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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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What We Can’t See

The new moon is upon us once again.  As I write this post, it is about 6 hours before it will be visible in the western sky provided the sky is not cloudy.

Last month I photographed a new crescent moon that moved through the sky in varying light over a twenty minute period.  As elusive as the new crescent moon is in its own right, making it difficult to see,  some times the camera manges to pickup light that our eye just cannot perceive.

Pictured in the photo below is the new crescent moon of February 3rd, 2011 taken 10 minutes after the photo that was posted in the Rabi Al-Awwal Begins post.  It was a toss up for me as to which photo to actually post for that entry in the journal.  I chose the former due to its sharpness, as the photo below used a shutter speed that was a bit longer than I normally like to use and the moon blurred ever so slightly due its motion in the sky.

The shadow of the Moon

Ghost Moon

However, what fascinated me about this image was that after I had processed the RAW file, I could actually see the entire shadow of the moon in the sky.  There was just enough variation in the light from the moon to be recorded by the digital sensor.  Now this is not unique to digital cameras as I have recorded the shadowed moon on new moon nights before using film, however what is intriguing is the fact that my eyes could not see these subtle variations in the light.

Our eyes do not accumulate light the way a camera does.  As light enters our eyes the cones and rods on the retina become activated and immediately send their impulses down the optic nerve to our brain where in interpret what we “see”.

In contrast a camera opens its shutter to allow light to enter it.  The light hits a piece of film chemically treated to react to light, the longer the shutter is left open the more chemical grains on the surface of the film become activated and retain visual information.  The same is true with digital sensors however in this case the sensor is electrically active and starts to record light as charge build upset up when the photons of light cause current to flow through the micro-sized photo transistors on the digital chip.  The longer the shutter is left open the more charge is built up and interpreted as brighter light. In this manner the camera is able to “see” things in dim light that our eyes can never see.  As long as there is some visible light the camera can record it given enought time while the shutter is open.

Darkness has always been symbolic of mystery, the unknown and all that these ideas bring with them, like fear, terror, evil and so on.  And while there is nothing out there in the dark that does not exist in the day, our inability to see in the dark conjures up fear of the unknown.  Today however, with modern digital camera technology night time photographs have never been easier to make.  And for those brave enough to venture out into the darkness of night to make such photos, we can all marvel and rest assured, there are no monsters in the dark and to know that what we can’t see won’t hurt us.


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I Can’t See It

Every month for the last 20 years I have gone out to look for the new crescent moon.  Sometimes I see it and other times I don’t for one reason or another.  It has become a family tradition and my kids love to go out to look for the moon as much as I do.  Hopefully they will continue on with this monthly tradition after I am long gone and that they will will pass it down to their kids.

Shabaan Hilal, 1431 - July 12, 2010

This evening we went out to sight the new moon for the Islamic month of Sha’baan. It is the 8th month in the Islamic year and it is a crucial moon to see as it helps mark the beginning of Ramadan, the 9th month and the month of fasting. I saw it first among my family this evening as the kids were playing around. When I called out ‘There it is!’ of course they all ran to me and started probing me so they could see it. One after another, like dominoes, the lovely sound of “Ahhh, I see it I see it!” All but one. My youngest daughter, only 4 years old, and so determined to see the moon cries out – “I can’t See it!” “Where is it?!” After about 2o minutes of pointing to it, and helping her find landmarks where she could cast off into the sky to see it, we still were no better off.

I told her to relax, it will get brighter and you will see it. As we sat there, she suddenly asked, “what’s that black thing up there?” She had noticed a jet liner coming into the Bay Area to probably land at the San Francisco International airport. It was flying directly at the moon. I told her to, “keep watching the plane, and it will fly right next to the moon and when I tell you, look real hard.” Suddenly I say – “Now!” “I see it, I see it!” she yells out in glee.

It is the strangest thing, seeing the new moon. It brings great joy to my heart, and to everyone who has ever come out with me and saw it. One moment you are looking at blank sky and then the next, there it is, as plain as day itself. Its as if it suddenly comes into existence from nowhere, its born into the world – somehow almost miraculously.

Next month, for the month of Ramadan, we are expecting the moon to be seen on the evening of August 11th. Go out an experience a miracle. Your heart will thank you for it.


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New Islamic Year – 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

This evening, in silence, the new Islamic year – 1431 began.  Now I don’t live in the Muslim world so I have never experienced what takes place upon seeing the new moon that ushers in the new Islamic year, but here in the United States, it goes pretty much un-noticed.   In fact if it is not the moon for the start of Ramadan or the moon that ends Ramadan, most Muslims never look into the sky or even bother to notice what the Islamic date is.  For me the new moon is an awaited monthly friend that I have been faithfully visiting for the last twenty years.  For me it is always a joyous event.  And although the moon never seems to be any different, every time it comes around it comes with a different sky as its backdrop.  And so it is always something new to look at.

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

So on this eve of the New Year, I wish all the Muslims a Blessed Muharram, and may the year 1431 be a safe, prosperous, and beneficial year.

Peace to you all.

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Rajab 1430 Begins

Rajab Hilal 1430

Rajab Hilal 1430

The new crescent moon (or Hilal in Arabic) of the 7th month of the Islamic Calendar, known as Rajab, was sighted this evening at 8:40 pm PDT from Russsian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was a perfect afternoon with subtle but stunning colors and atmospherics.  For moons, it just does not get better than this one.  More on the afternoon preceeding this photo in a later post.  Enjoy!

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“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
~ Albert Einstein

Sometimes the heart is moved by the simplest things. Because in those simple, unobtrusive elements of creation the soul finds deep solace and recognition of the creative powers of God.

I can’t think of a way to put it any simpler than that.

The new crescent moon of the 4th month of the Islamic year – Rabi’ Ath-Thani 1430. The new spring moon of 2009, it is as simple as it gets.

New Crescent of Rabi Ath-Thani, 1430

New Crescent of Rabi' Ath-Thani, 1430

Peace – Youssef.

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