Still Out There?

Of course I am.  Still wandering, still wondering, still marveling and chasing the light.  Still looking for that moment that strikes awe in my heart and reminds me of my place in this vast universe.  Sometimes its not anywhere to be found.  Then at other times it just sneaks up behind you and smacks you across the head and says ‘Wake Up Dummy!’.  And then there are those times when it can be seen coming from far off giving you the time to prepare to be wowed!

Such is the case when an eclipse of either the sun or the moon is pending.  A few millennia ago seeing such an event struck fear in the hearts of the onlookers as they took such things as bad omens of pending tribulation.  However, such phenomena are not causes but circumstances of the obedience of Divine law. The “laws of nature” that govern how our universe works, stated as such, makes it appear as if nature is in and of itself an independent and self regulating.  That statement makes it appear as if nature controls itself.  What we so casually call a law of nature should be called a Law of the Divine.

I find it amusingly interesting that we refer to the creation of the universe as creation without attributing to it a creator.  Creation is an act, thus there must be an actor, who is that?  That act of creation, bringing something into existence that was previously not in existence, is an awesome act.  Seeing it is not enough to make one believe it, especially in today’s world.  It has to be experienced wholly.

In addition, the act of creation is taking place at every instance in time.  As I move my fingers across the keyboard typing, each minute movement comes into existence, a movement that a moment ago did not exist.  The attribute of motion being attributed to my fingers is created and then as suddenly as it comes into existence, it becomes annihilated out of existence as well.  Objects that are described using attributes that are created and destroyed are themselves as their attributes, namely created and destroyed likewise.  Since we did not create ourselves nor, in most cases, annihilate ourselves, there must be something outside of us that does that.  Dare I call that ‘The Creator’?

It was not all that long ago that most every person on our little planet believed in the Divine.  An entity, spirit or power greater than ourselves that governed the known universe, brought it into existence and brings about its annihilation.  We were reverently awed by the Divine such that we followed a path that would be pleasing to the Divine and beneficial to all of us.   However, given who we are as humans, that seed of illness that sprouts into a myriad of destructive ills known as arrogance found a seat in the heart of one of us and took hold.  It quickly spread infecting the hearts of those around and we began to see ourselves as better than others.  Unable to see past our own hubris we slowly ascended to the illusionary throne of greatness crowning ourselves the masters of our own destiny, and the Divine died in our hearts.  Lost and cutoff from the sustenance of our souls we wander in a make-believe world where things happen just because they do without any rhyme or reason.  We do as we please as if our actions bear no consequences concerned with only our selfish gains.  And when we are done destroying everything that crosses our path we will invent new virtual things to destroy so that our now covetous capricious self can revel in as being its master. Oh what we have become.

Then suddenly an act that we cannot control driven by forces we do not understand occurs that, if we have any semblance of life left in us, would put us back in our rightful humble place, the onset of an eclipse. Even though we can calculate the occurrence of an eclipse with our mathematical models the majority of us have no understanding of the models let alone the motions of these heavenly bodies.  They occur in silence and, for the most part in today’s world, they go unnoticed because who looks up at the sky anymore?  Furthermore, who has the time to watch a silent event that can take up to several hours from its beginning to its end?  In a world where we have become accustomed to  moving at megabits per second and if we have to wait a few seconds for some gratification, the eclipse is just too long and super-boring.

Here is the grabber.  Whether we notice the natural world or not and whether we care for the natural world or not it is still out there adhering to the laws set in place by the Divine.

Still Out There – Eclipse of April 14th, 2014

This photograph of the eclipse of April 14th, 2014 was made at near its peak at 12:53:20 PDT.  The sky had a light veil of clouds that dimmed the vibrancy of the moon for most of the duration of the eclipse.  There was s brief period of time when a break in the clouds occurred and this photo was the result.  It could not have been captured as such if I was not willing to stand there in the dark for the entire duration of the eclipse.  A minute or two later the clouds diminished the brightness of the moon and stars and remained that way until its end.

