Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

Up And To The Left

Just over a week ago a video was released by Zaytuna College, where I teach astronomy, mathematics, and Islamic jurisprudence, about sighting the new crescent moon to mark the beginnings of the lunar months of the Islamic calendar.

For years, the start of the Islamic months has been hotly debated between two camps. One camp advocates to adhere to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God be upon him, to go out and actually witness the new crescent moon, and then have the witnesses testify to the sighting to mark its beginning. However, this approach has an inherent variability in it because the new crescent moon will reappear 29 or 30 days after its last appearance. The other camp advocates determining the beginning of the months through an astronomical calculated approach such that the calendar can be predetermined for years in advance.

Both sides have their arguments, and perhaps both have merit, but one cannot feel a calculation. A calculation is abstract. It is lifeless. To most, it means nothing because they cannot apprehend how the resulting conclusive decision to start the month was derived. For most, they would not understand how to go about the calculation itself, they would in essence be calculatedly illiterate.

It baffles me a bit that the camp arguing for the calculation approach always quotes the tradition (Hadith) from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, where He says “We are an unlettered community, we neither write nor calculate, the month consists of 29 (motioning with his hands showing 29 fingers) or 30 (motioning with his hands showing 30 fingers) days“. The camp arguing for calculations cites this hadith and says that modern Muslims are no longer a people that neither write nor calculate so we should use calculations. This tradition, however, should be interpreted as a description of the community at that time not a prescription of how the Muslim community should be. Not all the Muslims from 1400 years ago were unlettered. Some did know how to write and very likely some did know how to perform calculations, as they did have and use an intercalated lunar calendar which does require knowing how to do some calculations. However, I would argue, that most people, Muslim or otherwise are illiterate when it comes to the mathematics and the understanding needed to carry out the calculations needed to determine the start of a lunar month, so the tradition does in fact still describe people today as it did 1400 years ago.

To get a sense of what I mean, the following must be determined for any given time on any given date to determine the position of the moon in the sky:

  • The time must be determined in Julian Centuries
  • Next, the Moon’s mean longitude is determined
  • Then, the Moon’s elongation
  • followed by determining the Sun’s anomaly (which has its own set of calculations)
  • Next, the Moon’s anomaly is determined.
  • A series of Periodic terms need to be summed for the moon’s longitude and distance from the Earth.
  • Then the Eccentricity of the orbit of the Earth around the sun is needed
  • Finally, the geocentric longitude, geocentric latitude, and geocentric distance of the moon can be calculated.
  • The whole process is then repeated over and over for every second until the geocentric longitude position of the moon matches that of the sun, of course, further calculations are needed to obtain the geocentric longitude of the sun as well.

Did I lose any of you with any of the above steps?

So where does that leave the common Muslims today regarding how to determine the start of the lunar Islamic months? There is a principle in problem-solving known as Occam’s Razor. Briefly, it is generally understood that with competing theories or solutions to a problem, the simpler one is to be preferred. To that end, there is another well-known tradition from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, where He says, “Do not start the fast until you see the new crescent moon, and do not break the fast until you see the new crescent moon. If the new crescent moon is obscured from you, then complete a full thirty days”. This approach entails going outside once a lunar month to search for the new crescent moon in the post-sunset sky. It only requires the ability to see and of course, count 29 days from the last time the new crescent was seen. It is clearly the simpler solution to the problem of determining the beginning of the lunar months.

The simpler solution does not exclude the possibility of using astronomy to help one find the moon in the sky, it just does not require a person to learn astrodynamics to complete lengthy calculations in abstraction.

Certainty is a beautiful thing. Nothing brings true certainty better than experience. Experiencing the new crescent moon appearing in the post-sunset sky is something that can’t be explained, it must be felt. This evening, 29 days since the last time we saw the new crescent moon, we went out to search for that elusive sliver of light. It was hard. The new crescent moon this month was incredibly thin. A delight to see. Bringing a filling of the heart with both Joy and Certainty. Here is this month’s moon, with its tips pointing up and to the left, if you watched the video you’ll know what I mean.

