Emotive Moon

Every 29 days I can be found somewhere looking into the early evening sky after sunset in search of a tiny sliver of light. I have been doing this so long that it has just become a part of who I am. I have seen many moons and have made photographs that are to many to count. Some were just documentations of the moon and proof that I had seen it. Some have been very colorful as the thin crescent appeared in a fiery sunset, while others have been quite and contemplative.

One thing is for sure though that every time I see and photograph that thin new crescent a feeling of gratitude and joy washes over me. How amazing it is that I have been so fortunate to be a witness of the emergence of the hidden unseen moon into the visual world. One moment the moon is not there in the sky and then suddenly, just in the blink of an eye, it appears!

Rajab 1, 1440
Rajab 1, 1440

However this time around, as I stood there in awe of this moon, I became very excited about the light and how it danced with the moon among the misty clouds of a breaking storm. I continued photographing the moon until it was no longer visible as it slipped behind a thick veil of clouds. It was one of the most evocative moons that I have seen.

Among The Mist
Among the Mist

I was expecting to see the moon on Wednesday March 6th, the 29th day of the previous month. Unfortunately, the first 6 days of March here in the San Francisco bay are were completely cloudy and raining. On that evening, no moon was seen. So I waited one more day. Sighting it was not necessary as the announcement that the month of Rajab would start on Friday March 8th had already been made. No, this month, seeing the new crescent was just for me. On March 7th, the day had been mixed with clouds, passing cloud bursts and the sun peeking out here and there. As I stepped out that evening to search, the sky was cloudy with breaks here and there. It was doubtful that I would see it. As I moved to my sighting location, I searched the sky but no moon was to be found. When I arrived, at the lookout, my foot still had not reached the ground as I stepped out of the car, when my eye caught the sliver dancing in the misty sky among the clouds. It was a wonderful few minutes. Minutes that I wish everyone could experience. Minutes that would cause the people on this world to just be in awe of something greater than themselves. Minutes that just might bring some humility to us creatures that are filled with such hubris.

Go out next month and look for the new crescent moon. It will not be time wasted.

Until next time, Peace.

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Mysteries of Moonsighting

Just over a week ago, on February 5th, the new crescent moon of the 6th month of the Islamic calendar (Jamad al-Akheer) appeared. I anticipated that it would be seen here on the west coast and specifically in the San Francisco Bay Area. That sighting came on the heels of the 5th Central Hilal Committee annual conference on the tradition of moon sighting. I, as well as my moon sighting colleague, Zakariyya Twist, were invited this year to present at the conference. We went in with the intention to emphatically lobby for better communication between moon sighting groups, better verification of sighting reports, and presenting a unified front in advocating for this beautiful tradition to the larger Muslim community. So when the day arrived to sight the moon, I was quite confident that we would get many reports from all over the country as the other participants of the conference were just as excited as I and Zakariyya were.

The morning of February 5th emerged in the midst of the coldest storm of the year in the Bay Area. We awoke to snow falling at 1200 feet elevation. It was absolutely magical seeing snow fall at our home and playing around in the fluffy monster-sized snowflakes as they were lofting down around us. The skies were dark and overcast, the wind was blowing, it was roughly 32°F and the hopes of having clear skies later that evening were vanishing with every falling snowflake. The only consolation to that thought was the mesmerizing frosting that appeared across the Santa Cruz mountains as first light broke.

Frosted Morning

As amazing as the mountains were that morning, I had a teaching assignment that needed my attention and by the time I had completed that, the skies had cleared, the sun was shinning, the snow had nearly all melted away, while the air remained frigid near freezing. I had additional teaching assignments later that afternoon at Zaytuna College in Berkeley and I had planned to sight the new crescent from the new hilltop Upper Campus. Sunset had arrived and as I scrambled around the campus looking for a location where I could see the western horizon, I became frustrated that no matter where I stood, one or more trees blocked the view.

In my desperation, I left the hilltop campus and rushed down along Grizzly Peak Rd. to the first pullout overlook of the San Francisco Bay Area. The sky was glowing, the wind was brisk and the atmosphere was as clear as a bell! It did not take me long to spot it, one of the thinnest crescents I have ever seen.

1 Jamad Al-Akheer, 1440 (February 5th, 2019)

As I was photographing the crescent I received a text meassage from Zakarriya. He sighted the crescent as well, about three or four minutes ahead of me about 21 miles north west of my location on Mount Tamalpais. He was alone where he was and I was alone where I was and yet together in spirit.

