Crisp And Clean Confirms Our Deen

Yesterday, May 15th 2018, was the 29th day of the Islamic month of Sha’baan.  It was the critical day to go out and site the new moon for the month of Ramadan.  Unfortunately, no one saw the crescent moon last evening.  Even more disappointing, was that there was a claim that the moon was seen through a telescope down in Southern California.  The claim was incredulous and by 9 pm last night many organizations had announced that based on no valid sighting reports that Ramadan would start on Thursday May 17th.

Then this evening, after sunset this was the view in the western sky.

New Crescent of Ramadan 1, 1439

Without a doubt what you are seeing in this photo is the first day moon of Ramadan.  And without any doubt I know there will be people who will make the assertion that this is a second day moon.  One only needs to compare this moon too any of the other first day crescent moons on this site like the moon from earlier this year in the article titled Blue Is Peace.  You can compare for yourself and tell me if this evening’s moon is not a first day moon.

New Crescent of Rabi’ Al-Awwal 1, 1439

What is more phenomenal, is that those who claim it to be a second day moon, probably have never gone out to see a new moon in the first place!  The audacity!

Ramadan has finally started.  We begin fasting tomorrow.  Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim readers, and Peace to all.

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Is it Ramadan Yet?

We went out this evening to search for the new crescent moon marking the beginning of Ramadan. We will need to be patient for one more day as we did not see the new moon due to dense fog and cloud cover.

However certainty for the start of Ramadan is established, and Ramadan will start at sunset on May 16th, with the first full day of fasting on Thursday May 17th.

None the less, it was always beautiful to be one with creation and along with good friends all seeking the pleasure of our Creator.

Check back tomorrow where I hope to have a photo of this year’s Ramadan moon.

Till tomorrow, Peace to all.

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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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The Eye Of Night

Eons ago, light appeared.  It gives us the ability to see.  The light alternates with darkness giving us day and night.  During the day the source of light, a star that is 93 million miles from the Earth, is so strong that we cannot look into it without harming our eyes.  The sun that illuminates our world is not considered a very bright star among the myriad of stars that exist in the universe and yet it is the brightest entity in our sky.

However, as the sun drops below the western horizon at the end of each day the sky that was illumined blue turns dark and then a dazzling display of stars fills the night sky.  For millennia the night sky has piqued the curiosity of humanity as we gazed out into the universe, and it still does the same today.

At any given moment, when looking at the night sky we only see that myriad of stars as points of light.  What we cannot see is that the stars do move across the sky.  Yes, we can tell they move as we see them rise in the east and set in the west hours later.  However, at any given moment they are just fixed points of light, each slightly different from the other in either color, brightness, or twinkle.

We experience light with our eyes. However, as remarkable as our eyes are, they do not have the ability of persistence of vision. Our eyes function more like sieves than buckets. Photons, the tiny particles of light, that enter our eyes will either instantly be absorbed passing the information they hold to our brain if they happen to be photons in the visible range or they are just ignored. In either case the photons do not persist in our eyes as if they were captured in a bucket.

This lack of persistence limits us in seeing the history of motion that objects undergo. While at the same time it is fortunate that our eyes do not have persistence as our vision would be quite cluttered and possibly very confusing.

Yet with the proper tools we can experience the night sky in ways that elucidate it’s phenomenal nature. With technology at hand, we can augment our vision and see things very differently. The camera is that said tool. One might think that the latest and greatest camera would produce the best photos. While that may be true for most types of photos, modern cameras are starting to behave to much like our own eyes in that they start to fail in capturing light that shows persistence. If the camera keeps “looking” too long, then the physical limitations of the light sensor become apparent and the resulting image will be of very poor quality. The solution to the problem lies in older technology: film.

Film has the uncanny ability to work like a light bucket. Exposing film to light for a brief time causes a photo-chemical reaction to take place in the emulsion that is spread on the surface of the film itself. If exposure is continued for longer periods of time more reactions take place until all of the emulsion has reacted and the film goes clear; producing what is called an over-exposure. However, if the source of light used to expose the film is moving during exposure, especially in the dark of night, the film will not become overexposed even with very long exposures. The film will record where the light source is and through persistence, since once a chemical reaction takes place on the film it cannot be undone, we can see the history of the light source as well.

