Blog Archives

From Darkness…

..And into the Light.

That is how the moon appears.

Dhul Hijjah Crescent 1435

It emerges from apparently nowhere and appears before our eyes basking in the light of the sun and guiding us on our journey through time.  We stand under it on this evening in submission and hearing the call to return to the Ancient House, where so many have returned over the millenia.  For those able, the journey of a lifetime begins and will culminate cleansed and given the chance to start anew, freed from the darkness of the self and allowed to enter into the Light of the Divine.

Safe travels and Godspeed, Oh Guests of the Compassionate.  Do not forget us in your prayers.  May your sacrifice be accepted.

For those of us who stay behind, get busy; for the best ten nights of the year start now.

Peace to All.

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Happy Returns

Crescent Moon of Shawwal, The Start of Eid

Shawwal 1435 – Eid Mubarak!

Like clockwork, the moon ticks its way back to new.  It will show itself in the sky.  It always does.  Bringing with it, for those who wait to look, a joy that signals a day of joyous celebration.

To my Muslim Readers, Eid Mubarak!

Peace to All!

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Festive Times

Shawwal Crescent of 1434

Shawwal Moon – Eid Al fitr Begins

Like clock work the new moon for the month of Shawwal 1434 and the ushering in of Eid Al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking Fast) began this evening at sunset.  The moon as beautiful as always was set against a very festively colored sky.  I am always amazed at how the moon knows how to dress for the occasion!

It was late by the time I got around to preparing this post after having our last fast-breaking dinner bidding farewell to Ramadan this year, exchanging and opening gifts with my family, I was getting pretty tired, but I wanted to leave you all with a more gift-like photo of the moon.  I waited until the moon was close to setting and I created this 4 photo stitched panoramic of the moon just above the Santa Cruz mountains.

Shawwal 1434 New Moon Setting

The Setting New Moon

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

 

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Ramadan’s New Moon

Good evening all!  Although it was not required or critical to sight the moon this evening, it has become a habit that I just cannot leave.  I did not travel far to find this moon.  Nor did I have to, and neither do you if you are a crescent chaser as well.

Like every other month I go out to see this tiny sliver of light in the sky, when I see it great joy fills my heart and I wear a grin from ear to ear.  It is one of the most remarkable sights in all the world to me.  The moon has been my monthly companion for the last 20 years and it still brings me as much awe and wonder as the first time I ever saw it.

This month the moon ushers in a blessed month of patience, vigilance, fortitude, faith, and spirituality – the month of Ramadan.  It is the Muslim month of fasting in which observant Muslims abstain from food, drink and marital relations from dawn until sunset for the entirety of the month, solely out of obedience to our Loving and Merciful Creator.

So without further a due, here is the harkener of blessings upon blessings.

Ramadan 1434, Crescent Moon

Ramadan 1434, July 9th, 2013 at 8:43 pm PDT from San Jose, CA

To all my Muslim readers…Ramadan Mubarak!

And Peace to all!

 

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Ramadan 1434 Announcement

Just a quick note. The new crescent moon for Ramadan 1434 (2013) was not seen here on the west coast of the United States in the San Francisco Bay Area. Being that today, July 8th 2013, is the 29th day of Sha’baan, it is the critical day for looking for the moon.

In fact no positive verifiable sightings were made worldwide today. That being the case, Sha’baan will complete 30 days and Ramadan will commence on Wednesday July 10th, 2013.

Check back tomorrow if you are interested in seeing the new moon of Ramadan, which I plan on photographing tomorrow evening, God willing.

Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim readers!

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Sha’baan 1434 Begins

Just a quick note to announce the beginning of the eight month of the Islamic calendar, Sha’baan, has commenced this evening.  We tried to view this moon from our normal sighting location atop Russian Ridge in the Santa Cruz mountains, but fog, wind and a thick marine layer had completely obscured the view from there and any hope of seeing the new crescent.  We rushed back down the mountains and directly to the top level of a parking structure of a local hospital.  From there we had a clear view of the horizon and we waited there until we sighted it.

Shabaan 1434 Crescent

Shabaan 1434

Sha’baan is known as the Month of The Prophet.  In this month the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing upon him, used to fast more than in any other month outside of Ramadan.  It is also a month in which there is a night where those seeking forgiveness of God will find it if they ask.  It is the night of the 15th day.  So seek out your good fortune in this blessed month and   until next time, Peace.

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Rajab 1434 Begins

This evening the new crescent moon of Rajab for the Islamic year 1434 made its appearance.  It was a delicate moon and had the company of Venus as it set in the western sky.  A mild evening that at first posed some possible cloudy interference.  But as the sun set and the sky cooled, the clouds for the most part dissipated leaving the Moon and Venus in plain sight.

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

It was interesting that Venus was spotted first and was brighter in the sky than the crescent moon was, even though the moon is closer to us and many orders of magnitude larger.  We used Venus as our marker to find the moon, as we knew from an ephemeris that the two would be close to each other.

The moon was first sighted around 8:20 pm PDT and it was primarily in blank sky. I photographed it over the next half hour until it was just about to set.  The photograph above was made at approximately 8:45 pm PDT, as the dark band of clouds added an extra dimension to the scene.