Neither one of us had heard of any other sightings and that tempered my elation. Had our words just a few days prior fallen on deaf ears? Why hadn’t that congregation of sighters all seen it? Did they go out? Did they even look? Zakariyya reached out to some of them and after a few hours we did hear of some other sighting reports specifically from down south in San Diego from one of the conference participants who happened to be sitting next to us in the presentation hall. That lifted my spirits greatly.

It is such a subtle thing, that new crescent when it first appears. It is such a mystery to me how such a small sliver of light can illuminate my heart so fully as to cause me to exclaim in elation Allahu Akbar! (God is Greater!). I see it as a manifestation of God’s creative power to bring it into the corporeal world. I know the moon is there orbiting the earth, however to my eye, to my heart’s eye, its not existent. When it appears in the sky it as if it was brought out of non-existence and into existence right before my very eyes and that is incredibly thrilling. I do not think my explanations convey the “magic” of the experience and I can only encourage all to go out and experience it for themselves.

The next opportunity to see the new crescent moon will be on March 6th, 2019. That day will be 29 days from the sighting discussed above and will be the crucial day to go out and look for it. It might or might not be seen that evening. Only time will tell.

Till next time, Peace to All.

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Where Is Ramadan?

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

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

Sunset on the 29th day of Shabaan, 1435.

Encroaching Fog

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

The search for the new moon of Ramadan

Family Quest

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

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

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Serendipi-STARR

This evening I ventured out as I do each month to photograph the new crescent moon. As far as moons go it was not as spectacular as I have seen. And to make make matters worse, I forgot to bring along my tripod! How did that happen, I don’t know but now I had to either hand hold my heavy Nikon D2x with a 400mm lens or just resign to the idea that today we are just going to sight it and that’s all. Well…the photobug that bit me 20 years ago and still has a hold on me gnawed at me some more and I did hand hold the camera and if I did not surprise myself I still came away with an acceptably sharp photo.

Jamad Al-Awwal 1434

Jamad Al-Awwal, 1434

What made tonight interesting was not just the moon. As we drove along Skyline Highway atop the northern stretches of the Santa Cruz Mountains, we passed by a couple of women at my closest emergency go-to location when I am running late to sight the moon with a telescope set up and pointed out towards the setting sun. I pulled over a few hundred feet from where they were set up and consulted with my team of moon sighters, aka my photo-assistants, aka my kids if we should stop there or continue on our way to our normal location on Russian Ridge. The consensus was to stop there and we could possibly get a chance to look through their scope at whatever they came out to see.

So we made a u-turn and pulled in close to where they had parked. Come to my surprise there were others there as well waiting for something. I walkd up to the two women and asked what they were there to see only to find out that on this evening, about 30 minutes after sunset a comet was to appear just to the left of and above the moon! Wow! I asked if they would mind if I set up my camera next to them since I was there to sight the new moon and we could possibly sight it together. They welcomed it and we parked it there, and it was at this time that I discovered I had no tripod.

As the sun made its way down more and more people started appearing to see this comet. Discussion took place and I began to inform people about the moon and its location. I was the first to see the moon at 7:17 pm PDT, just three minutes after sunset. It was a fairly old moon about 30.5 hours old so it was fairly easy to see for me and my team of moon sighters. My team and I all saw it within about 5 minutes of my initial sighting. I then started to point it out to the others there and making my photos. The photo of the moon posted was taken at 7:34 pm PDT.

I started to ask about the name of the comet and discovered that it was called PAN-STARR. I opened my starmap application on my phone and started to look for that comet. It took me a while as most comets are named after the equipment used when it was first spotted. After some searching and comparing locations in the sky with those on the star map, I discovered that our comet in question is PAN-STARRS 2012 T2 and that it would be easily visible on this evening and the following evening March 12th.

At about 7:50 pm PDT, my youngest son, age 11, cries out – “I see it! Its just a dot just to the left of the moon”. Sure enough about three fingers width to the left of the moon there was a small star. Through my camera lens the comet’s tail was visible but the light had dimmed so much that the exposures were now pushing 1 to 2 seconds long. There just happened to be another photographer there and he came up to me in the dark and asked what kind of a camera mount I needed. He asked if I could mount to a Really Right Stuff plate and whoa I could! He offered up his tripod and I accepted. I made several photos of the comet, from about 8:00 pm to 8:10 pm before some clouds obscured the comet.