Shawwal 1443. True Certainty

With the sighting of this moon, the Blessed month of Ramadan comes to a close and it ushers in the Festival of Breaking Fast. A joyous day where Muslims all over the world celebrate by eating, drinking, and Remembering their Lord, for whom they abstained from food and drink for an entire month during the day.

Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers, and as always Peace to all.

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Don’t Second That Moon

On Friday April 1st, 2022 I went out with my family to seek out the new crescent moon that would mark the beginning of Ramadan this year. The probability forecast was not favorable for a naked-eye sighting, but since April 1st was the 29th day of Sha’baan, the month preceding Ramadan, it was obligatory to go out and search. This is what we saw.


We saw nothing and it was not a surprise. What did surprise me was that reports from as far east as Texas and Louisiana were coming in with naked-eye reports. They seemed very incredulous given that the moon was only 0.6% illuminated in that part of the country with an age of 18 to 19 hours, we would have been finding near record breaking sightings. It was highly unlikely.

Then a report from San Diego, CA came in with 10 to 12 individuals sighting the moon but ONLY with binoculars. It was reasonable as that was what the probability maps were suggesting. Since I work with CrescentWatch to field reports and make monthly announcements of crescent moon sightings, we considered the report and inquired if any of the observers were able to see the moon with the naked-eye. The lead sighter reported in the negative. We at CrescentWatch did not accept the report as a valid sighting as CrescentWatch policy for a valid sighting requires a naked-eye sighting in adherence to the the Prophetic tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God upon him. The night was fraught with confusion however, because a second organization that CrescentWatch collaborates with, The Central Hilal Committe (CHC) did accept that report and announced the beginning of Ramadan.

Many mosques and organizations questioned the announcement and were surprised to learn that the CHC did accept optical aid sightings, as many thought they adhered to naked-eye sightings as well. Later that night, additional information was obtained from the San Diego group, a very large group numbering between 60 and 100 people, that there was one adult man who saw the crescent “for 1 to 2 seconds” and there were three adult women, one an experienced sighter, and two who were first time sighters, saw the crescent as well, but no details about what they saw was given. This seemed to placate many questioners and for many they fasted on Saturday April 2nd.

That report was fraught with doubt and so CrescentWatch did not accept the report and announced that Ramadan would commence on Sunday April 3rd, placing Saturday April 2nd as the infamous Day of Doubt, which the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God be upon him, said it was a day when fasting was not allowed.

I am not blaming anyone for fasting on Saturday, and hope that all efforts and fasts are accepted.

What is important is that every individual has established certainty for themselves before starting to fast. If those who fasted Saturday were certain the month had started then they are fine. And those who did not fast on Saturday because they were not certain, then they are fine as well.

But what prompted me to write this post, is that on Saturday evening after sunset I went out with my family again to sight the moon and this time we did see the moon. Here is what I saw and photographed.

A First Day Moon of Ramadan 1443

I posted it on social media and quickly people responded. For the most part liking and thanking me for posting it. However, some called it a Second Day Moon, by virtue of how big it is. This is the concern that I am writing about. This is clearly a first day moon and when I compare this moon with several other large first day moons, it makes me wonder what brings someone to make such a statement?

Here are other true first day moons as I either photographed them on the 29th or 30th day, and the day prior no moon was visible in the post sunset sky. Do they look similar?

First Day Moon
First Day Moon
First Day Moon

The following table shows the pertinent data for each of these first day moons

Month and YearPercent IlluminationElongation AgeLag Time
Ramadan 20223.4%21°44 hours94 minutes
Rabi al-Awwal 20213.6%21°39 hours64 minutes
Rabi ath-Thaani 20211.9%15.75°28 hours48 minutes
Shawwal 20182.7%18°32.5 hours68 minutes

How the crescent moon appears depends so much on where a person happens to be on the earth at the time of conjunction and at the sunset following conjunction or the day after that. The moon is not always visible on the day of conjunction, in fact more often than not, it is not visible on the day of conjunction. I also think those people who make such comments simply do not know what they are looking at and unfortunately expose their ignorance by saying things like “that looks like a second day moon”, like they have seen and compared both first day and second day moons. How often does anyone go out to look at a second day crescent moon?

