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 Perseids meteor shower lights up Mitzpe Ramon’s night sky

CM 14/08/2021

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Meteors shot across the sky last Thursday night, as hundreds of people lay on their backs deep in the Ramon Crater. 
Makhtesh Ramon is the world’s largest erosion crater, shaped like a long heart. Deep in the center of it lies Be’erot Campsite, the only campsite in the crater, where hundreds of people from all walks of life come to enjoy the Perseids meteor shower, which takes place every August.
Even before you reach the campsite, families pitch their tents along the crater to watch the bright meteors trail across the sky. Anywhere that there can be a tent, there is one, as cars dot the bright and scenic landscape of the desert. 
 View of the Makhtesh Ramon, Israeli Negev desert, on May 08, 2021. (credit: MILA AVIV/FLASH90) View of the Makhtesh Ramon, Israeli Negev desert, on May 08, 2021. (credit: MILA AVIV/FLASH90)

Everywhere you look, people are here to see the Perseids. 
The meteors that are seen before midnight graze along the atmosphere, leaving a colorful trail in their wake. Sometimes “fireballs” can be seen, which are brighter, more colorful meteors that last longer than average ones. 
The meteors come from the direction of the constellation of Perseus, which is how they get their name, but meteors shower down across the whole sky as families watch from the campsite. 
The campsite, Be’erot, features shelters, showers and bathrooms, and a small makolet to purchase various snacks and goods. People pitch tents or lie on blankets to stare up at what the cosmos have to offer. And during the peak of the meteor shower, it has a lot to offer.
 Be'erot campsite near Maktesh Ramon. (credit: Courtesy) Be’erot campsite near Maktesh Ramon. (credit: Courtesy)
There’s little light pollution in Mitzpe Ramon, which makes the sky full of bright stars. Campers bring telescopes to take a peek into the unknown, climbing atop large hills away from the campsite to get better views. 
Campers wait patiently, cheering wildly when a meteor crosses their vision. It makes the experience a communal one, people joyously ooh-ing and ahh-ing whenever the long trails appear. People grill food, sharing steak and potatoes with strangers, as children run around the site making friends with one another. Down here, you’re one big family. 
“This is our first time coming down here,” says Ilana, smiling broadly with her companion. “It was hard to get a spot, because reservations filled up so fast because of the peak.” 
Others are seasoned meteor-watchers. “​​I’ve camped out for the meteor showers all over Israel, but this is the 4th time I’ve gone specifically to Makhtesh Ramon for it. There’s nowhere in the country better,” Batya says as she pitches her tent, with assistance from her friends that came down to visit with her. 
“There’s lots to do in the area during the day hours as well!” She starts to mention her trip to Alpaca Farm, and her friends agree emphatically, offering to show pictures of the alpacas and llamas that they saw during their day trip.
She’s not the only person that went to Alpaca Farm during the day, as plenty of others decided to make it a destination on their journey. The farm offers a fun, lively experience for people looking for an activity pre-camping. 
 The Alpaca farm in Mitzpe Ramon (credit: Courtesy) The Alpaca farm in Mitzpe Ramon (credit: Courtesy)
The farm is one of the largest herds of alpacas and llamas in the world and you get the opportunity to feed them for a small fee. The farm also features horses, donkeys, goats, and a camel. Some of the alpacas wander freely, nudging you gently to spare some of your feed. 
The wool of the alpacas is used to create authentic, high-quality garments, and the weaving factory is also open for visitors to explore. The alpacas and the llamas can be ridden by children, but the farm’s horses are suitable to be ridden by anyone. 
While the farm gets tourists year-round, they’re extra busy as tourists gather in Mitzpe Ramon to watch the night sky. 
“We came here for the meteor shower,” Ofek explains as a llama eats from her palm. “We came here last year before the shower too.” 
The other llamas gather around, waiting to be fed as well. She laughs, feeding the ever-hungry creatures.
 Feeding the llamas in Mitzpe Ramon (credit: Courtesy) Feeding the llamas in Mitzpe Ramon (credit: Courtesy) 
Others use the daylight hours to explore other parts of the Mitzpe Ramon neighborhood, including the museum for Ilan Ramon, dedicated to the memory and presentation of the life of Israel’s first and only astronaut. The museum, located on the edge of the crater, is part of the new visitors center for Makhtesh Ramon. 
Ilan Ramon served as a fighter pilot and colonel in the Israeli Air Force before his time in space. Despite being non-religious, he partook in several traditions while in orbit because he felt like was representing all Jews and Israelis. Because of this, he was the first spaceflight participant to request kosher food and celebrate Shabbat. 
The exhibition offers a glimpse into his life and shares more of his amazing story, offering educational insight into the most highly decorated pilots of all time, who died a tragic death. 
Overall, the experience is one of a lifetime, driving or hiking down into the massive crater after seeing all that Mitzpe Ramon has to offer. The town itself has several wonderful restaurants, a shopping center, and amenities for those looking to turn their camping trip into a luxury vacation. 
Those who wish to camp will enjoy the experience at the Be’erot campsite, which offers an amazing experience to both newcomers and seasoned campers.
The visitors center that greets you when you start the descent is the gateway to the crater. The view of the makhtesh is unbelievable, and the educational aspect is both informative and entertaining.
It’s a long, winding road to the bottom of the Ramon Crater, but the journey is worth it.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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