The following photo was my favorite of the bunch. It was a wonderfully serendipitous evening. Going out for the moon and coming back with not only that, but a comet as well! The company was great and all who were there were glad that I was able to capture the comet in a photo. I handed out my contact information to many who were there and most were interested in seeing the photo on the website. So if you happened to be there this evening the following photo is for you. Thanks for making it a great evening!

Comet Pan-STARR 2012 T2

Comet Pan-STARRS 2012 T2

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Humble Beginnings – Ramadan 1433

I was out last night and this evening in search for the new crescent moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  Last night, that would be July 19th, 2012, the moon was not seen.  It was only 12 minutes behind the sun and at the same time we had some fog to contend with.  Similarly, the moon was not positively seen anywhere in the world on the evening of the 19th.

This evening was a different story.  The conditions were perfect and the moon was easily seen.  Not that it made much difference, as the 19th was the 29th day of the previous month and was the critical day in determining when Ramadan would start.  However, it is my “thing” to be out there photographing the new moon, so out I went again this evening.

The moon was easily seen and a thought suddenly occurred to me.  For the longest time as I can recall the moons of Ramadan have appeared in a lack-luster entrance.  Quiet, humble and just there.  Suddenly it all made sense to me.

“Oh you who believe, Fasting has been proscribed upon you as it was proscribed on those who were before you so that you might increase in piety” ~ Quran.

Piety, this month is about piety.  Piety is never flashy.  Its not glamorous or forward or vain.

Its about humility, being patient, reserved, and quiet.  This evening it was quiet out there.  Few people, mild temperatures, slight breeze, very unassuming.  The moons of Ramadan have arrived showing us the very qualities that this month is designed to foster in all of us.  I am in awe.

Ramadan Moon

Ramadan Moon

To all my Muslim Readers – Ramadan Mubarak!  Make use of this month to come out as humble and pious as the moon.

To all Peace.

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One or Two, the Moon is Still New

Sunset on Christmas Day

Sunset on a Quiet Day

I have always been amazed when I awoke on Christmas day to find it to be peaceful and quiet.  Today was no different.  Everyone and everything just stops on this day and because of that, its is intensely quiet.  For that reason, I like this day.

Today also happened to occur on a new moon.  As I do every month I go out to find the new crescent moon and to record it, as it used to be on film, but now with pixels.  As quiet as it is on any other day, today it was even more so.  As I stood out there on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the silence I felt like I was very far away from the things of man.

I waited a while before the moon made itself visible as it emerged from behind the clouds.  It was a fine moon, crisp and clean in the sky.  As I worked photographing it my cell phone broke the silence.  I was called for a sighting report about the new moon.  I replied “I am looking at right now as we speak”.  I was asked “who else is with you?”, and my reply “I am alone”.  “You know two people are needed for a valid report”.  “Yes I know” was my reply and the call ended.

New Moon of Safar 1433

Safar 1, 1433

I suddenly thought, one person or two, the moon is still new.  I laughed, finished up and drove home alone in the revelry of beautiful silence.  I started this 20 year odyssey of looking for the new moon when no one else would, and now I still go out alone most months, only now with a reputation of the Moon-Sighter following me.  And whether I see it or not, the moon waits for no one or two.

Enjoy the coming winter.  Peace.

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It Starts Anew

This evening as the moon made its appearance once again, I was out along the Skyline Highway.  It was a smashing way to greet in the new Islamic Year.  This evening the year 1433 Hijri started.  Without any fanfare or incendiaries the year came in silence, exactly how I like it.  Sublime moments bring there own grandeur to share with those open to seeing and recognizing them.  I was fortunate to be among the audience.

Muharram Crescent 1433

Muharram Crescent & Venus 1433

The year has gone by very fast, faster than I could have imagined.  Endings and beginnings are always times of retrospect and introspect.  As I look back over the past year, I find that I have some regrets and some gratitude.  It also brings hope and resolve to continue on.  Much has changed over the past year both internally and externally.  Nonetheless we have no choice but to accept the changes and move on, hopefully attaining growth as a human being.

I have much to share with you, my dear readers, in the weeks to come, and I just hope I can find the time, a commodity that has been in short supply with me lately, to bring out many new and exciting photographs and to share some interesting developments with Organic Light Photography.  Its never boring here, so stay tuned.

Muharram Crescent 1433 and Venus

Sunset # 1, 1433 AH

One thing that you can be certain of is that the beauty of our fragile world will continue to grace the pages of this web journal and its parent website.  And along with them my reflections that will hopefully keep us growing as individuals leading us to the nexus of love and action that will change the tide that is rapidly eroding our home.

