To Be Clear…

I want to be open and clear in my endeavors about moon sighting.  I do not want anyone to feel any doubt or lack any certainty about the reports that I give regarding the sighting of the new moon.

Let me start by noting that I have been involved in sighting the moon since 1993, and I have gone out nearly every month since then. I have studied the moon and its motion in the sky.  I am well-read on the science behind its motion and the mathematical technique employed today on predicting where the moon could be seen.  Over the years, I have developed my own set of criteria as to whether or not I think the moon will be seen. I also contribute to making final decisions almost every month as to the beginning of the Islamic months with other moon sighters and committees across the United States.

Over the years, I have noticed that the following minimum parameters are needed to easily see the new moon:

Age: more than 18 hours old

Lag Time: 40 minutes or more

Elongation: 12 degrees

Altitude at Sunset: 5 degrees

Crescent Width (or Percent Illumination): 19 arc seconds or 1% illumination

 

The parameters for the new crescent on June 5th were as follows at the time of sunset:

Age: 27.5 hours

Lag Time: 42 minutes

Elongation: 14.8 degrees

Altitude: 6.5 degrees

Percent Illumination: 1.7%

The moon was not going to be easily seen because the lag time and the altitude at sunset were very close to the minimum values needed to see the moon easily.

Predicting the visibility of the new crescent moon has been an endeavor that dates back thousands of years.  In 1997 and then updated in 1998, B.D. Yallop working for the HM Nautical Almanac Office, surveyed the methods used historically and those used in the twentieth century and developed a new criteria to predict new crescent moon visibility.  if interested, Yallop’s paper can be obtained HERE.  Every numerical moon prediction method used today works off of the Yallop method.  Among the parameters that I mention and use above, Yallop determined that there was a mathematical functional relation between the geocentric difference in altitude between the center of the sun and the center of the moon for a given latitude and longitude on the earth, ignoring the effects of refraction, and the topocentric width of the crescent moon.  In fact, Yallop found that the difference in the altitude was a cubic function of the topocentric crescent width.  Let me explain some of these terms.

First, let me explain the altitude.  Altitude is a measure of a celestial objects distance above the horizon as seen by an observer on the surface of the earth.  There are two ways to calculate it, geocentrically and topocentrically.  The geocentric calculation assumes that one is at the physical center of the sphere of the earth and the line connecting the center of the earth and the moon.  This altitude is measured off of the equator of the earth.  The topocentric calculation assumes one is standing on the surface of the earth and the line connecting the location on the earth and the moon does not necessarily pass through the center of the earth. The following diagram shows the two different angles.

Diagram showing Geocentric and Topocentric altitude.

The angle delta, δ, indicates the Geocentric altitude and the angle phi, φ, indicates the Topocentric altitude.  The topocentric altitude is of course easier to measure as one stands on the surface of the earth.  The difference in the geocentric altitude between the sun and the moon requires that this quantity be measured, or calculated, for both the sun and the moon and then the difference between those two values determined.  If the sun happens to be on the horizon it will have essentially a zero altitude by definition.  If the moon happens to still be in the sky above the sun then the difference in the altitudes will be a positive number.  If the moon had set before the sun, then the moon will be below the horizon and the difference in the altitudes would be a negative number.  Thus, the difference in the altitudes is always computed at the time of sunset for any given location on the earth.  The resulting number is then just the actual altitude of the moon above the horizon.

The altitude is measured in degrees and one can use a clinometer to easily measure the topocentric altitude of any celestial object, including the moon.  Check here if you would like to make your own clinometer.  To determine the geocentric altitude of the object one would need to employ trigonometry and some algebra, which is beyond the scope of the article at this time, but can be found by searching for it online if one desires.

Next is the topocentric crescent width.  This parameter measures the width of the visible portion of the moon.  The width of the moon is measured by an angle that subtends the moon as measured from earth.  In the figure below it would be the angle given by W.  From the earth the moon’s width measures approximately 0.5° or 30 arc minutes. It varies slightly from month to month depending on the distance between the earth and moon as the moon follows an elliptical path around the earth, sometimes a bit closer and sometimes a bit farther.  The width of the crescent is of course less than the 30 arc minutes and will continuously grow from zero to a full 0.5 degrees when the moon is full.  In terms of arc seconds, the moon is 1800 arc seconds wide (60 arc seconds in every arc minute).  A one percent (1%) illuminated moon corresponds to a crescent width of only 18 arc seconds wide, and a 19 arc second wide moon corresponds to roughly 1.05% illumination.

Measuring the Width of the Crescent

The crescent width is directly related to another parameter mentioned above and that is the Elongation.  The elongation is also an angular measure that determines the position of the moon relative to the earth and sun.  At conjunction the moon lines up with the earth and sun along what is known as the earth-moon-sun conjunction line.  The diagram below shows the new moon orientation with the moon on the conjunction line, as well as showing the moon in two other positions later in its orbit around the earth.  As the moon continues to move away from the conjunction line, the elongation angle continues to grow.  As the moon moves along in its orbit past conjunction, the visible portion of the moon gets larger as more reflected light from the sun can bounce off and find its way down to the earth where we can view it.