Rajab is an important Islamic month as it helps in locking down the start times for the following month Sha’baan and then the month of Ramadan when fasting begins.  It ripples from this day onward for both the start of Ramadan and its end which ushers in Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking.

I feel very fortunate living here on the west coast.  We have the best possibility, and in most cases, the last word on any given day for sighting the new moon each month.  I and my assistants were not the only ones who sighted the moon this evening, I did receive one other report from a long time friend and fellow crescent chaser who saw it as well from atop Mount Tamalpais about 60 miles north of my location, also a stunning location in its own right.  We were atop Russian Ridge in the northern reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

To all my Muslim readers, Rajab Mubarak!

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Jamaad Ath-Thaani Begins

Just a quick note.  Today ended the first day of Jamaad Ath-Thaani, the 6th month in the Islamic year.  Yesterday was the 29th day of Jamaad Al-Awwal, the 5th month and the critical day for sighting the moon, but it was not seen anywhere.  This afternoon I ventured out with the team to the coast to see it at the end of the first day.  It was a lackluster sunset but with the moon setting near the Pigeon Point Lighthouse along the San Mateo Coastline it made up for it.

Jamad Ath-Thaani at Pigeon Point

Jamad Ath-Thaani at Pigeon Point

Only two months until Ramadan!

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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Hearing The Call

Thousands of years ago the Patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim in the Arabic), upon the commandment of our Creator, traveled with his family, wife Hajar and son Ismail, south out of Palestine and into the deserts of Arabia to a barren valley known at that time as Becca (today’s modern Mecca).  He left his wife and infant son there and turned around and started to walk away.  Despite the pleas of his wife he did not answer her until she asked him, “is this what your Lord commanded?”.  On that question he answered in the affirmative and continued to walk.  Hajar then replied, “then we shall persevere”.

A few days later their provisions ran out.  Her milk stopped.  The baby started to cry.  Hajar runs to the top of a near by hill, now called Mount Safa, and calls out for anyone to hear her.  She then runs down and to another hill about 1/4 of a mile away now known as Mount Marwah.  She calls out from there as well.  She runs between the two hills seven times calling out for help at each hill.  Her baby, down in the valley is crying and kicking.  Upon the completion of her seventh circuit between the two hills, she suddenly sees down by the feet of her son a spring of water had erupted and water was gushing forth.  This miraculous spring is known as Zamzam, and except for a short time when the ancient Meccans had buried it, it has flowed for thousands of years to this day providing travelers and pilgrims life sustaining water.

With the flow of water in that barren valley, birds began to fly there.  Caravans following the birds also soon arrived.  The great city of Mecca is built at that site.  About nine years go by and Ibrahim returns to visit his family and see the good fortune that was promised would come their way.  He finds a small city has grown around where he left his family.  It was at this time that he was commanded to build the first sanctuary for the worship of the One God and he lays down the foundation of that house.  It was also at this time that he was commanded to sacrifice his son Ismail.  It was this miraculous event where as he was about to draw the blade across his son’s throat, with his eyes closed unable to bear the sight of what he was about to do, hears his young son laughing heartily off to the side.  When he opens his eyes, he finds a ram in the place of his son.

He once again leaves his family only to return years later when his son is a young man.  At this time he and his son raise the house of worship, now known as the Ka’ba, a cubic shaped building.  Its corners are loosely aligned with one pair along the East-West line and the other pair along the North-South line.  Once they completed the house, Ibrahim calls out in supplication that the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth accept the effort that they made.  God replies to him by commanding him to make the call to all humanity to come and worship at that house.  Ibrahim then calls out in as loud a voice as he could.  It reverberated through all the canyons and ravines and every deep crack, and still echos to this day.

In response to that call made thousands of years ago,  on this night the faithful respond: “Hear we are in service O Lord Here we are replying to your call.  Here we are in service, there is no associate with You, Here we are!  Truly all praise is to you, all blessing from you, and to you is the dominion over all things.  There is no associate with You!”

And for the next 9 days, approximately 2 million Muslims of the nearly 1.75 billion on earth, begin to congregate on Mecca to perform the largest annual religious spectacle on the planet – The Hajj.

During the Hajj, Muslims sacrifice their livelihood by leaving it behind, leaving their families behind, their homes and trek out into the desert in worship of the One God, repeating the rites that were done by Hajar, Ibrahim and Ismail thousands of years ago.  Of course no human sacrifices are performed, being prohibited in Islam, but other sacrifices are made showing our devotion to God and our lack of care for material wealth.  It culminates in 9 days on the plain of Arafah 13 miles out in the desert and then back to Mecca on the 10th day where the faithful will circumambulate around the Ka’ba for 3 days during the Holiday of Sacrifice in commemoration of Ibrahim and what he did before they return home.  It is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year, being the second of only two holidays.

The start of the Hajj coincides with the beginning of the 12th month of the year Dhul-Hijjah, the month of the pilgrimage.  The month in the Islamic calendar, as always, starts with the sighting of the new crescent moon, which was seen world round this evening.  Here is the view from Campbell California.

Crescent Moon Dhul Hijjah 1433

Dhul Hijjah Moon, 1433

So to all my Muslims readers, Hajj Mabrur!

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