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Meteor Shower Dazzles Thousands in Israel's Desert Dark Spots

The Ramon Crater Nature Reserve next to the dusty township was last year designated as an International Dark Sky Park and as one of the remotest places in Israel

A meteor streaks across the sky in the early morning during the Perseid meteor shower in Ramon Crater near the town of Mitzpe Ramon, southern Israel, August 13, 2018
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Thousands of star-gazers held a vigil in the early hours of Monday at one of the darkest spots in Israel, hoping to catch sight of a "shooting star" during the annual Perseid meteor shower.

Locals had the rare task of directing traffic on the moonless night in Mitzpe Ramon in the heart of the Negev Desert, a spot surrounded by terrain described as similar to a lunar or Martian landscape.

A meteor is a streak of light created by dust particles that burn up high in the atmosphere, and the Perseid meteors are produced by debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet that passes by the Earth every 133 years.

The streaks, which reach their peak every August, were created by the debris left by the comet's previous passes, the last of which was in 1992. The next scheduled Earth rendezvous will be in 2126, according to NASA.

Meteor shower attracts thousands to Israel's desert dark spots

The Ramon Crater Nature Reserve next to the dusty township was last year designated as an International Dark Sky Park and as one of the remotest places in Israel. Light pollution at the site is minimal, affording good views of the night sky.

But the number of meteors, about one, or fewer per minute failed to dazzle in the Ramon Crater's night sky.

The Feinberg family from the Tel Aviv region loaded up their car and hit the road for the two-and-a-half hour drive hoping for a natural fireworks display that failed to materialise.