Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

What Happened?

Yesterday, July 16th, was the 29th day of Ramadan in the Islamic year 1436, or common era year of 2015.  It was a day of great anticipation.  Will we see the moon and end the fast or will it go on for another day?  This Ramadan started without any contention at all!  It was a refreshing respite from all the drama that is usually associated with the starts and stops of the Islamic months due to the confusion about seeing the new crescent moon.  But as far as I could tell, the entire Muslim world began fasting on the same day!  One week into the month, I started looking forward to the end of the month not to determine the if the moon would be seen or not, but to get a handle on if we would face a chaotic evening of chasing down errant reports all over the world.  I researched two primary topics: crescent visibility probability curves and weather history.

The probability curves for July 16th are shown below.  How they are generated is a topic on its own and is based on regression models and requires oodles of data from past sightings.  The more data you have the more accurate the curves will predict the probability of seeing the new crescent.  The curves are broken down into various regions shown by the different colors indicating how easy it will be to see the crescent.  Zone A: easily visible to the unaided eye, Zone B: visible under perfect atmospheric conditions, Zone C: visible to the unaided eye after found with optical aide, Zone D: only visible with binoculars or conventional telescopes, Zone E: not visible with conventional telescopes, Zone F: below Danjon Limit (7°). Click on the image for a larger view.

Sighting Curves for July 16th, 2015

Now before I go on let me qualify something.  I started sighting the moon over 20 years ago.  I have gone to look for it every month.  I have seen many moons.  The majority of those 20 years of sighting were made with no prior astronomical or probability prediction knowledge.  I would always just based the sighting day 29 days later from the previous day I saw the moon.  That is all one needs to know.

However over those years one gets to know what the moon looks like, where it will  be in the sky in any given season, what orientation the moon will have and so on.  Slowly as crescent moon sighting became more contentious I began to bolster my empirical knowledge with astronomical and probabilistic tools.  I also started to teach astronomy, first at the elementary public school level and slowly moving up to higher levels until now at the college level.  Now coupling both the 20 years of empirical knowledge and with some science it is not difficult to predict if the crescent will be seen, especially in one’s own locality.

So as I looked into where the moon might be seen yesterday what I noticed was that the best place on the planet was out in the South Pacific.  Should not be a problem, no one lives on the water.  However South America could have reports.  In the last several years we have had some very strange and unverifiable reports coming from the south especially from Chile.  But most of South America was in the Zone B, and given perfect atmospheric conditions – meaning the skies needed to be totally clear we very well could receive reports from there.  So I looked into the weather history of the region in Chile where we have some contacts that have given us reports in the past.

In the month of July South America is in the midst of winter and in Chile 67% of the month of July is under cloudy and overcast skies.  I did not think a report from Chile would come in this year.  However, yesterday evening, Chile had clear skies!  The interesting result is that Chile had a negative sighting as well as all of South America, except for one report coming out of Bogota, Columbia, and that sighting was with a high-powered telescope.

Why is that important?  For one it was made with a telescope and that does not constitute a valid sighting according to Islamic Law.  Second it was a high-powered telescope.  Why?  If you look at the lunar age of the moon in the best location in Zone A it is only 23.11 hours past conjunction.  And in Zone B, where the telescope sighting was made it was only 19.03 hours old past conjunction. Conjunction is the instant of the birth of the new moon.

A 23 hour old moon is very difficult to see by the unaided eye, if at all.  Here is just such a moon from ten years ago.  The Islamic month was Rajab, and it took place on August 5th, 2005, almost ten years ago to the month.  Click on the image to see it in full.

A 23.5 hour old moon

Last night, the contentions for the sightings did not come from where we expected them, South America.  They cropped up from my own backyard here in the San Francisco Bay Area and a couple other places in California.  In California, the age of the moon was roughly 24.8 hours old.  Not much older than the moon shown in the photo above. In San Diego, it was 24.35 hours old.  In San Francisco, 24.88 hours old.  In the middle of the state 24.82 hours old.  This time of the year, the orientation of the crescent is as shown in the photo.  The limbs should run from about 2:00 to about 7:00 o’Clock on the clock dial.  This orientation of the moon’s limbs changes through the seasons.  In the summer and winter it is oriented as shown in the photo, with some slight variations, while in the spring the lit portion is on the bottom and the limbs point upwards and in autumn a bit more steeper running from 1 o’Clock to about 6 o’Clock.  This is important as we will see below, so keep this in mind.