To all my readers, Happy Islamic New Year and Peace to you all.

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Sometimes Nothing is Better than Something

Empty Sky 29th of Ramadan

Nothing

Last evening the 29th day of Ramadan 1432 came to a close.  It being the 29th day of the lunar month meant it was time to go out and look for the new moon, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal and of course Eid Al-Fitr (the festival of breaking fast).

Astronomically the new crescent moon was not going to be visible here in North America.  The moon was to set only 7 minutes after the sun and its elongation was below the Danjon Limt for being easily visible with naked eyes.  We were not going to see it, but maintaining the tradition is just as important as seeing the moon, so off we went.

Meanwhile down in South America, there was a good possibility that someone in Chile might see it and bring fasting to an end.  People in Chile were in contact with the CrescentWatch.org project and all were ready to convey and record the sighting report.  To our surprise the report came back as Negative – crescent not seen!

This seemed like the future had been sealed and fasting would continue for one more day.  But that would be too easy, right?  Suddenly, out of nowhere another independent sighting report appeared on one of the older moon sighting report websites, moonsighting.com indicating that someone in Chile had actually seen the moon.

The sleuthing began in search of that person so that the particulars could be ascertained.  Once found, it is discovered of course that our sighter in question only spoke Spanish, oh wait Farsi too.  Great, find a translator and then begin the dialogue.  After much discussion, and well into the night, a decision had been reached.  Only one solitary sighting under very favorable sighting conditions did not provide the certainty needed to declare the end of  Ramadan.

It was nerve racking carrying that kind of pressure knowing that the decision resting on your shoulders would effect so many people.

Contrast all this with our carefree 40 minute trip up the mountain, a leisurely 1/4 mile walk to the top of a hill overlooking the fog enshrouded canyons of the Santa Cruz Mountains and below all that the mighty Pacific Ocean.  Allow our eyes to feast on the ethereal afterglow of sunset and then enjoying a communal breaking of the day’s fast on the 29th day with good friends.  We stayed there for no more than 30 minutes when we were sure the ‘moon’ had set seeing nothing of it at all, and then turned around and came back home.  Our conclusion as we walked back to our cars, we have one more blessed day of fasting and then we would all celebrate on the following day.

In the end both endeavors yielded the exact same result – Ramadan would be a 30 day month.  Need I say which undertaking issued the greater return?

Peace to you All!

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Ramadan 1432 Begins!

Ramadan Light

Ramadan Light

Well it was a long night.  Reports came in from many locations and they needed to be tracked down and confirmed.  Reports came in from as far away as South Africa, and several locations in the Caribbean and South America.

Here in the States, the best location astronomically was in San Diego, which by the way suffered like we did in the Bay Area with cloudy or foggy skies.

Fortunately there were two separate sighting groups in south Texas that helped us confirm the beginning of Ramadan this year.  In one case there was a group of 16 individuals that saw the moon initially with binoculars and then of the 16, 3 were able to see it again with the naked eye.  In the second case we had four individuals that saw the new crescent with their naked eyes alone, not far from the the other group but completely independent.

Here in the Bay Area, the day played out nicely.  Fog in the morning that burned off by mid morning and mild temperatuers and clear skies for the remainder of the day…that is until the temperature started to drop.

We headed out with a group of nearly 40 adult individuals and counting the children we had to number well in to the 60’s.  We headed up to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve hoping for clear skies there, but as we neared, the fog started to climb up from the coast and covered us over.  The marine layer had to be nearly 2700 feet thick!

The above photo shows the full extent of the light we saw on Borel Hill, the highest hilltop in the Bay Area’s Peninsula region.

Nonetheless, we managed to get the sighting confirmations we needed to mark the start of Ramadan.  To all my Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak.

Peace.

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Shabaan 1432 Begins

Shabaan 1432

Shabaan 1432

This evening the new crescent moon of the 8th month of the Islamic calendar known as Shabaan was sighted marking the beginning of the month.  It was not a very young moon, thus making it very easy to see, but none the less it was a beautiful moon.  Every month has its appeal and its beauty, and this moon is no different.  The light was sublime and thankfully again, I did not need to go far to see it.

Shabaan is also known as the Month of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) and it was in this month that he fasted the most of any of the months other than Ramadan, which begins on the next new moon.

Make this a special month of remembrance and peace.

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