Again, just like with the eclipse photo made on the solstice of 2010, this photo is a combination of two exposures.  Even though I could see the stars with my eyes, the camera needed a little help.  Exposing for just the moon, produced a sufficiently dark sky where only Spica, the very bright star on the right side of the frame could be seen.  When exposing for the stars, the moon was over exposed. Two exposures were made in rapid succession so as to minimize any variation in the positions of the heavenly bodies when they were combined in a single frame. Each bright “bit” in the dark sky can be identified using an ephemeris.  Starting from the upper left and working clockwise the stars pictured are the following.

TYC 5545-1356-1: 367 light years (ly)

76 Virgins: 265 ly

TYC 5548-516-1: 682 ly

TYC 5548-294-1: 977 ly

TYC 5548-138-1: 370 ly

TYC 5547-392-1: 418 ly

Spica: 264 ly

TYC 5548-374-1: 187 ly

TYC 5548-1547-1: 213 ly

TYC 5548-392-1: 1212 ly

TYC 5548-193-1: ???? ly

and finally

TYC 5548-1468-1: 1320 ly!

Oh and the moon’s distance…well it only takes 1.2 seconds for light reflected from the moon to reach the earth. A light year is the distance that light can travel in one year’s time as measured here on earth.  Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles/sec and so in one year’s time a photon of light can travel 5.86 trillion miles! The moon’s distance from the earth in light years is 0.000000038.  Looking at the moon is seeing 1.2 seconds into the past.  Looking at one of those stars is seeing deep into the past.

The creation is vast!  The Creator, well, immeasurable! We are small, very small.

Till next time, Peace.

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Sparks Of Light – 3/13/14

The Earth is sick. It has a fever. And like us, we develop a fever when our bodies have been invaded by a pathogen. The fever helps accelerate our antibodies to exterminate the pathogens.

Only now with the Earth, we are the pathogen making her sick. The Earth is doing what it must to survive. Guess who won’t?

I suppose its true…you get what you pay for.

Peace.

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Sparks Of Light – 1/15/2014

Mother Earth will perish at the hands of the greedy and will not saved by the bleeding hearts. This is so because the greedy love money more than the bleeding hearts love our Mother. The greedy will stop at nothing in pursuit of money and bleeding hearts stop when they die with no one left behind to take up the fight.

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Sparks Of Light – 9/23/2013

God takes care of children, old folks and fools, while the devil plays with the rest of us tools.

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Speaking In Silence

Each month this lone natural satellite of ours cycles through its phases always returning to the waxing crescent and appears in its performance after the sun has gone down. Each month, it seems, that its performance falls increasingly on an ever growing number of deaf ears.

Crescent Moon of Dhul-Hijjah Setting over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Speaking In Silence

Now you might be asking, how can we hear the moon when it is a visual experience? And to that I would reply, do we really hear with our ears? I had a teacher once who gave me advice. Be careful about what you do, people are listening to you with their eyes. In an age that is filled with imagery, actions speak much louder than words. And in an age where truth has been tipped on its head such that lies are believed to be truths and truth taken as lies, it is becoming harder to ascertain the truth. Nothing man touches anymore is free from the corruption of lies.

Twenty years ago I ventured out with a camera in my hand determined to vindicate the veracity of my tongue by photographing the new crescent moon as solid proof that I was seeing it. Along the way I became enamored by the natural world and have pointed my lens at much of. The world is vast and it has kept me occupied in preserving the moments it presented to me. In all that time, however, I never stopped photographing the moon. I rarely, if ever, shared the photos of the moon with many as I thought they would be of little interest; to simple for the sophistication of the modern mind, to boring for the eyes vexed by the virtual chicanery of our time. Yet in the past couple of years I have started sharing the photos of the new crescent moon and to my surprise they have been welcomed with a refreshing enthusiasm. Perhaps simple is best. After all was it not Albert Einstein who said “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler”?

These photos of the moon cannot be any simpler with regards to the subject and still call them photos of something. A sliver of reflected light set against a colorful post sunset sky. As simple as they may seem, they are a far cry from having nothing to say.

At times the color of the sky is vibrant while at other times quiet and tame. The color moves the eye up and down the frame touching upon all the emotions associated with the spectrum from passion to power to peace and sadness, stopping only for the pearly-white glow of the small sliver of light that interrupts the flow. The subject is always the same but placed in the specific context the photos take on many levels of complexity. At times I am treated with a varied sky mixed with silhouetted clouds giving the photo a sense of mystery or a dastardly ominous presence and the crescent provides a glimmer of hope that balances the image.