The sighting curves are based on five parameters that need to be met in order for the moon to be seen easily by the unaided eye.  Those parameters are, age of the moon beyond conjunction, the time between sunset and moonset (known as the lag time), the elongation (a geometric orientation of the Earth, Moon and Sun past conjunction), the % illumination of the moon and the altitude of the moon at sunset above the horizon.  The criteria for sighting a moon with the unaided eye are as follows:

Age: 18 hours

Lag time: 40 minutes

Elongation: 12°

% Illumination: 1%

Altitude: 5°

Let me further qualify what these values indicate.  Neither one is more important than another.  The probability of the moon’s visibility cannot be determined by just one or two of these parameters.  Each parameter needs to be met.  The values given here are the absolute minimum values that are needed for the moon to be seen by the unaided eye.  Now just because the age of the moon is greater than the minimum 18 hours  will not alone make it visible, especially if for example the lag time is less than the 40 minutes.  Likewise, if the moon’s age was, for example, 28 hours old, but the lag time was say 15 minutes or that altitude was only 2°, the moon will still not be seen by the unaided eye, or it will be very difficult at best.

The conditions for the moon shown above from 10 years ago were:

Age: 23.5 hours

Lag time: 46 minutes

Elongation: 11°

% Illumination: 1%

Altitude: 8.1°

With 4 out of the 5 criteria met, and the 5th, elongation, very close, I still could not see this moon with my unaided eyes.  How then did I get this photo you ask?  I had a general idea of where the moon should have been in the sky and I pointed my camera lens in that area and tripped the shutter.  I actually made several photos panning the sky making sure I had sufficient overlap.  I was amazingly surprised to have caught the moon in the photo!

Yesterday in the SF Bay Area, in the same location as where the Rajab photo of 2005 was made, the moon had the following conditions:

Age: 24.85 hours

Lag time: 20 minutes

Elongation: 13.3°

% Illumination: 1.3%

Altitude: 3°

Yesterday’s moon only meets 3 out of the 5 criteria.  The above pictured moon met 4 out of 5 and was still not visible with the unaided eye.  I am not sure how yesterday’s moon was seen.  In the areas where the moon was claimed to have been seen, the same 3 out of 5 criteria as well were met.

Here is the interesting result.  In Chile, where it could have been seen, the criteria were:

Age: 20 hours

Lag time: 46 minutes

Elongation: 11°

% Illumination: 0.9%

Altitude: 9°

3 of the 5 criteria were met and the other two were very close to meeting the limits, and yet it was not seen!

What is more concerning is that the majority of the reports that we obtained by speaking directly to the claimants, did not describe the moon as the moon seen above in the photo of what a moon of this season and timing should look like.  One description given was a line that was flatter, oriented more towards the bottom with limbs more like 4 o’Clock to 7 o’Clock.  Two of the reports said that what they saw suddenly became very bright and shiny when they saw it.

All the of the claimants giving reports mentioned that they saw it very shortly after the sun set, within 2 to 7 minutes after sunset.  One of the claimants, reported that what he and his group saw appeared before the sun set.  Before sun set!

The first question that needs to be asked is does a person engaged in sighting the moon need to versed in astronomy and in particular the details related to the moon?  The answer is no.  I did not have that knowledge when I first started looking for the moon, but with experience these particulars become second nature.  Having knowledge about what the moon looks like in the sky, where in the sky it will appear, and its orientation will serve the seeker in not making erroneous sightings.  Any person can become a skilled moonsighter whether they are an upright Muslim or not.  The character of an upright Muslim is not a shield that prevents erroneous sightings from being made.  At the same time an erroneous sighting made by an upright Muslim does not in any way imply anything about the person’s character.  Inexperience and ignorance of the details about the nature of the moon is what brings about the erroneous reports but does not put the person’s character in question.

Moving on, the optimal time of crescent visibility on the evening of a new moon occurs when the the contrast between the moon and the evening sky reaches its maximum.  Two things need to happen for this maximum contrast to occur.  First, the sky needs to darken and at the same time as the sky darkens, the moon starts to brighten.  Maximum contrast takes place at 4/9ths of the lag time.  That is, the lag time is taken and divided into 9 parts.  Then adding 4 of those parts will indicate when the best viewing time occurs.  Last night here in California, with lag times of 20 minutes, 4/9ths amounts to 8 minutes and 53 seconds after sunset.  And for an easily seen moon, with a lag time of 40 minutes this amounts to 17 minutes and 45 seconds.  So, one would need almost 18 minutes for the moon to reach the optimal contrast in the sky for a moon that is easily seen by the unaided eye.  Last night, the moon only had a lag time just slightly longer than the optimal time.  Far from ideal.  At 2 to 7 minutes after sunset, the sky would be so bright and the crescent so dim, that it is nearly invisible at that time.  And before sunset, if the sun itself does not blind the eyes, its brightness will certainly limit anything you can see in the sky near the sun.