Elongation Diagram

Yallop had also discovered a mathematical functional relationship between the difference in the geocentric altitudes and the elongation and the difference in the azimuths of the moon and sun.  With this other relationship Yallop was able to come up with quadratic function that related the difference in the altitudes to the difference in the azimuths of the sun and moon.  So how are the probability curves generated?

Using a data set of 295 sighting reports in the past, the locations of where those sightings occurred were plotted on a map of the earth based on their latitude and longitude.  Then for a given date the necessary parameters, altitudes and azimuths are computed using astronomical calculations.  Given the values of the altitudes and azimuths along with the result of each individual sighting from the data set, whether the moon was seen or not seen, and whether it was seen by the unaided eye or with an optical aid, a parabolic curve is plotted on the map to fit the data as best as possible.  The parabolic curve is used as it will best fit the quadratic function determined by Yallop.  The technique used is called Least Squares Curve Fitting and it is a statistical method that uses pre-existing data to fit a line or other curve, such as a parabola in this case, to the data that gives the best possible fit while minimizing errors.  The larger the data set used the more accurate the curve fitting becomes.  Yallop initially used 295 data points and from that set determined six visibility zones; 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 Aid, Zone D – Only Visible with Binoculars or Conventional Telescopes, Zone E – Not Visible with Conventional Telescopes and Zone F – Not Visible Below Danjon Limit of 7°.  The Danjon Limit is the minimum elongation angle that will allow sunlight reflecting off of the moon to reach the earth. Below a 7° elongation there is not enough light reflecting off of the moon that it could be seen by any means.

Numerically the six zones are determined by the following values: Zone A – q > +0.216, Zone B – +0.216 ≥ q > -0.014, Zone C – -0.014 ≥ q > -0.16, Zone D – -0.16 ≥ q > -0.232, Zone E – -0.232 ≥ q > -0.293, Zone F – q ≥ -0.293.

Note that in moving from one zone to the next, the values of the determination parameter have common borders. Zone A and B have a common border along the 0.216 parabola line, Zone B and C along the -0.014 parabola line, Zone C and D along the -0.16 parabola line, Zone D and E along the -0.232 parabola line and finally Zone E and F along the -0.293 parabola line.  Even though the above inequalities are designed to ensure any given location can be in one and only one zone, there is no margin of error between the zones and this raises many questions.  What if one was standing exactly on one of the parabola lines that delineates one zone from the next?  What prediction does one rely on?  How far into any given zone must one move to ensure that the zone one is in will be the predictor of the probability indicated?

Again, the Yallop criteria, a statistical method using past sighting data to predict probable future sightings and the larger the data set the better the curve fit and the better the prediction of probable sighting.

The Yallop criteria for the moon on June 5th indicated that my area was in Zone C;  that sighting the crescent was possible after using an optical aid to first  locate the moon, however my location was very close to the border line of Zone B, crescent visible under perfect atmospheric conditions.  Aside from some wispy high clouds in limited portions of the sky, we had great atmospheric conditions for sighting the moon as I had ever seen.

So what happened this past Sunday evening? Our group arrived at our viewing location, Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve along the Ridge Trail, with the following coordinates 37.3247 N 122.2087 W at an elevation of 2359 feet around 7:45 pm to 8:00 pm local PDT.  We waited for the sun to set before we started to look.  I knew the moon’s azimuth would be about 10 degrees to the left of the sun, approximately 1 hand span, and 6.5 degrees above the horizon, approximately 2 to 3 fingers above the horizon at the time of sunset.  I directed everyone to concentrate on that location of the sky. We all looked intently.

The prime time to see the moon occurs at a time that is 4/9 of the lag time after sunset, a time determination that was also discussed by Yallop in the same above mentioned paper.  At our location sunset occurred at 8:26 pm PDT.  The moon set was at 9:08 pm PDT, and 4/9 of 42 minutes is 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  This placed the best viewing time at 8:44 pm.  Hence, as soon as it was 8:44 pm,  we all started to double our searching efforts.  One from the group at this time thought that he saw its lower limb poking out from the clouds that were perched right where the moon was supposed to be. Then, a few moments later, another of the onlookers thought he saw it as well.  The first person though had lost sight of it.  Neither could confirm with certainty.  At about 8:50 pm PDT, I pull out a pair of small low power 7 x 35 binoculars (see note below), and I search the sky along the bottom edge of the clouds that obstructed our view.  Within moments, I confirmed what the other two had seen with their naked eyes: the bottom limb of the moon was indeed sticking out from the clouds.  I moved the binoculars from my eyes, and I could clearly distinguish that the lower limb was visible and directed others to where it was.  Within 5 minutes, the moon had completely dropped out of the clouds.  At this point, I was able to see it clearly and at the same time faintly.  It was a very thin moon and one that was difficult to spot.  However, when I directed the rest of the group to where it was in relation to clouds around it, the first two who had seen it, were able to see it once more, and they were followed by a third onlooker, then a fourth and then a fifth in addition to myself.  It was then that I trained my camera on the moon and made four photos, starting at 8:58 pm.  By that time the moon had dropped to about 1 or 1.5 fingers above the horizon, approximately 3 degrees above the horizon in altitude.