I also see the moon as a marker of time.  Each day it waxes larger until it becomes full and rises as the sun is setting and then wanes away into a crescent once more before it vanishes for  day or two as it interludes with the sun hidden to our naked eyes.  Its mansions in the sky remind me of the passing of time, or more starkly the running out of time.  I only have a fixed amount to time in this life as do each of you.  Once my time, and your time for that matter, runs out, we cease to exist here.  Our ability to do something to effect change for the better comes to an end.  So it reminds me each month to get busy and not waste the precious amount I have left.

The Moon, Venus and Spica

The Trio

Rarer still, are those times when the moon is hanging in the sky next to other celestial travelers, such as Venus or Mars or other orbs of light that reach out from deep in the galaxy or from other galaxies that are light years away. These little sparks of light not only grace the image with another point of light to aid in giving the eye a place to rest but also giving us a glimpse into the past. For many of the stars that do show up, are so far away that their light reaching us now left those stars long before we ever existed and in some cases their light is as old as the universe itself. For us, looking up at the sky, these celestial beacons all appear the same distance away. Light reflected from the moon however, reaches us in a little over 1 second. From Venus, a regular companion of the Moon in the sunset sky, its reflected light reaches us in as little as 2 minutes or as long as 14 minutes depending on where it is in its orbit around the sun relative to where we are in our orbit. Light from the sun, which on average is 93 million miles away, reaches us in just over 8 minutes.  The next closest star to us is Proxmia Cantauri which is 4.3 light years away, meaning light from that start reaching us tonight left that star 4.3 years ago.  The additional star that showed up on the evening that “Trio” was made, Spica in the constellation Virgo, is the 15th brightest star in the sky and the light that left that star did so 250 years ago!  That was before anyone of us reading this article right now was even born!  And the faintest object that we can see by the naked eye under a sufficiently dark sky is the Triangulum Galaxy M33 which is 3 million light years away from Earth.  Its light seen tonight left it 3 million years ago!  When we look up at sky we are seeing the ancient past.

Then there are those times when I decide to not only include the moon’s neighbors in the sky, but also Terra Firma.  I will place it as an anchor at the bottom of the frame, silhouetted against the colorful sky.  Most times I will wait until the moon is close to the horizon allowing the diffraction effects of the atmosphere to play its magic in making the moon appear bigger than it really is.  And yet, by doing so I emphasize the size of the moon to indicate that it is much more important than we esteem it to be.  Without the moon, the tides on the oceans would not exist as they do.  The variation of high tide and low tide would not be present.  And although the sun and wind would still send waves onto our shores they would be tame compared to what we now see, and coastlines for the most part would remain static, much like those of any lake.  By virtue of the orbiting moon, we have dynamic oceanic coastlines that team with a variety of unique life accustomed to the cyclic nature of the rising and dropping tides.

Further yet, the moon was the first means of marking time beyond a day, ushering in calendars into the human civilization that were used to mark sacred days as well as the counting of years.  Through the discovery and understanding of the cyclic nature of the moon, the cyclic nature of the rising and setting locations of the sun and stars soon followed allowing our ancestors to learn about the changing and cyclic seasons – giving rise to the understanding of agriculture of knowing when and when not to plant.  The relationship of the Moon and Mother Earth is one that runs very deep and the two are intimately connected through an invisible force now known as gravity.  It was the sight of the moon up in the sky and simultaneously seeing an apple fall from a tree that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to question – if an apple falls from a tree to the ground, why does the moon up in the sky not fall to earth as well?  It led him to the rationalization of what we now call Newton’s Laws of Motion which describe the very nature of the motion of our world and those objects in it as well as the motion of heavenly bodies. Through Newtonian mechanics, the motion of objects described by Newton’s Laws of Motion, humans have walked on the surface of the very moon that prompted Sir Isaac Newton to formulate those laws some half a millennium ago.  And yet, to this day, we still do not know what gravity really is.

Yes these photos of the new crescent moon are simple, but by no means are they empty.  The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, spoke succinctly with few words but with much meaning.  His blessed face was described to shine more than the full moon on a dark night.  He changed the world for the better and left for us in the moon a tradition of going out each month in search of it.  Each month the moon appears is a reminder of the character building lessons that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, came to teach us.  I see the moon as his final lesson.  If he spoke succinctly in his lifetime he is now speaking to us in silence – through the silence of the moon.  These photos of the moon as simple as they may be, speak volumes, without even saying a word.