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God be upon him, stated in one of his traditions regard the end days, that near the end of time, people would see a first day moon and claim it is a second day moon. This is frightening, as I have been hearing such comments for many years now.

What I recommend is that those who come out of the woodworks once or twice a year to seek out information regarding the start of the month, that they should make it a practice that they go out once a month and seek out the new crescent moon for themselves. Observe with their own eyes what a new crescent moon is and how its appearance changes from month to month. Experience the amazing and fulfilling moment when the crescent moon suddenly appears before their eyes as if it was brought into existence from non-existence by the Creator of all things.

Al-Hakim in his collection of hadith relates that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him said, The best of God’s servants are those who are vigilant in observing the sun, moon, stars, and shadows for determining the times of remembrance of God.

Only then do I think our vocal friends will find the temperance in their comments regarding the effort and struggle that the vigilant moon sighters make in keeping time.

I hope everyone of my Muslim readers, brothers and sisters, find great solace in the month of Ramadan, that they honor Ramadan by following the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and by virtue of their fasting find Forgiveness, Fortitude, and Felicity from God.

Peace to you all.

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No Doubt, No Doubt…

May 11th, 2021 marked the 29th day of Ramadan this year. As 29 days earlier, we were surprised by a very thin new crescent moon appearing in our sky when we were not expecting to see it on April 12th. Surprise! The moon appeared where the sighting probability maps indicated that it could not be seen except with an optical aid, however to be fair, my location was on the borderline between needing an optical aid and able to see it in perfect conditions.

So on May 11th, I was not expecting to see the moon. The probability of seeing was near zero. Given the moon was only several hours past conjunction and that it set a mere 10 minutes after the sun set, I had a very high level of confidence that we would not see it and that Ramadan this year would be competed as a 30 day month.

The Last Sunset?

As we waited for the sun to drop below the horizon we struggled not to look at it and developing the dreaded green spots that remain as phantom images burned into one’s retina, making seeing subtle things, like the new moon, very difficult. Was this the last sunset of Ramadan? Would something miraculous happen and the new moon become visible to us?

It was not long before I had no doubt, no doubt at all that Ramadan was not over.

No Doubt

The horizon was clear, and 10 minutes flew by very quickly and without a sight of the moon. But wait…. what is that?!

Oh Wait!…

Is that the moon?! So many times in the past, reports came in of something that looked like this condensation trail with claims of it being the moon. It is understandable, the excitement is high in anticipation of either starting Ramadan or ending it that we sometimes can fool ourselves into thinking we are seeing what we really are not seeing. I have “seen” moons in the sky that I wanted to see in my mind’s eye and it has confused me.

But in the end, we left for home grateful for another day of fasting. It is strange, we enter into Ramadan foregoing our food and drink in exchange for hunger and thirst because our Creator asked us to do so, and we obeyed. By the time Ramadan is nearing its end, the hunger and thirst for food and drink we experienced at the beginning of the month, has seemed to have vanished, and now our hunger can only be satiated by standing in prayer, and the thirst we find could only be slaked by the sweet recitation of the Quran. A deep longing emerges hoping that Ramadan never ends. But alas, time marches on.

Shawwal, the month that trails Ramadan, comes with its first day as the Festival of Breaking Fast. As with all the months in the Islamic calendar, the beginnings are marked with either a naked eye witnessing of the new crescent moon or the completion of the month as a 30 day month. Ramadan this year was completed as a 30 day month. Therefore, technically, sighting the new crescent of Shawwal was not needed, but hey that never stopped me before.

As I headed out to sight it, I was expecting a nice thick and bright crescent, as the moon would be 32 hours past conjunction. Ha! Was I wrong!

Shawwal 1, 1442 (seen on May 12, 2021)

As I stood there marveling at how thin of a crescent it was, I thought, after 30 years of looking for new crescents, the one thing that was predictable about the moon is its unpredictability. We humans have tried to nail down a method of predictability for literally thousands of years. We have yet to be successful. Even though our modern astronomical calculations are unbelievably accurate in determining the location of the moon in the sky, we have no method of predicting where or when the moon can be seen with any level of certainty. Our best effort so far, an extrapolation method using regression analysis of past data. Is it a good method? Well, in spite of centuries of observation data, the moon still surprises us.

