From Darkness…

..And into the Light.

That is how the moon appears.

Dhul Hijjah Crescent 1435

It emerges from apparently nowhere and appears before our eyes basking in the light of the sun and guiding us on our journey through time.  We stand under it on this evening in submission and hearing the call to return to the Ancient House, where so many have returned over the millenia.  For those able, the journey of a lifetime begins and will culminate cleansed and given the chance to start anew, freed from the darkness of the self and allowed to enter into the Light of the Divine.

Safe travels and Godspeed, Oh Guests of the Compassionate.  Do not forget us in your prayers.  May your sacrifice be accepted.

For those of us who stay behind, get busy; for the best ten nights of the year start now.

Peace to All.

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In Awe Of Light

It has been about two weeks since I stood there on top of the highest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mount Hamilton.  In the last couple of months I have been up there three times.  Twice in the evenings after sunset as a visitor to the Lick Observatory.  In the summer the observatory has a great program with lectures and they open up two of the many telescopes and give normal folks like us the chance to look deep into the  universe to see the past.  My third trip was for the rising of this full moon.  It was dubbed a “Super Moon” because it was a full moon at perigee.  Perigee is the point in the moon’s orbit where it is closest to the Earth.  This causes the moon to appear larger than normal, for this moon it was 14% larger than normal.

Super Duper!

The light that evening was subtle.  It is that kind of light that I think is very awe inspiring because it forces us to look at the essence of objects rather than the flash and glitz that comes with bright and saturated colorful light.  Most people do not give this subtle light a second glance let alone really looking.

Further, with such an event as the “Super Moon” where many people world round go out with the intent of photographing it, the moon goes unnoticed.  The hype that surrounds the “Super Moon” is just that, Hype.  When you see a full moon rising it is usually quite dim as it pops out above the horizon shrouded in haze and pollution.  It is lack luster and even that evening it came up fairly unnoticed.  As I stood there on the mountain there might have been about 4 or 5 other people there as well trying to photograph it, and had I not said out loud “There it is!” most might have missed its rising.

For me however the sad part of the story is that no more than 10 minutes after it rose, it ducked behind a cloud bank and we list it for about 20 minutes.  Once it did reappear, it was to bright and the sky was too dark to make any decent photos with it and the Earth.

In a few short days I will be going out again for the new moon, something even fewer people notice.  What is so enticing about all this?  The light.  It simply amazes me how light can travel so far so quickly bringing information from these distant objects about what they are.  Light is all around us.  We are engulfed in it all the time and yet we rarely realize it because it is invisible until some of it goes into our eyes.  Why those particular photos went in and not some others is a question that has no real answer.  But I do know that none were for no reason. Every photon zipping through the universe that end up in your eyes were destined for your eyes and your eyes alone.  No other eye in the universe will “see” the photons you see and as soon as you see them they vanish forever.  Now that is awesome.

Till next time, Peace.

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Happy Returns

Crescent Moon of Shawwal, The Start of Eid

Shawwal 1435 – Eid Mubarak!

Like clockwork, the moon ticks its way back to new.  It will show itself in the sky.  It always does.  Bringing with it, for those who wait to look, a joy that signals a day of joyous celebration.

To my Muslim Readers, Eid Mubarak!

Peace to All!

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The Joy of Fasting

Years ago I heard a fabulous Hadith, a tradition from the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing s of God upon him.

Abu Hurairah (May God be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of God upon him) said: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied, a Hasanah (a good deed) will be multiplied to ten its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, said: ‘Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for my sake.’ The fasting person will have two moments of joy: Joy when he breaks his fast, and joy when he meets his Lord. And indeed the smell of his mouth is better to Allah than the fragrance of musk.” [The Book of Fasting: Sahih Muslim]

Today I experienced this first moment of joy when I broke my fast.  I was not particularly hungry or thirsty, but a little run down and tired.  However when I bit into that date my mouth danced!  And when I drank that cool water, my throat was beyond what words could explain.  A smile came across my face and I was so happy.  Not that I broke my fast, but that I was experiencing what God said would be one of the two moments of joy.  I can’t even imagine what the other must be like for the fasters.

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Here is Ramadan!

Last night we ventured out in search of the new crescent moon, not just my team and I, but countless number of Muslims all over the world.  There was not a single verifiable positive naked eye sighting.  Yesterday was the 29th day of Shabaan. Today it was the 30th and final day of Shabaan with no other option than to start Ramadan tomorrow.

While many people devised an abstract construct to signify the start of the months in the Islamic Lunar calendar, nothing can be as simple and beautiful as going out to search for the new crescent moon.  The sight of the new moon has significant spiritual value for the heart.  By its vision it ingrains in the heart a firm certainty that serves as the foundation for actions that make up the worship of the One who created us.  Through that certainty our hearts find ease, calm and peace and dispells difficulty, angst and chaos.

The need to go out once again to search for the moon on the 30th day is redundant, but to help those who still might question whether they should have fasted today or not and did not go out to settle their own hearts, I hope this photo will settle it.

Ramadan Crescent Moon

Ramadan 1435

Ramadan is a wonderful time where we are given the opportunity to look at our selves in its mirror and see our shortcomings and work towards making ourselves better.  Its an exercise in self-discipline and fortitude, a time for reflection and contemplation, and a means for forgiveness and salvation.  Welcome this month with open arms, grasp onto it and garner as much benefit from it as you can before it moves on.

Ramadan Mubarak and Peace to All!

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Where Is Ramadan?