New Crescent Moon

More Than Words

Till next time, peace.

 

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Festive Times

Shawwal Crescent of 1434

Shawwal Moon – Eid Al fitr Begins

Like clock work the new moon for the month of Shawwal 1434 and the ushering in of Eid Al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking Fast) began this evening at sunset.  The moon as beautiful as always was set against a very festively colored sky.  I am always amazed at how the moon knows how to dress for the occasion!

It was late by the time I got around to preparing this post after having our last fast-breaking dinner bidding farewell to Ramadan this year, exchanging and opening gifts with my family, I was getting pretty tired, but I wanted to leave you all with a more gift-like photo of the moon.  I waited until the moon was close to setting and I created this 4 photo stitched panoramic of the moon just above the Santa Cruz mountains.

Shawwal 1434 New Moon Setting

The Setting New Moon

To all my Muslim readers, Eid Mubarak!  And to all, Peace.

 

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Look Mom…No Moon!

Last night was a trying one as reports of the new crescent moon were fielded. Several reports were made from the continental U.S. that at best were sketchy. Most were negative sightings. I surmise that most people celebrating Eid today will be doing so on the single report that came from Chile.  To those of you celebrating today, Eid Mubarak!  May God fill your Eid with joy and blessings uncountable and May God accept all your fasting, prayers, and recitations of the Quran.

For those of you waiting to complete 30 days because there was no local sighting of the moon, I commend you for patience and commitment to following the Path of the Prophet.  I will post for you later this evening a photo of the local moon here in the S.F. Bay Area.  Below was the sky and location of where astronomy said the moon would be.  Beautiful nonetheless, the sky did not reveal the moon’s beauty.

Moonless Sky, 29th Day of Ramadan 1434

Look Mom…No Moon!

Till later this evening.  Peace.

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Fare Well My Friends

Old Crescent Moon of Ramadan

Near The End

This was the moon early this morning as dawn was breaking.  Still waning in its last few days of its continual cycle before it vanishes for its monthly interlude as it meets up with the sun.  Some time mid-late next week it will reappear in the sky invigorated to start waxing once more.

I don’t pay much attention to the waning crescent in other months and rarely do I photograph it.  Not because I can’t but usually because it does not hold much significance to me.  Ramadan on the other hand is all together different.   Ramadan has a special place in my heart, as it does for most Muslims.  Its a month of reflection, a month of exercising our will in abstinence, a month of foregoing the urges of our caprice, and a month of tightening our belts and getting busy in remembering our Creator.  Its a month of becoming intimate with who we are and what we are capable of.  Its a month of returning to the recognition of the relationship we have with the Lord of the heavens and Earth and all that is between those two.  Its a month of recalling the word of God as revealed in the Qur’an and yearning to be better so that we can follow in the footsteps of the prophets and saints who proceeded us.

For Muslims, Ramadan is met with great anticipation as it approaches and is left with deep melancholy as it departs.  Decades ago I wrote a short Ode to Ramadan titled “The Guest”.  I sent it out in those early days of the internet in an email message to my close friends on an email board through which we communicated. Somehow it managed to escape that circle and make its way out into cyberspace in what we could call today going viral.  Its still floating around out there, you just have to “google” that title along with my name and it will come up, if you are so inclined.

In it I referred to Ramadan as a guest that comes to us bringing blessings with it. It was written near the same time as I am writing today, near the end of Ramadan, in a reflective mood as to what we have earned during this month.  I saw us as stationary and that Ramadan was coming and going.  I bid it a farewell in that ode as it was leaving.

This morning a different thought occurred to me.  As I said to myself, referring to Ramadan, “fare well my friend”, I became confused as to who the friend was.  Did I mean Ramadan or did I mean my self as well as my other friends honoring Ramadan?  My new perspective saw Ramadan being stationary and that we were the ones coming to visit it and then departing with the gifts it gave us.  In fact, we are the ones that are moving through time.  We tend to think of time passing by, but in reality, time is static and we move through it.  I suppose it is all relative, just as if you are sitting in a moving car, is the car moving past the objects outside of it or are the objects moving past the car you are in?  Its relative, and in a sense it does not matter.