So Ramadan this year comes to an end. As the moon appeared in the sky, it was accompanied by a familiar night traveler, the planet Venus.

Companions on the Path

As the moon and Venus hung there in the sky, a feeling of serenity and melancholy washed over me. It has always been a moment of great succor for me when I witness the moon in the silence that comes with the evening twilight. I almost need to experience it every month just to know that there is order in all the madness that ensues in the world. The moon returns each month, the sky still glows and time moves on, and with it Ramadan has left.

I already miss Ramadan; the struggle for something greater than myself, for a reason greater than myself, for the sweetness of breaking fast, for the comradery and closeness between family and friends when we sit together to enjoy our evening meal and the rush in the pre-dawn hours to prepare and eat with a looming deadline hanging over us, for the hours spent standing in prayer hoping for salvation from our less than perfect lives, for the melodic recitation of a Book that contains the speech not of anything or anyone of this world.

My closing prayer this Ramadan, Oh God, please bring me to another Ramadan!

The End is Just the Beginning

So as this Ramadan ends, I must remind myself that this is not the end, but just the beginning of another year. Armed with a renewed spirit and commitment to do better, be better, and live better, we part our time with this Ramadan and hope to meet it again in 12 more moons in a state better than we left it.

With that, I wish all of my Muslim patrons a heart felt Eid Mubarak!

And as always to all of you, until next time – Peace.

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The Year That Had No Hajj…Almost

This evening I went out to seek the new crescent moon of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar and the moon that marks the beginning of the Hajj – the Pilgrimage embarked on by Muslims around the world to the Sacred Ancient House, the Kaba, in Mecca.

As I stood there looking into the sky the crescent appeared all alone in the sky, a sky that was void of any other thing, not even the colors of sunset really accompanied this moon. It was somewhat underwhelming.

Crescent moon of Dhul Hijjah 1441
All Alone

Normally seeing the new moon brings me much joy. However today I was a little sad. The emergence of this evening’s moon brought in the Islamic month known as Dhul Hijjah, or the possessor of the Hajj, because it is in this 12th month of the Islamic calendar that the Hajj takes place. However this year, because of the global pandemic of COVID-19, the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the caretakers of the sacred mosque in Mecca decided that it would more prudent to limit the number of pilgrims allowed to make the Hajj this year. In fact, they closed the Hajj to anyone not residing in Saudi Arabia and are limiting the number of pilgrims to only a few thousand.

For Muslims, the Hajj is the fifth pillar of the religion and is an obligation on all able-bodied adults who have the physical health and the financial ability to make the journey. Depending on where in the world a person lives, it is a once in a lifetime trip and some will save for decades before making the journey. I was greatly saddened to hear that the authorities were not granting any Hajj visas this year. But the reason for doing so was well justified. Annually, between 1.5 to 2 million pilgrims will congregate in Mecca and the surrounding area to fulfill the rites of the Hajj. Illness during the Hajj is not foreign and it is expected that one will come down with some type of illness during or afterward. I became very ill immediately after I made the pilgrimage as well as most of my friends that traveled with me. We all had a high fever and chills, followed by severe respiratory infection in the sinuses and lungs. I was ill for almost two weeks. A few of my companions needed to go to the hospital there in Suadi Arabia before we traveled back home. I shudder to think of what might occur if 2 million pilgrims were to contract COVID-19 during the Hajj and then travel back to where they came from. The pandemic might become something that could decimate millions around the world.

So while we might have not been able to visit the Sacred Ancient House, those few Guests of the Compassionate, as the pilgrims are known, will have to carry that community-wide communal obligation for the rest of the world population of the Muslims who will not be making the trip. And while we might be prevented from making Hajj and will probably have to celebrate the Holiday of Sacrifice alone due to social distancing guidelines, we are not alone in spirit.