In all we were about 15 in number; most had a difficult time seeing it, but those of us who did see it, were certain we had seen it.  We continued to watch it until just about 9:05 pm PDT when it had dropped so low that haze along the horizon was now obscuring the view.

I made the first photo of it just as it dropped out of the clouds at 8:58 pm; however, I did not set the camera controls correctly, and the moving reflex mirror in the camera caused a vibration that blurred the moon.  I then made the second of four photos immediately afterwards, this time locking the mirror in place before tripping the shutter.  That second photo was the photo displayed on the June 5th post.  The third and fourth photos were made in the same manner however, the second photo showed the moon best.  Furthermore, I have been photographing the new crescent moon with a digital camera for the last 8 years.  I set the camera to photograph in RAW mode.  A RAW file is not actually an image file, rather it is a file that records the CCD image sensor data as it was captured.  An additional piece of software is needed to read the RAW file and covert it to an image file.  In the RAW converter, I have control over the data, and I can set the exposure, brightness, contrast, highlight and shadow levels, color temperature as well as the saturation so that the image appears as best as I can recall at the time I made the photo.  I cannot however, add an object that was not there, nor can I remove something that was there.  Those operations can be accomplished, if so desired, in an image editing program like Photoshop.  When the RAW file is opened in the converter it is very dull and with very low contrast and, in most cases, looks nothing like the actual scene.  This is by design to ensure the darkest part of the image and the lightest part of the image contains actual detail.  Pure black and pure white in a digital image contain no details at all.  The four photos shown below are the four that I made on the evening of June 5th, without any adjustments made to the RAW files other than opening the files in the converter and then saving them as JPEG files for displaying on the web.

Initial Photo with Blurred Moon, 8:58 pm PDT

Photo used on June 5th post, 8:58 pm PDT

Third photo made on June 5th, 9:00 pm PDT

Fourth and final photo of June 5th; 9:03 pm PDT

 

Note on Binoculars:  I have not used binoculars to search for the new moon since September of 2003.  On that particular occasion, I was able to see the moon with a pair of 10×50 binoculars, but I could not see it with my naked eyes.  I had a group with me at that time as well, and they could not see the crescent even with the binoculars.  It put me in a difficult position, as according to the Shari’ah, the sighting obligated me to start the new month but not so for any others.  I was instructed by one of my teachers to stop using optical aids in searching for the new moon.  Hence, this past Sunday night, on June 5th, was the first time I had used binoculars in thirteen years.  My children have grown up with moon sighting, and while they were all to young to understand the use of binoculars thirteen years ago, they grew up with hearing about that incident 13 years ago and have been with me consistently over this time.  Three of my four children are all considered adults now under Shari’ah and these three were all among the five besides myself that saw the crescent on June 5th.  As I pulled the binoculars out, they all urged me to put them away.  They all said, “Don’t cheat!”

Earlier that evening I was in contact with other colleagues that I work with in determining how to respond to other sighting claims from the United States and abroad.  Positive sighting reports had come in from Peru and Chile but did not include the details that would have allowed us to evaluate the sightings.  I was fairly certain that we would get reports from either Arizona or South Texas based on the Yallop probability curves for those areas, and sure enough, we did get a report from Frisco Texas.  I personally interviewed the man who made that report, and it sounded like a valid report.  He was not alone but had his wife and his adult daughter with him, and all three saw it.  Furthermore, he did indicate to me that there were others in his area that had seen it as well.  In discussing this report with my colleagues, we had decided to declare a positive sighting had been made but that we would wait until after sunset PDT to make the final call once we had a chance to search for the moon.  I was already convinced that the month had started, and thus my “cheat” was more of a self edification than anything else.  Once I established its location with the binoculars, I was able to direct others to seeing it, and once I pulled the binoculars from own eyes, the moon was there, faint, but clearly there, seen with my naked eyes, just as the Yallop curves had indicated.  The other naked eye sightings were just that – naked eye sightings, as they did not use the binoculars, something the Yallop curves did not indicate.

Finally going back to my criteria based on my sighting experience.  The moon of June 5th at the location of our observation met all the criteria indicating that we should have been able to see the moon.  Since the lag time was very close to the minimum of 40 minutes and that the altitude of the moon was very close to the minimum of 5 degrees needed, it was going to be a difficult moon to see.  Indeed it was a very difficult moon to see.  However, had we not had clouds to contend with that covered the portion of the sky at 8:44 pm where the moon should have been, we might have seen it earlier while it was at its optimum contrast.  The first of the sighters who did think he saw the lower limb but then later lost it, did think he saw it at just about the time of optimum viewing of 8:44 pm.

