Dark Sky Park
Ramon Crater (Hebrew: מכתש רמון, Makhtesh Ramon; hereafter the “Crater”) is an 1,100-square- kilometer nature reserve in the Negev Desert of southern Israel. The Crater was formed by neither meteor impact nor volcanic activity; rather, it is an example of a makhtesh, a landform considered unique to the Negev and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Geologic uplift in both regions produced stresses on soft rock types such as chalk and sandstone, which in the region are overlaid by more durable layers of dolomite and limestone. Erosion of the softer layers along northeast-southwest ridges in the Negev caused the harder upper layers to collapse, resulting in deep, closed valleys known as erosion cirques. Ramon Crater is the largest of these features in the Negev, appearing as a gash on the landscape some 40 kilometers long, 2 to 10 kilometers wide and up to 500 meters deep. Some 300,000 visitors a year are drawn to its remote location for hiking, off-road touring, cycling, horseback riding, camping and other outdoor activities.
The harsh climate and forbidding landscape of the Negev has largely repelled historical attempts to settle the land after it became part of an independent Israel in 1948. As a result, its night skies are considerably darker on average than in the northern, more heavily-populated areas of the country. Coupled with typically good weather and a dry climate, the Negev increasingly draws stargazers from across the Middle East and Europe. The situation of Ramon Crater within this environment offers a substantial degree of long-term protection for its night skies. The management of the site has added offerings of nighttime interpretive programs and stargazing opportunities, and has lately reached out to neighboring communities and organizations to partner with them in activities intended to help preserve the Crater’s dark skies and promote astrotourism for regional economic development.