Crescent Moon of Dhul Hijjah 1441
Not Alone At All

While we may look up at the moon and think that it is all alone, it looks back down, if it could, and it sees all of us below here on earth, as well as all the trees, mountains, oceans, and animals and together we all glorify our Creator, the Most Compassionate. So this year, in ten days, when the Holiday of Sacrifice is upon us, know that the small sacrifice that we have to make as we socially distance ourselves for the protection of all humanity in trying to quell the spread of this virus that has turned our lives upside down, that it is not an insignificant sacrifice at all.

With that, I wish to all those who will be performing the Hajj this year a blessed and accepted Hajj, and to all the rest an early greeting of Eid Mubarak!

Till next time, stay safe, stay well, protect yourselves and your fellow neighbors and community. Peace to you all!

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It strikes me how calm things are for most of the year when it comes to sighting the moon.   It shows up every month in complete silence in the sky after the sun drops below the horizon.  The winds stop.  The birds go quiet and silence descends upon the earth.  Most months during the year no one even cares about the new moon.  No one calls asking if the moon was seen.  No one calls or sends emails or messages by some means reporting that the moon was seen.  No debates, no arguments, no drama at all.  Its a nice reprieve from that madness, however then my mind starts to wonder why?  Why is no one debating our recent sighting?  Why is no one sending in reports?  Did anyone go out and look for it?  It worries me that this beautiful tradition might be slipping through our collective fingers.

No Fanfare

And yet, with no fanfare, that beautiful sliver of reflected light makes its self known every month and for those who are willing to just go outside and look, it will enamor them.   So, for those lovers of light who might be out there reading this simple and short post, this quiet drama-less photograph of the new crescent moon is for you.  Keep the vigilance and watch out for the next new moon as this month, Rab’i Ath-thaani, winds down.  And may the Beloved, peace be upon him, know that we are still here keeping his traditions alive.  

Until next time, Peace.

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Better Late Than Never

Tuesday October 9th was the 29th day of the month of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar and the evening of the first moon sighting in the Islamic year of 1440.  I was teaching my astronomy course that evening at Zaytuna College and was planning on taking the class out to search for the new crescent there on the hilltop campus.  By 5 pm that evening, fog had rolled in from the San Francisco bay and completely enveloped the campus.  Sighting the new crescent moon from the campus was not going to happen.

Fellow moonsighter and colleague at Crescent Watch, Zakariyya, sent me a text message, at about the same time the fog had rolled in, indicating to me that we on the west coast might again be the only people to sight the moon.  The probability map for that evening showed that most of the southern half of North America would be in a visibility zone that required perfect atmospheric conditions to see the crescent without an optical aid.  I replied to him and informed him that he alone might be that person as I was fogged in.  He was on his way up to the western face of Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands.

Sighting Probability, October 9th, 2018

I quickly sent messages to my four assistants that they needed to make a concerted effort to meet at our near-home sighting location in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  All four managed to congregate at about 7 pm at our normal viewing location.  At 7:07 pm, I receive a phone call while in the middle of class.  It was my oldest assistant contacting me to let me know that the moon was nowhere to be seen and asked for some additional guidance as to where they can expect to see it.  There was some confusion among the team as to where to look.  At that point in time the sun had already gone below the horizon 30 minutes prior and the moon, although a hand span or so above the horizon at the time of sunset, would now be much closer to the horizon itself.  They had at that point possibly 20 minutes before the moon would drop below the horizon.  I suggested looking about 2 finger widths above the horizon.  No sooner did I finish that instruction to him that he exclaims “Allahu Akbar! There it is!”  The entire astronomy class becomes gleeful as they all heard his exclaim coming through over the phone speaker.  Suddenly two more voices rip out from the phone as the other two assistants saw it, and then voices clamoring as they pointed it out to my youngest assistant and suddenly all four are witnesses!