We live in a time in which our skies are filled with many flying objects.  Objects that did not exist at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and not for more than 1000 years after His time.  Those flying objects leave many traces in the sky that can easily be misconstrued as the crescent moon to the inexperienced and unskilled seeker of the moon.  Here is a link to a small gallery of photos of just such traces that can easily be mistaken for the moon.  And in fact, many times when interviewing claimants, these are the exact items that they describe to us.  Here is the link

I do not know what those claimants saw on Thursday evening.  I am not accusing anyone of anything.  They saw what they saw and they reported it as such.  They were honest and sincere, and may they be rewarded accordingly by our Creator.

What concerned me in this whole affair is why were their reports not examined with more scrutiny by those who were charged with making a decision about breaking the fast?  There were more details involved than I have mentioned that needed to be addressed.  I and another friend working with me did.  Before we even had spoken to half those claimants who had a report, the decision to break the fast, based simply on that those reports were made, had already been made by most mosques and organizations.  Confusion was rampant all night long.

So what happened last night?  I am not entirely sure.  I was content and certain the moon had not been seen.  My Ramadan did not end last night.  I was not even going to voice my concerns as over the years I have learned this only stirs the drama pot and makes things worse.  That was until I saw this…

A Minion Eid

This is, in a sad and hilarious way, what I feel is happening.  My pressing question though is, the Minions of Who?  Minions of the One Eye, the Nafs…Who?

Later tonight I will be heading out once more to seek out the new moon.  I will of course be photographing it and it will, insha Allah (God willing) be posted here on Organic Light Pan.

I wish everyone, and I mean everyone, a most Blessed Eid, filled with love, laughter, family, friends and joy, and may you receive all the rewards of fasting the month of Ramadan.  May our Creator forgive us all for our mistakes and trespasses and bring our hearts together in love and brotherhood and sisterhood.

To all, Eid Mubarak and Peace!

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Conjunction Junction…..

….What’s Your Function?

That is the opening line of a little musical cartoon I remember growing up with that taught grammar through songs, as well as other elementary school topics like math and history.  The series was called School House Rock and could be found today on DVD as well as being online.

This past Thursday an event took place in our skies that goes by that very name, a conjunction.  In this case it was the coming together of the Sun and Moon.  As a matter of fact, the Sun and Moon enter into conjunction every 29.5 days.  When referring to the Sun and Moon, conjunction occurs when the centers of the Sun, Moon and Earth are all in line with regards to the plane of the Ecliptic, that plane that defines the orbit of the Earth around the Sun.  Even though conjunction occurs every ‘month’, the Moon might not be on the Ecliptic and so the conjunction goes unnoticed.  A day or so after conjunction, we see evidence of its occurrence with the appearance of the new crescent Moon, which you will find many fine examples on this site.

Then there are those times when all three bodies are on or sufficiently close to being on the Ecliptic and in such a case a solar eclipse results.  On this past Thursday just such an event took place.  The moon was only approximately 0.5° above the Ecliptic and because of that, as conjunction approached, the Moon began to obscure the sun from our view, essentially casting a shadow on the surface of the Earth, and dimming the sunlight.  Thursday’s eclipse was a partial solar eclipse with about 50% of the sun obscured.  This photo below was made near the peak of the eclipse.

Partial Solar Eclipse of October 23rd, 2014

Conjunction Junction

One of the more striking features of this eclipse is the huge sun spot nearly in the middle of the sun.  This sun spot, AR 2192 is nearly the size of Jupiter and emits huge solar flares and other intensely high energy particles.  Other smaller sun spots can also be seen in this photo.

It is remarkable to see such events in our sky.  Being the scientist that I am and having studied the motions of the heavenly bodies in no way diminishes the wonder, exhilaration and awe that is felt when witnessing such an event.  Being the man of faith that I am and having studied the theology of my faith as well, only further reaffirms how great our Creator is in creating and sustaining such a perfect universe and has given us the faculties of thought, reasoning and measure, that we can predict with exact precision when these truly Divine moments will occur.  With that foreknowledge we can bear witness to the greatness of God not just because such an event occurs, nor that we can predict when it will occur, but because it is an act of God.  Such an event happens because the Creator is just that, the event is created into existence, it is perpetuated through time by its creation, annihilation and recreation at every instance. At one moment it is as shown above and then it is destroyed and then recreated spatially and temporally in a new configuration, but done so at an unfathomable speed that it is not only unnoticeable to us, but also immeasurable.  What we perceive as an analog universe, is in reality universe that is in existence one moment and then nonexistent and then existent once again repeating ad infinitum until the Creator decides that something no longer needs to exist and then it just ceases to be recreated and likewise can bring something into existence through creation that an instant ago did not exist and perpetuated forward.  Phew, enough mind bending for one day.

What is the function of this Conjunction?

Well I know my answer, what is your answer?  Leave it below as a comment.

Until next time, Peace to all.

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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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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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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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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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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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