I would like people to understand that I would not have made the claim of seeing the moon if we did not actually see it with our naked eyes.  The responsibility of making such a claim when it is not true carries a great burden; in fact, any time I make a claim to have seen the moon, a great burden comes along with it.  I do not take moon sighting lightly.  The worship of billions of Muslims sometimes rides on my sightings, and I am very careful with it.

I hope this post settles any questions anyone might have had with the sighting that we made on June 5th.  I ask that you all keep me and my team of moon sighters in your prayers and pray that we can continue to keep this Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) alive and well and that we can once again re-establish it as the dominant method of determining our religious months and holidays.

Until next time, Peace to All and Ramadan Mubarak!

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Here We Go Again

It has been too long since my last post.  Much has transpired since then, but more on that later.  For now, the moon sighting for Ramadan is again quickly approaching.  To prepare for what is coming and to ensure, or try to circumvent any confusion for Ramadan, sighting the moon of the preceding month, the month of Sha’baan, becomes necessary.

Astronomically, the probability of seeing the new crescent was very good.  All the parameters needed to easily see the new moon were to be met.  I had put a plan in place to take my astronomy class on its last field trip to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton just south east of San Jose.  The weather outlook was good for most of the preceding week and early in the week of the planned trip.  However as we approached our sighting day, May 7th, the weather took a turn for the worse.  The skies clouded over and rain was forecast.  In fact on the morning of the trip it was raining throughout the S.F. Bay Area!  The hopes of all the students, and mine as well, were washing away with every rain drop that fell from the sky.

In spite of the weather, we continued on with our planned trip.  In addition to being at roughly 4200 feet in elevation atop Mount Hamilton for the sighting, I had also arranged for a tour of the observatory.  So even if we did not see the moon, we were in store for a great tour of many of the telescopes used up there.  When we arrived at the observatory we were actually in the clouds!  We could not see the sky, the mountains, or the valleys below, a near total whiteout condition, and it was cold, very cold.

Our tour guides met us with over-flowing enthusiasm.  It was infectious and soon we were all excited about seeing the various telescopes.  The one disappointment was that due to the high humidity the observatory was most likely not going to allow us to view anything through the telescopes.  I learned, even though I kind of already knew, that with a humidity above 91% the telescope lenses would fog over with condensation and then later require a costly and laborious cleaning.  I’ve been in conditions where the humidity was very high at night and seen what it does to my camera lenses.  But I was still surprised and saddened that viewing something like Jupiter or Saturn that night was not going to happen.

As we finished the day time portion of the tour we were headed back to the original observatory building when suddenly the cloud we were in started to break and blue sky was seen for the first time that day!  Everyone on the trip turned to me and asked if I thought seeing the moon at least would be possible.  I was hopeful.  By the time we arrived back to the main building, the cloud we were in had completely dissipated and we could see the fog that had settled in the valleys below.  However the sky was still covered with patchy high clouds, and the portion of the sky where I had expected the moon to be was covered as well.

I told everyone to just be patient.  We wait until we are sure the moon has set before we give up.  Sunset occurred around 8 pm that night.  We prayed our sunset prayer as a group and then we ate our evening meal that we had brought with us.  The clouds kept playing with us as they moved across the sky allowing for openings where we would search intently and then to just have that portion of the sky close up once more.  Then it happened!

Just a few minutes pat 8:30 pm the moon suddenly broke out of the clouds and the gasps of excitement rang out!

Peek-a-Boo

It was very refreshing to finally see the new moon after months of failed attempts this spring.  The weather was a hindrance each time I had gone out his spring.  The rain was very important this year here in California and while I am grateful for it, it was starting to weigh on my patience.  But finally we saw the moon!  It was a nice capstone to the end of the astronomy class that I was teaching.

The following day I sat down to edit the photos I had made of the Sha’baan moon.  While I was working on the image made with my 400mm lens, I noticed a small white spot very close to the crescent itself.  Intrigued, I opened my star charting software and set up the location and time when the photo was made to determine what star it might be or if it was just an artifact.  To my surprise it was actually a star!  It was Hyadum I, or otherwise known as Gamma Tauri, a star in the constellation of Taurus the Bull and it is only 158 light-years away from Earth!

Shabaan and Hyadum I

It was a fabulous evening that resulted in a great capture of the moon and this time with a star!  I think this is the first time that I have captured the crescent moon with a star in the same image.  Seeing stars on the western horizon at the time when the crescent becomes visible is very rare.  Venus, yes. Mars, yes and maybe even Mercury or any of the other five naked-eye planets but stars not so much.  The coolest part is that I did not see Hyadum I when we were out there, but the camera did.  I am still to this day, more than 20 years after picking up a camera to ‘see’ the world, still get floored at its ability to capture things that slip by our own eyes! It is quite humbling.  I think it is imperative that we reflect on that.  What we see with our eyes is not all that is there.