It was a joyful moment for all of us.  I quickly sent a text message to Zakariyya, who by that time was on Mount Tam, that we had a positive sighting by three adults, 2 male and one female, in the south.  His reply was one of relief as he informed me that Mount Tam was covered by clouds as well.  Within the hour it was clear that no other sightings had been made and my four assistants, to the best of our knowledge, were the sole witnesses in the entire world!  I was very proud of my four assistants for coming together and making the effort to keep this crucial tradition alive.  However, within that same hour, we received word that another crescent sighting organization had announced that the crescent had not been seen and the month of Safar had not commenced.  We quickly had to rally to correct the misinformation by passing along the sighting report to that organization.  We had no doubt that they would want to interview my assistants on the sighting details.  

I called my oldest and informed him that he and the others were about to be the object of scrutiny and to be ready for it and answer honestly.  For the most part the interviews went well and all was done.  However, on the next day my oldest received one more call from an obscure person who was not so interested in the sighting itself but in the character of my son.  He questioned why his name had never come up before as a sighter even though my son claimed to be a veteran of moonsighting with more than a decade of experience.  When my son informed me of this I was taken aback at first.  My son was quite agitated by the man’s line of questioning.  I counseled my son to learn how to grow a thick skin and that if you choose to be a guardian of this tradition that from time to time you will be the object of such behavior towards you.  I will say this now, in my son’s defense, he has been with me at nearly every outing to sight the moon ever since his birth.  When he became an adult, and I made a sighting report, he was my validating witness, even if his name never made it into the records.

But it made me think of the numerous times that we received sighting reports from unknown people and the line of questioning that we had to put them through.  The interesting thing is that even though we did ask about their experience, we never questioned their veracity.  Albeit I suppose someone could be lying about seeing the moon, but for the life of me I can not fathom why a person would do so of their own volition.  Many times what they saw was clearly not the moon and such mistakes are not uncommon, but every time we saw a new name pop up on our radar it brought with it a sense of hope that this tradition is being revived.  If we treated every sighting claim made by a new person with skepticism and questioning the character of that person making the report, we would alienate the community from carrying out this beautiful monthly tradition.

Finally, as I checked in on our social media outlet to see if the announcement of the start of Safar had been made, I came across a comment left by one of the followers of that account.  It started off with “Pff.  Is there a photo…”.  I was shocked and at the same time felt somewhat guilty.  For years I have been reporting the sightings of the new crescent and in almost every case I have always included a photograph of the crescent.  I asked myself, have I created a culture of seekers that will only take as proof a photograph?  The fact is the proof of the sighting comes only by the claim that it was seen by at least two credible male witnesses.  Of course the more witnesses the better and when the sky is clear and the moon could be easily seen, even  more witnesses are expected.  For some, the claim of the sighting is taken without any additional questioning as to the veracity, not of the person, but of the details of the sighting itself, regardless of how incredulous the report could be.  However, in this modern age where many things leave traces in the sky that could be mistaken for the crescent moon, some questioning of what was seen is necessary to corroborate the sighting against scientific data of the moon’s condition at the time of the sighting.  Other than that no additional evidence is needed.  Photographs do help if the sighter has one, but it is not necessary, nor is it proof that the moon was seen.  If I was a deceitful person, I could pull out any of my myriad of crescent moon photos from the last 25+ years of sighting and claim it was the moon of the current month.  How would one know the difference?  Granted, today’s technology makes it a bit harder to falsify such things with the attached meta-data that is tagged with digital images, but nonetheless, it could be done.

We have to learn how to trust one another in an age when lying is believed to be true and truth is believed to be a lie. It is unfortunately a sign of the end of time as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, foretold us about in his many prophecies of the future.   If nothing else I hope that this tradition of sighting the new crescent moon to establish the starts of months in this living Islamic calendar, will help build trust between us in the Muslim community here in North America and worldwide.

Given all that I have mentioned above the beauty of the new crescent moon still shines through.  And even though I did not have the good fortune of seeing the crescent when it first appeared on the horizon, I went out the next night to capture a photograph of it.  I did not have to go far, as I only had to step out of my front door to see and photograph it as it poked through the redwood trees surrounding our home.