However in the case of time, it is a created thing just like everything else.  To the Creator, it is static and known because it has existed since Creation started.  God knows everything at every moment because every moment in time is already there from its beginning to its end all laid out and God sees everything from what was, to what is and to what will be.  Rather than time passing us by like water flowing past a rock in a river, we are like that car moving down the road.  We encounter moments in a static time line much like a car encounters bumps in a static existing roadway.  Our choices and decisions result in different turns we take along our journey to the end of time.  When the end of time occurs is of course unknown to us, especially if we are driving along wearing blinders and refuse to look out the window for the warning signs along the road.

And so as we speed along in time we approach the end of Ramadan.  If we feel that it has come to its end very quickly, maybe it was us who were moving to fast, that we did not slow down from our daily rigor and relish the month long portion of time we were moving through.  Its kind of like when you encounter a designated “scenic highway”, its beautiful.  If we don’t care we will just speed on by and never garner the gifts of that beauty.  But if we slow down, and maybe even stop and get out of the car to breath if only for a moment, we come away with so much more.

So as we see the time-signs of the impending end of Ramadan, (hint: the waning crescent moon) rather than thinking about doubling our efforts to get as much out of Ramadan as we can, think, rather, that we should slow down our pace and possibly stop doing so much of our distracting activities.  By doing so, we can relish and “see” the beauty that Ramadan is, treasure what it has to offer us and once we have gotten out of our time-travel machine, we might actually get to take a breath of Ramadan.  Only then will we have garnered what is contained in Ramadan.

So, my friends, I say to all of you Fare Well on your journey  through time.  I hope you have stopped in Ramadan long enough to gather the provisions you need, for the next “time” you encounter Ramadan again, if at all, will be a long ways down the road.

Peace to you All.

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Is It Full?

In response to a question I received earlier this evening. Even though the moon appeared to be full this evening it was still a Waxing Gibbous with only 95.4% of the moon’s disk illuminated. The full moon will occur Monday July 22nd at 11:15 am PDT. It will rise tomorrow as a “full moon” but ever so slightly past full as the sun is setting, as every true full moon does, in fact it will rise 8 minutes before the sun sets. On Tuesday July 23rd it will rise after sunset by more than 30 minutes at 99.9% illuminated as a Waning Gibbous.

For those concerned about starting Ramadan incorrectly because you started fasting on Wednesday rather than Tuesday based on the Full Moon, a mistake was not made. The month is started on the sighting of the new crescent and not retroactively after the full moon is observed. In fact on July 22nd, here on the west coast of North America and throughout North America, the moon cannot be seen when it is reaches full as it will be day time and the moon will not have risen yet. As of the close of July 21st, we have fasted 12 days. The traditional white nights of the Full moon occur on the 13, 14 and 15th days which will occur on July 22nd, 23rd and 24th, just as they should be.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the full moon as it appeared in the sky above my home near midnight on July 21st. A thin layer of clouds in the sky glowed as the bright moon light filtered through them.

Ramadan Full Moon and Cloud Glow

Full Moon and Cloud Glow

Peace.

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Ramadan’s New Moon

Good evening all!  Although it was not required or critical to sight the moon this evening, it has become a habit that I just cannot leave.  I did not travel far to find this moon.  Nor did I have to, and neither do you if you are a crescent chaser as well.

Like every other month I go out to see this tiny sliver of light in the sky, when I see it great joy fills my heart and I wear a grin from ear to ear.  It is one of the most remarkable sights in all the world to me.  The moon has been my monthly companion for the last 20 years and it still brings me as much awe and wonder as the first time I ever saw it.

This month the moon ushers in a blessed month of patience, vigilance, fortitude, faith, and spirituality – the month of Ramadan.  It is the Muslim month of fasting in which observant Muslims abstain from food, drink and marital relations from dawn until sunset for the entirety of the month, solely out of obedience to our Loving and Merciful Creator.

So without further a due, here is the harkener of blessings upon blessings.

Ramadan 1434, Crescent Moon

Ramadan 1434, July 9th, 2013 at 8:43 pm PDT from San Jose, CA

To all my Muslim readers…Ramadan Mubarak!

And Peace to all!

 

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