Until next time, Peace.

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This Beginning is Real

So yesterday afternoon I ventured out as I do every month to sight the new crescent.  I lead a group of students from Zaytuna College up to the Lawrence Hall of Science on the U.C. Berkeley Campus  with the hopes of leading a lesson on moon sighting and to sight the moon.  Unfortunately fog blew in off the bay and washed over the observation deck at the hall of science.  Texts had started to arrive from one group that I normally lead in the Santa Cruz mountains that they did not see the moon.  Likewise world wide.  However, before we even drove down the hill the confusion erupted.  Multiple sightings from California, and even in the Bay Area, were being reported and accepted to commence Eid Al-Fitr.  Well, you can read about some of what transpired last night in my previous post.

I went out this afternoon with my intrepid photo assistants and with a few more stalwarts who were not convinced by last nights claims.  I decided to take a series of photos from the onset of sunset until the moon was sighted.  I have included three of the over 45 photos I made in the span of about 30 minutes while we were out there watching the moon progress towards the horizon.

The moon this evening was 47 hours and 14 minutes old.  Well beyond the necessary 18 hours.  It had a lag time of 58 minutes.  A true first day crescent moon can be in the sky for up to 90 minutes past sunset and it is still considered a first day moon.  The elongation was 24.2°, double what is needed for an easy to sight moon.  The percent illumination was 4.4%, four times that needed for an easy to sight moon.  And finally the altitude above the horizon was 10.25°, again double what is needed for a easy to sight moon.

One very neat way of taking measurements of the moon in the sky is to use your hands to make the measurements of objects in the sky, like stars, planets and the moon.  This small graphic should help.

Measuring Distances In The Sky

Using these hand guides, the moon should have appeared about a hand span (or a fist span as shown) up from the horizon at the time of sunset.  With 58 minutes of lag, the moon should reach its highest contrast at about 26 minutes after sunset.  And sure enough, the moon sat on top of our fist when the bottom of the fist was placed on the horizon line when we first saw it.

So here is a portion of the series of photos I made earlier this evening.

1. Just after the sun set.

Shawwal After Sunset

2. Some time after sunset and after the moon entered the clouds.

Shawwal Crescent in the Clouds

3. The Shawwal crescent then emerged from the clouds with about 30 minutes left before setting, and was joined by both Venus and Jupiter.  Forming a pseudo smiling face in the sky ushering in an Eid Sa’eed (Happy Eid)!

 

Happy Eid

This is what a new moon looks like. If you did not see this yesterday then you did not see the new crescent moon.  It did not flop over, nor did it flatten out.  It did not suddenly get shiny, nor did it rise up in the sky.  The new moon emerges slowly.  Dim at first and then slowly becomes more pronounced as the evening wanes.  It maintains its orientation and only changes its orientation over the seasons.  And as the night comes in, the new moon sinks towards the horizon, following the one thing that helps it shine, the sun.  Yes the new moon sets in the west, just like the sun.

The seeking out of the new crescent moon is a rewarding activity.  Standing out there looking at that small sliver of light is medicine for the soul.  Its a reconnection with the Creator of all things and it teaches us patience.

I wish everyone a Happy Eid Al-Fitr and Peace!

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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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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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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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Guarding Mercy

Shawwal Crescent 1433

Shawwal Crescent 1433

Over 1400 years ago as the Mercy to all of Creation fled persecution from his birthplace in Mecca to his eventual resting place in Medina, he looked up to the sky and saw this heavenly body, the same moon that we see in our sky.  He called out while looking at a crescent in supplication: Oh God, bring us into this month with this moon, in safety and faith, and in peace and in submission to you.  Then as he pointed to himself and then to the moon addressing it and said: My Lord and your Lord is Allah (God).

From that day onward, the Muslims have used the new crescent moon to mark the months and years of their calendar, a purely lunar calendar.  It is a unique calendar in the entire world.  Many other cultures rely on the moon for their calendar as well but include the sun with it forming a luni-solar calendar, which has intercalations that add additional months every so often to keep holidays aligned in certain seasons.

The Islamic calendar however is cyclic with respect to the seasons and the tropical year, which is governed by the sun, or more accurately by the orbit of the Earth around the sun.  The months in the Islamic calendar begin traditionally by the sighting of the new crescent moon the same way the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did during his emigration and establishing this tradition.  The lunar cycle however is not one that is completed in an integral number of days; rather its average length is 29.5 days (varying between 29.2 and 29.8 days).  What this amounts to is that some months the moon will only be seen after 30 days and some after only 29 days, and with the number of months fixed at twelve the Islamic year is only 354 or 355 days long.  This forces the months in the Islamic year to occur 10 to 11 days earlier each tropical year and taking 33 years for the Islamic months to cycle through the Tropical year.