Safar 1440, Day 2 Crescent

If you have never seen the new crescent moon on the first day when it is visible, then make the intention to go out next month to search for it.  You most likely will not have to travel far at all, probably just out our front door as well.  In case you wish to do so, mark Wednesday November 7th as that day.  It will be the 29th day of the month of Safar and the day that searching for the next new moon will occur.

With that I wish all of you a Safar Mubarak and Peace.

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In The Nick Of Time

Today was the 29th day of the Sacred month of Rajab in the Islamic Calendar. It is the the 7th month in the Islamic year and proceeds the Holy month of Ramadan by two months.  Sighting its new crescent is first in line to accurately determining the start of Ramadan as it sets up the correct sighting day for the 8th month known as Shabaan.  Today was that crucial day for sighting Shabaan.

It was a touch and go day if the new moon of Shabaan would be seen at all.  As the afternoon unfolded for us here on the West Coast, I received reports from further east that the sky was clouded over by other moon sighters.  It was looking grim for us as well.  We had on and off rain all day and as I pulled up to our new sighting location in the Santa Cruz mountains, it was not looking good.

First Sight – Not Looking Good!

My close friend and fellow moonsighter was about 50 or so miles north standing on Mount Tamalpais had much better conditions and I was hoping that at least he would see it.  Here is the sky he had.

Looking Good!

My assistants  standing with me on that wind blown ridge started to lose hope as it started to rain on us.  I took off my jacket and covered the camera on the tripod and said, “we wait it out”.  There is always hope.  The rain slowly subsided.  The clouds started to break and I became even more hopeful, while the others not so much.  Slowly the breaks in the clouds became bigger and then smaller.  Gaps would open and our eyes played tricks on us as we thought we saw it and then not.

The all of a sudden at 8:02 pm PDT my phone rang, it was a text from my friend up north.  He saw the moon with 2 other adult males and one adult female for a total of 4 witnesses.  I was both elated and saddened at the same time as it was starting to look grim for us again.  But we pushed on.  The moon was still in the sky and if we needed to we would stay there until moon set.  We kept searching, the clouds kept passing in and out leaving gaps where we needed to look.  Then my oldest assistant cried out, “I think I see it Allahu Akbar,…No…maybe…I don’t know”.  Then one of my other assistants said the same.  I was still “in the clouds”.

Then both of those assistants cry out “There it is, Allahu Akbar! I see it”.  The other two “Where, where?”  There is confusion as I and the other two tried to find it.  Descriptions were not clear as to where to look.  Then all of a sudden, right in a gap between the clouds, I see it. “Allahu Akbar!!!!”.  I quickly point the camera at it, and I snap off one exposure.  Then I try to point it out to my other two assistants.  While I try to get some more exposures.  The moon sank quickly behind the clouds below it, allowing only one good exposure of the new moon of Shabaan.  We sighted it at 8:07 pm PDT with about an azimuth of 280 degrees and an altitude of just 3 fingers above the horizon.  

Shabaan 1, 1439

Not as artistically placed as usually try to do, but this time I caught that moon just in the nick of time.  In the end we were elated.  We went out and fulfilled our Sunnah of seeing the new crescent moon.  We are taking back this sunnah.  We will not let it be lost.  One month from now, that is in 29 days, count them and go out and look for the the moon of Ramadan and take back the sunnah for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

Until next time, Shabaan Mubarak and Peace to all!

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Totally Awesome

The total solar eclipse on Monday August 21st, 2017 was an incredible thing to witness. From the slow and steady progression of the partial phases, to seeing the moon totally obscure the sun and the land going dark, to seeing the corona and the diamond just as totality ended, to the throngs of viewers who came out to watch, it was in all aspects totally awesome!

I have finally finished processing my photos of the eclipse and I am sharing them below. I will further write a more contemplative reflection in the days to come so stay tuned. For the meantime enjoy…

A time lapse composite showing several partial phases and the famed diamond ring phenomenon. 

Prominence – Time Lapse Composite with the famed Diamond Ring Effect

A more accurate orientation of how the sun and moon moved in relation to one another.  The sun in this composite photo is moving from the bottom left corner to the upper right as it climbed in the morning sky, while the moon was moving from the upper right to the lower left corners as it was passing through its descending node of its orbit (more on that later), and the two met in the middle.  Just before they parted ways the Diamond Ring effect happens as shown in the middle.  All that glitters is not just gold.

