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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.