Astronomy has reached a level of sophistication that the position of the moon in the sky and its cycle can be calculated with amazing accuracy.  However, the science behind when and where the new crescent moon can be seen is altogether different.  Seeing the new crescent moon depends on many factors.  These factors include, the age of the moon past conjunction, the elongation, the percent illumination, its altitude above the horizon at the time of sunset, and the lag time or how long it will be in the sky after sunset before it sets as well.  Each of these parameters has specific values that must be met in combination in order for the crescent moon to be “seen” in varying degrees.  Those degrees include easily visible with the naked eyes, visible with naked eyes under perfect sky conditions, visible with optical aid, visible with optical aid under perfect sky conditions, and finally the Danjon Limit, under which the moon is impossible to see under any circumstances.

The calculation methods used to determine to what level the moon is visible is not a formulaic theoretical computation like that of the position of the moon in the sky.  Rather it is a regression analysis of data on crescent moon sightings and non-sightings from archival records, originally from the Ottoman Empire and as of late from modern observation data added to the original pool.  The predictions are statistical in nature and although they have a high degree of correlation are still subject to outliers.

However, what these predictions cannot take into account is the weather.  The weather is completely outside of the realm of predictability as sky conditions can change on the hour and hence the crescent sighting predictions can only be that, predictions.  And by weather I do not just mean clouds in the sky.  A cloudless sky does not constitute perfect viewing conditions.  Other parameters like atmospheric pressure, relative humidity of the air, air quality and pollution, haze,  light pollution, altitude of the viewing location and even the geography on the horizon all play a factor in the visibility of the crescent.  In addition to all those factors every person who goes out to look for the moon brings with then their own set of variables that are never even considered, things such as experience, knowledge, eyesight, patience, prudence, etc..  These, of course, cannot be determined from a visibility prediction chart, nor from a very brief conversation one might have with that person in discerning if what he or she actually saw was the moon.

It is because of this and the juristic condition of seeing the moon to start an Islamic month that having someone actually go out and physically see the moon is still an activity that is played out each month among Muslims.  In fact, juristically, it is considered a communal obligation that at least one person from each community be charged with the task of discerning the beginnings of each Islamic month so that when the important months like Ramadan and the month of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, arrive they are started and ended correctly.  In addition, juristically, looking for the new crescent moon becomes an individual obligation on each Muslim when its appearance brings on individual religious obligations like fasting in the month of Ramadan.  Note that seeing the moon is not the obligation, rather just looking for it is the obligation.

In the last few years, many calculation schemes have been put forward to bring some expediency to the starts of the Islamic months.  Some of them make sense and some do not.  What I find troubling about them is that they all find reason to avoid having to look up in the sky a day or two after conjunction to physically see the new crescent moon.  Establishing a date is not what is at stake here.  If that was the case, then simply determining sun-moon conjunction times, which are exceedingly accurate, plus one or two days added to ensure moon visibility could be used to nail down the beginnings of months with 100% accuracy.

What is at stake here is tradition.   The body of Islamic Jurisprudence on a whole, which covers every aspect of human life, is and always has been a means for ANY Muslim to learn and understand how to perform the religious obligations on their own.  For example it would be considered to much of a hardship if everyone was required to learn how to compute exact conjunction times of the moon and sun in order to establish the times when fasting in Ramadan was to commence and end.  However it is not out of the question to ask individuals to simply go out and look in the western sky after sunset to see if the new moon is visible or not.  In addition to this, following the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in fulfilling religious obligations is also an obligation in itself.  The ‘how’ of many of the religious obligations outlined in the Qur’an, are just that, outlines.  The ‘how’ was left to the Prophet, peace be upon him, to explain to the believers exactly how to perform the obligations.

The traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, are second to the Qur’an in understanding the religion and how its obligations are to be performed.  The traditions are so important, in fact, that they have been preserved with the same level of preservation as the Qur’an itself.   Immense volumes of traditions are memorized word by word, including information on who narrated it and the entire chain of narration leading back to the Prophet, peace be upon him, himself, with additional notation on the character of each of the narrators in the chain resulting in various levels of authenticity for each tradition.  In fact, there is no other historical record of what any human being said or did that is more accurate and exact as that of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  To say the traditions are not important is to deny most of what Islam is.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was referred to by God in the Qur’an as a Mercy to all of Creation.  An examination of his blessed life gives credence to that.  Everything he did or said brought mercy to those of his time and to those who followed afterwards, and when taken with sincerity and practiced, mercy is what is found in his traditions, and not just to humans, but also to animals and plants as well.  One of the aspects of prophethood is that prophets elucidate what the future holds for people, not in specific, but in general.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, left no stone unturned when it came to matters of the end of days.  I won’t delve into those matters as that deserves its own study, but one thing that I will say is that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did relate that knowledge of Islam and his traditions would slowly vanish over time and one of the last things that would remain before the end of days occurred was prayer.  For one reason or another, much of what came with Islam through the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has already eroded away. Watching his traditions erode away and die off is like watching the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, scrubbed from existence entirely.  However, if we hold onto the traditions it is like keeping him alive, and if we revive one of his traditions that did die it would be as if we had revived him.

