Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gush Etzion at Night - August 26th, 2010

After meeting at the Paz gas station in Gilo, we drove to Sde Boaz section of Neve Daniel. The drivers took the cars to the end of the route, and then came back to find the rest of the group immitating icles.

After a short introduction by our guide, Ganit, we started walking back towards Neve Daniel. We made a short detour towards a spring. After returning to the main route we stopped at Nebi Daniel, the site the gave its name to the area and heard the story of the Nebi Daniel Convoy in 1948.

There was supposed to be a great view from this point, but we walking in a cloud and could not see anything.

Our next stop was the water tower, at 996 meters above sea level, the highest peak in the area. Again the view eluded us.

We continued through Neve Daniel and stopped and the only remains of the original site. The Cohen Farm. The site was purchased in 1935 as a farm, but was abandoned in 1936 during the Arab Revolt.

We left Neve Daniel and walked along the Patriarchs road. This is a small section of the anceint road the went along the top of the mountains of Judea and Sumaria. The Romans rebuilt the road and that is what we see today. Along the road we saw some Roman mile stones and a mikve that was probably used by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem.

Our next stop was a vinyard where we saw how mountain agriculture is used and how it was described in the bible.

We ended our walk at the load oak, the old center of Gush Etzion.

Thanks to Warren who organized our walk, and to Ganit, our Guide.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower - August 12, 2010

Phyliss Wrote:

I volunteered to organize the August Mosaic event because for a long time I’ve wanted to take a guided tour of the stars with an astronomer. The nice thing about organizing a Mosaic hike (in this case, Mosaic event) is that you can plan the program you’d love to do, or tour of the site you always wanted to visit (which might be beyond your technical or financial ability if you had to do it alone) and then share it with everyone.

This year the peak of the Perseid meteor shower fell on August 12, two days after Rosh Chodesh, so the sky was as dark as could be. And August 12 was a Thursday night, which is when Mosaic weekends start. An ideal date to watch the stars…

When our buses left Jerusalem at 20:50, the sky was ominously overcast, and I seriously considered canceling the program. But “Astro Tom” Rosenfeld, our sky guide, who had already arrived at Mitzpe Masua, in Britain Park, phoned to tell me that the sky south of Beit Shemesh was reasonably clear. So, with some misgivings, 33 Mosaic chevre set out to join him.

Although I had engaged one astronomer guide, we lucked out when Tom showed up with his colleague Daniel Jackson and three telescopes. Tom and Daniel took turns giving over a history of astronomy from the Sumerians to Galileo; explaining about meteors, meteor showers, and meteorites; and answering all the questions that that everyone always wanted to ask an astronomer.

We all had opportunities to observe Jupiter through the telescopes, with its “belt” from 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock across its disk. Suspended in pitch-black space, Jupiter was swinging its partners — an entourage of four tiny bright points dancing just below it to its left — moons that unmistakably changed position between 10 pm and 1 am. The very same sight that astounded Galileo four centuries ago astounded me too, even though, unlike him, I should not have been surprised. But the difference between seeing Jupiter and its satellites with my own eyes and seeing them on film is like the difference between meeting someone face-to-face and looking at a photo album. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to communing with the cosmos.

We also had a telescopic look at the Andromeda galaxy, the only galaxy visible to the naked eye (well, maybe some people’s naked eyes, or perhaps it’s more visible on clearer nights). We also took a guided tour of the Milky Way and the more recognizable stars and constellations. Tom pointed them out with his green laser pointer, and told us about their histories and legends.
Only people crazy about the idea of a guided tour of the sky showed up, and the evening didn’t disappoint anyone — not even those who expected meteor showers to look like fireworks. (One “streak” every few minutes counts as a “heavy shower.”) Tom and Daniel kept us all engaged the whole time. I thought people would start to fidget after 2 1/2 hours, and I figured that we’d leave when people got bored; but after 4 hours I finally had to cut the program short to announce that it was time to return to the buses. By then the clouds were returning, so the timing wasn’t too bad.

As always, Warren outdid himself with a chocolate fudge cake, but it was too dark to serve it at the park. We ate it on the bus ride home, and it was truly delicious!

Many of the 33 participants expressed interest in attending another star-gazing event, in the Negev next time, where there will be no clouds or fog, no city lights or headlights, and no obnoxious teenagers 50 yards away glaring at us with their flashlights.