Star of the year
This New Year’s Eve, take a look up. It will be the same old sky, right? Wrong. For Omer, the heavens are alive with change, science and stories. “There’s always something amazing going on,” he says. “Different constellations, double stars, clusters of hundreds, even thousands of stars. And there’s nebulae, clouds of dust and gases where new stars are born.”
The stars sparkle and the moon seems especially big and bright at Mitzpe Ramon, the Israeli town on the edge of the Ramon Crater. Its cloudless, dark desert nights make it the ideal spot for stargazing. Fewer people mean less electric light and a better view of what’s happening on high. There’s so little “light pollution” – the use of artificial light at night – in Mitzpe Ramon that the town has become the first place in the Middle East to be recognized as an International Dark-Sky Park.
The result is seen in the heavens. “Visitors to the Desert Shade Eco-Camp join me and Bateva tours for stargazing. It’s one of the ways they experience the Negev’s amazing nature. Afterwards, people often say that they now see the sky in a whole new light and can appreciate its patterns. They want to navigate their way through the desert using only the North Star as their guide.”
“We use powerful telescopes and laser pointers but at heart the stargazing experience is timeless. All you need is curiosity and a willingness to see. We light a bonfire, roast some marshmallows, draw close to each other for the warmth. We talk about the sky, about the differences between stars and planets, and what it means that a star is thousands of light years away. And all around us is the silence of the desert and the beauty of the stars.”
The sky has been magic for Omer “ever since my parents dragged me out of bed to see a meteor shower. As a teenager on hikes, I’d lie awake at night, looking up. I’m into the mythology and ancient wisdom of the stars but also the modern science.”
So if you’re thinking of doing something different this New Year’s Eve, see the sky in a new way. You can start with Sirius the Dog Star. The brightest star in the sky, old Sirius reaches his highest point every year around the time people start belting out “Auld Lang Syne.”
Have a Happy New Year.