In the Prophet’s time, there were many battles between the believers and idolaters of Mecca.  In one of the battles, the Battle of Uhud, in what initially looked like a Muslim victory turned into a rout and victory for the idolaters.  In the midst of the rout, as the Muslim ranks were breaking and men were fleeing from the battle, the Prophet and a few of his companions were surrounded.  Among those who were surrounded was a woman, Umm ‘Umara Nusayba bint Ka’b.  She was among those who came to the battle to provide water to the soldiers.  Her husband and two sons were also in this battle and were surrounded in the rout.  One of her sons was injured during the rout and she tended to his wound, only to find herself wielding a shield and sword and in the midst of the battle.  She threw herself in front of the Prophet, peace be upon him and defended him.  Later the Prophet, peace be upon him, commented that in Uhud, no matter where he turned to face in the battle he saw Umm ‘Umara in front of him fighting.  Umm ‘Umara had the courage and the love in her heart to stand up and guard the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him, when even men fled in fear for their life.  In the course of that battle she sustained 13 sword and arrow wounds to her body and among one of the sword wounds was a sever one to her neck which required an entire year to heal. In the midst of that rout, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, supplicated that Umm ‘Umara and her family would be among his companions in Paradise.

In a time when threats to the Prophet’s life were real, the men and women around him were willing to sacrifice their own life to protect his.  Today in a time when threats to life and limb in a civilized world are far and few in between, I find it alarmingly astounding that we can sit by and allow the last vestiges of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on upon him, to fall by the wayside because it is not expedient to wait until the moon is seen to mark our days.  Rather, it has become the fashion to know the dates of holidays years in advance that we may plan our perfect little lives around them.  I know that my actions in following the traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, will never bring him back to life, but doing so brings me a deep sense of comfort and certainty that he, peace be upon him, is still alive in my heart and that I can expend a little effort to emulate my beloved.  I do not think for a minute that the little that I do in keeping his tradition of sighting the moon each month alive would get me into Paradise.  However, I can find solace that on the day when the debts fall due and I am standing in front of my Lord, I can say with certainty that I did not let the Prophet, His most Beloved, Muhammad, peace be upon him, die in my heart or in my actions.

Festive Moon of Shawwal 1433

Festive Moon of Shawwal 1433

I beseech all of my Muslim readers to take up this tradition and keep the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, alive in their own lives.  Moreover, to those readers, who follow another of God’s Messengers, hold onto their traditions as well.  In our days, it is these traditions that keep our connection to our Lord healthy and strong.  Do not rob yourselves of the deep spiritual connection that can be formed with the Creator as you see the moon emerge in the evening sky from apparent non-existence into the realm of existence right before your very eyes.

Peace to you all.

 

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Taking The Stage

Annular Eclipse of May 20, 2012

Annular Eclipse

On May 20th 2012, the Moon and Sun came together in a show that did not disappoint.  However, it was the Sun that took center stage as it was the object of occlusion that was to produce sights that few have seen.  It was an exhilarating event that did produce the excitement promised.

However, the eclipse of the sun could not have happened with out the moon.  This month’s eclipse eclipsed the fact that what took place was the conjunction of the moon and the sun, an event that takes place in every lunar cycle.  Conjunction marks the moment when the moon passe directly between the Earth and the Sun. Most months the Moon’s plane of orbit places it either above or below the Earth’s plane of orbit around the Sun and thus an eclipse of the Sun does not occur.  Yet each and every lunar cycle brings a conjunction and the birth of a new moon.

Fortunate is the one who had the opportunity to witness the physical conjunction take place on this current lunar cycle, for most months it is an invisible event.  The moment the Moon passes that conjunction the moon is born and the angle between the Moon-Earth-Sun, known as Elongation, begins to grow until it is large enough that light from the Sun will start reflecting off of the Moon and the surface of the Moon becomes visible to our eyes.

Last night it was the Moon’s turn to take center stage and reveal itself as the fine crescent that it is when it is a new moon.  On a first day, the Moon is not visible before sunset and in most cases it will not be visible until close to 4/9ths the time between sunset and moonset.  Many factors are involved in the visibility of the new crescent Moon after conjunction. Elongation, Moonset lag time after sunset, Percent of the Moon’s Illumination (also known as the Arc of Illumination), its Altitude at the time of sunset and the Age of the Moon past conjunction.

Last night at sunset the Moon was about 25 hours and 45 minute old.  A very young Moon.  It had an Elongation of only 12°, a value that is below the accepted 15° that is needed for easily seeing it and it was only 1% illuminated, the actual minimum that is needed to be seen.  At best it was going to be a difficult moon to see even with perfect sky conditions.

When I arrived last night at my normal viewing location atop Russian Ridge  just west of the SF Bay Area at 2300 feet above sea level, the sky was not looking good.