All That Glitters. (time progression from bottom left to upper right)

The crowning photo (pun intended) is of the Corona during totality.  It was the processing of this photo that caused my delay in presenting these to you.  I made dozens of exposures of the totality in an attempt to capture detail in all parts of the corona itself.  Eight separate exposures were combined through a variety of digital imaging techniques to bring out the detail throughout the corona and produce an image that to my eyes looks as close to what I recall seeing at the time when totality took place.  The moon wearing the crown of the sun, completely overshadows the now lowly star Regulus, “The Little King” as it is known, hanging out just below and to the left of the union in total awe like the rest of us.

Wearing The Crown

You may click on the images above to see larger versions.  If you would like to see these photographs in person, I will be showing them at the Campbell’s Farmers Market on Sundays in downtown Campbell.  Please come by if you are a local!

Till later, please enjoy the photos and let me know what you think.

Peace to all!

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Hajj Begins

On Tuesday August 22, 2017 the new crescent moon, now devoid of the crown it wore just a day before while it was in union with the sun, appeared quietly above the horizon.  It is a special moon, marking the beginning of the Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca for the world Muslim community.  As I write, millions of people from all nationalities, races, ages, social and economic status the world round are making their way towards Mecca on foot, on animal, by car, boat or plane.  Seeking one goal.  Heeding the call of the Creator and hoping for His Mercy and Forgiveness.  A spectacle unlike any other in the world.

Dhul Hijjah, 1438

May all the Pilgrims have a blessed and accepted Pilgrimage.  And if any of you are going and are reading this, please keep me and my family in your prayers!

Peace to you all!

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Freedom From Fire

Ramadan is quickly coming to a close.  As I write, the 28th day is starting to wane.  I always feel melancholy as Ramadan prepares to leave us.  The abstaining from food and drink is not always so pleasant, but we learn to patiently deal with it as we move through the month.  The pangs of hunger, continuously reminding us of the state we are in, become dull and we don’t notice them so much by month’s end.  We start to turn inward and work on our spiritual-selves.  We pray more.  We read the Qur’an more.  We reflect on our shortcomings and work on becoming better humans.  We seek forgiveness from our Lord.  We give charity to those who are less fortunate.  We feed people.  The community comes together each night.  Camaraderie builds.  Old friends become new again.   The relationship with our Creator becomes stronger.  We become more grateful for what we have.  By month’s end, the heart is overflowing with love, compassion, gratitude and hope.

So, it is only natural that one would feel sad to see all of this vanish with the close of the month.

The month of Ramadan also brings with it some amazing opportunities for what is to come once we leave this world.  The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) stated that the beginning of Ramadan is Mercy, the middle of Ramadan is Forgiveness and the end of Ramadan is Freedom from the Hell-Fire.  Likewise He (peace be upon him) stated Woe to those who fast Ramadan and are not emancipated from the Fire.  This brings on a great urgency as Ramadan closes  with increased worship in the hopes of finding that freedom.

This year, 2016, we find ourselves planning to search for the new moon of the month of Shawwal, marking the end of Ramadan, on July 4th!  Here in the United States of America, of course July 4th is Independence Day, the day the founders of this great country liberated themselves from the tyranny of King George III of England in 1776.  From the location where I normally sight the new crescent moons, I can see nearly the entire San Francisco Bay Area.  It will be interesting to see all the firework displays from there all happening at the same time, at a great distance however, but nonetheless that will be a lot of fireworks!

It struck me odd this year that we are ending the month of Ramadan with increased effort to find freedom from the Fire, and we will be closing out the month celebrating freedom with fire. I’m sure there is something deep to think about there but I have some more spiritual work to tend to.

So to all my readers, a pre-Eid Mubarak and have a safe and happy 4th of July!


Until next time, Peace.

P.S.  Please remember to go out and search for the new crescent on July 4th.  I’ll be at Russian Ridge, my usual place, if anyone is interested in joining me.

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