first time, the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot blacked out the campus for half an hour to facilitate meteor viewing. As usual, the meteor fanatics camped out in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev for optimal conditions.

Meteor watching is the easiest way to get started with stargazing. It requires nothing more than your own eyes and some spare time late at night. Bring some folding chairs for comfort, dress warmly and enjoy the show. The darker the location the better.

Stargazing is especially appropriate for Chanukah, in my opinion. The sky is moonless most of the night, and in Israel kids have a few days off school. Symbolically, Chanukah candles resemble stars, in that their light is not for use. You can't see by starlight, just as you're not allowed to use the light of the Chanukah candles. They just flicker prettily. (What does this signify? Beats me.)

On these longest, darkest nights of the year, I hope you enjoyed the light show.

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