Sunset on May 21, 2012 from Russian Ridge

Sunset on Rajab 1, 1433

The horizon was nearly completely covered in high clouds obscuring the sky and almost any hope of seeing such a young crescent moon.  To make matters worse, this new Moon was to mark the beginning of the 8th month in the Islamic Calendar, Rajab, a hallmark month, and one that is critical in establishing the beginning of Ramadan just two months away.  For a new Moon sighting to be accepted according to Islamic Jurisprudence, two adults must witness the new crescent Moon as a naked eye sighting without any optical aids.  I was just one man, who could only coax his 12 year old and 6 year old daughters to accompany him.

It was not looking good.  Nonetheless, I waited, scanning the sky back and forth, referring to an ephemeris for guidance as to where in the sky the moon should be.  I looked, I measured, I waited.  The light was fading so I decided to do the Sunset prayer up there on the ridge.  Once finished I continued to look.  Text messages were filling my phone quickly with questions asking if the moon had been seen.  My only reply, “stay tuned”.  I only knew of one other person out looking in our area and even though he did say he would meet me up on the ridge it looked like he was not going to make it.

As the optimal viewing time approached I looked even harder, but to my disappointment the area I needed to be clear, where the Moon should be was obscured by clouds.  I decided to just start taking photos of the sky in the vicinity of where the moon should be and then later after I returned home I could examine them closely for any tell-tale signs of a crescent.  It would not count as a sighting but I could still check.

Just then my eyes caught a glimpse of a thin white curved line just poking out of the clouds.  I looked harder and to my utter amazement it was the crescent Moon! It was exactly where I thought it would be hidden behind a thin gray curtain of moisture in the sky.  My daughters rushed over and asked where it was.  I pointed it out and my eldest saw it immediately.  It was 8:53 pm when we made that first sighting, and I pointed the camera at it and started to photograph.  In between the shutter releases I would reply to the text messages in the confirmation of the sighting.  It was still not a valid sighting as I was the only adult, a situation that I have fallen into many times in the past, especially for the month of Rajab.

All of a sudden, in the twilight, I heard some voices.  I looked back to see it was my friend and his family.  They arrived just in time.  I called out to them to hurry before it sets.  They came up to me and I pointed it out and all but one of his younger sons could see it clearly as it continued to sink closer to the horizon.  We had a confirmed sighting and my demeanor changed instantly from contented sadness to jubilation.  I can’t remember a sighting event where I was so happy to have another adult with me to establish a positive sighting.

The Crescent Moon of Rajab, 1433 (May 21, 2012)

Rajab 1433

This Moon was only 26.3 hours old past conjunction.  One of the youngest moons I have ever had the pleasure to see and photograph.  As thin as this moon was it most definitely took the stage last night.

So to all my Muslim readers, a Rajab Mubarak!

Peace to You All!

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Ramadan 1431 Announcement

It has been a very busy time the last few weeks here. Much teaching and work revolving around the start of Ramadan this year.

But I am both happy and sad to announce that Ramadan of the Islamic year 1431, will commence on the evening of Wednesday August 11th after sunset and the first day of fasting on Thursday August 12 according to the tradition of sighting the new crescent moon.  A valiant effort was made by several people in gathering reports from all over the globe, and in particular in South America where seeing the new crescent had the highest probability.  The was not seen anywhere in the world on this evening, even by yours truly.

So why am I happy, well that we now have Ramadan in our presence and we can begin again , God Willing, our fast in devotion of our Merciful Creator in a couple of days with clear certainty of its start.  And why sad?  Sad that we did not have the great fortune of seeing that amazing crescent moon this evening.  Tomorrow the moon will be much larger and higher in the sky and easy for almost anyone world wide to see it.  I encourage all of you to go out and look at this phenomenal sight, Muslim or otherwise.

The evening was special as it always is, with over 50 adults and probably an equal number of children as well came out this month to look for the crescent with me and many other sighting parties occurred with equal numbers.  Nonetheless the view was captivating and the learning of how to sight the moon was the best I had ever seen.

It is wonderful to see so many people interested in reviving this wonderful tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God be upon him.

So to all my Muslim friends and readers and to everyone else as well ~

Ramadan Mubarak!

Fog rolling in over Santa Cruz Mountains

Above The Fog

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Out Of Control

Controlled Chaos
The month of Ramadan is just about over. In less than 24 hours, the search for the new crescent moon will begin for those who follow the tradition set more than 1400 years ago in marking the beginnings of the months. The day the follows the end of Ramadan is known as Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking, and is celebrated the world round by observant Muslims. It is a joyous day that marks not only the end of a month-long devotion to our Creator but also that as Muslims we were able to stay away from and curb our desires during daylight hours. It is a month where those who observe it hope to gain the self-control and discipline to tame our egos, grow more conscience of the Divine, and foster love, mercy and compassion to all of humanity.

And so it is with this as a backdrop that the current events unfolding leave me somewhat introspective on our future. Continue Reading »

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