We had a nice group come out this evening to search for the new moon of Ramadan. To our disappointment, we did not see the moon here on the west coast of North America. We are the last word In the world on Moonsighting reports and we can only say Ramadan will begin on Sunday June 29th based on the prophetic tradition of sighting the moon. Taraweh prayers will start Saturday evening after sunset, insha Allah (God willing).

(Update:  The conditions this evening on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains was not ideal for seeing the moon, but it was certainly beautiful.)

Sunset on the 29th day of Shabaan, 1435.

Encroaching Fog

This was a moving scene.  A family stands watching the sun set as fog continues to enshroud everyone along the ridge.  The quest to find the moon is growing.  Hearts are not satisfied with abstraction but rather they long for certitude, the certitude that can only come from seeing the moon with ones own eyes.  I am hopeful that the swell will continue and tradition will prevail.

The search for the new moon of Ramadan

Family Quest

I will be going out tomorrow evening as well to photograph it so stay tuned for that.

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

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Color and Light

Each month my team and I go out to look for the new crescent moon.  We never know what we will find.  Some days the sky is very bland, the moon appears, we make a photo and go home.  Other times we go out to be met with clouds.  The clouds might be thick and dense carpeting the sky with no hope expecting them to let the sky come through.  Sometimes the clouds are broken up teasing the eyes with glimpses of sky and raising the hope of seeing the new crescent.  The reward of seeing the moon with skies like that becomes greater.  Then there are days when the sky is hazy.  When it is filled with what you can tell are a light veil of clouds high up in the atmosphere.  You know the sky will put up a great show, but with that show comes the possibility that the atmospherics will obliterate seeing the moon.  It has happened many times to me.  The sky of May 29th, was just such a sky.

Cirrus Clouds After Sunset

Wispy Sky

Shortly after sunset, the western sky came to life with an abundance of cirrus clouds that just danced in the expanding color.  Faint crescent moons are difficult to see on their own without the help of little wisps of condensed water shimmering in the evening light adding confusion and deception to the mix.  After the sun set, my team starts to ask for the particulars about where generally the moon should be in the sky, its orientation and how long before it sets.  They impressed me by asking all the right questions.  Given that the moon was not to set until nearly an hour after sunset they continued to goof around until the searching became serious.

As the evening unfolded, the colors in the sky began to change and intensify. The thin veil of clouds began to stratify the color as they tend to do and a soft gradient of pastel colors lit the sky on fire.  Watching it unfold, its hard not to be impressed by the colors, and it mystifies good judgement as to why one would and would not make a photo of it.  In the end I made the photo anyway and I am glad I did.

Color Gradient at Sunset.

The Color Of Light

The color soon started to fade away with the sinking sun as it continued moving away from the horizon.  As the sky darkened we all became more intent on looking for the moon.  We searched across the sky and then suddenly my phone chimes. A text message flashed across it with a note that the moon was seen in southern California or Arizona.  I quickly reply asking for details and then continued to search.  Suddenly a cry goes out, “I think I see it!”  We all thought we did.  Hiding there amidst the clouds we all thought the lower limb of the moon was poking through.  Yet it did not seem to move as it should have been.  We dismiss it and continued to look.  I started to get worried that we were just to far north this month to see it on this evening.  How was it seen in the south?  I needed more details.  My phone rang.  I did not answer it and chose to continue looking when all of a sudden, my younger son calls out – I see it! Allahu Akbar!

We all came to him and within moments we all had seen the delicate thread of curved light in the sky!  Even my youngest team member, the 8 year old, who always needed help seeing it, saw it as quickly as the rest of us, very impressive given the faintness of this month’s moon.

New Crescent Moon of Shabaan 1435

First Sighting – Shabaan 1435

As the evening waned on the variations in the colors were subtle but certainly there for those willing to stay and enjoy the show.  The clouds start to change in both appearance and color as well.  The entire sky takes on a completely different feel.  Placing the moon in these photos is sometimes a chore.  How many different places can the moon be placed in a frame and not have the photos become completely repetitive?  Rarely do I place the moon in the lower portion of the frame, but for this one I did.  It gave the impression of the moon feeling from a darkness chasing after it.

New crescent Moon and Dark Clouds

Fleeing From Darkness

With the complaints now mounting as my intrepid team members lost patience now that the deal was sealed, I continued to track the moon and photograph it as it approached the horizon and mingled with trees that now were merely silhouettes against the now dark crimson sky.  I finally called it quits when the moon settled in between this V-shaped notch between some pine trees.

Crescent Moon Between Trees

In The Notch

The monthly appearance of the crescent moon has occurred far before we have ever been here on Earth and will continue until the end of time.  It has been my endeavor for the last 23 years.  It ceases to bring me great joy each month, and each time it is like I am seeing it for the first time.  Its vision expands my chest and lifts the weight of my world off my shoulders.  Knowing that we have a divinely ordained celestial clock as our guide in time is a great succor in my life and my hope is that it can be for you as well.

Ramadan is just on the horizon.  May we all reach it in good health and host it in our lives once more.  Peace to all.

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Countdown Begins – Shabaan 1435

This evening the new crescent moon for the 8th month of the Islamic calendar, Shabaan, was sighted in San Jose, CA.  This puts everything in motion and the countdown begins for the approach of the Ramadan, the month of fasting.  It was first seen this evening at 8:42 pm PDT.  At an azimuth of close to 274° with an altitude of about 8° above the horizon.  It was very faint.  Beautiful as always however and always a bringer of great hope.

New Crescent Moon

Shabaan 1435 Crescent

A more detailed account of the unfolding evening light and colors is coming, stay tuned.

Peace to All.

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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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