The Eye Of Night

It’s the perfect tool if one wishes to see how the night sky moves. As the stars move across the night sky, the film’s persistence of vision allows one to see the trails the stars took as they spanned our night sky. The great astronomers of past millennia had great imaginations that allowed them to see such trails in their mind’s eye. We however, due in part to the prevalence of technology, have lost that skill. Our mind’s eye has become dull and untrained. And while we rely on modern technology to see what our ancestors imagined, we still have the blessing of actually seeing the fantastic phenomena the moving stars are.

With the use of a camera and film, the trails taken by the stars as they move across the night sky become readily apparent. The trails themselves will appear different in a geometric sense depending on where the camera is pointed. Point the camera at the pole star Polaris and something amazing appears. Polaris does not move very much at all yet the stars near it seem to sweep out perfect circular arcs. Expose long enough to build the persistence and we start to see a structure that appears to be an eye itself.

I never reflected before on this apparent eye structure that appears in this photo even though I have taught astronomy for years and have watched the sky for many, many more and have imagined how the stars move. Now as I look up at the pole star and the stars that circumnavigate the sky near it, I can’t help but think that I am staring into the eye of night itself.

I further wonder, that as we have been looking up into the night sky for millennia marveling at the stars and the universe, that the universe has been looking back at us as well with one big eye. And if not the universe itself, maybe it’s Creator.

Until next time keep looking and pondering.

Peace.

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Is That All?

The year of 2018 started off with the rising of the year’s first full moon.  It was also the rising of the first of two full moons in the same month giving the first month of the year a Blue Moon, or so its called now when a given month has two full moons in it.  Not only that, but given that the moon was close to its perigee, the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, this full moon was also called a Super Moon.  The full moon on January 1st of 2018 appeared 14.1% larger than average.  So of course, it was a unique moon and what better way to bring in the new year than to go out and photograph it.

As I stood on a ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains not far from where I now live, I looked to the east in great anticipation waiting for the moon to appear above one ridge line east of my location.

Anticipation Rising

As the sky dimmed I could see clouds building to the east and hope of seeing the first full super moon of year started to wane.  Then suddenly a dim glow started to appear behind the trees.  It was coming!  My shutter started to fly.  Exposures changing.  Compositions changed as well.  It was clear though, the moon was rising behind clouds.  I nearly gave up.  But then, a definite arch suddenly appeared between the trees.  The brightness of the moon penetrated the thin veil of clouds and made itself apparent in the sky.  There is a reason it was called a super moon!

Super Moon Rising

That moon was phenomenal!  As large as I think I have ever seen it, and so bright and full of contrast, just hovering there in the sky with the swirls of clouds surrounding it in a magical mist.  I continued photographing it rise varying my exposures to hopefully develop a composite image the would faithfully convey to my readers what I was seeing.  Expose for the moon, and the subtle clouds lit by the moon vanish in darkness.  Expose for the clouds themselves, and the moon becomes nothing more than a pure white orb in the resulting capture.  The dynamic range was so wide that I did not think a realistic image could even be developed.  Nonetheless, I continued.

Later that evening, as I sat in my studio struggling with the exposure I had to make a composite, it became evidently clear to me that I just might not be able to convey what I saw.  Not happy with my results, I shut down my workstation and retired.  I turned my attention towards the end of the month when not only would I get a chance again to capture another Super Moon, although only 12.9% larger than normal, it would also be a Blue Moon, and furthermore, it was to coincide with a total lunar eclipse – A Blood Moon!

Fast forward three weeks.  The moon slowly wanes to full.  One week until January 31st and I arrive home not feeling well.  I wake in the morning feeling the full brunt of influenza, I have contracted the virus and its wracking my body to shreds.  I start fearing that I just might miss the Super Blue Blood Moon as it is now called.  The moon on the evening of January 30 would be rising only 12 hours from being at 100% full.  It will pass through midnight here in the Pacific timezone and then start its descent to the western horizon.  Then approximately 4 hours before setting it would enter into Earth’s outer shadow, known as the Penumbra, and then approximately an hour later, into the inner shadow known as the Umbra and into totality.  The peak of totality would occur at 5:31 am PST.  I slept most of the day on January 30th, exhausted by the flu.  That night sleep was light yet fearful of daring to trek out in the middle of the night as ill as I was to try to see the eclipse let alone try to capture it with the camera.

My oldest assistant, the one who accompanied me last August to see the total solar eclipse, was as eager as I to come along, but of course not at all afraid, and I was very happy to have someone of able body to accompany me.  Normally, I would have witnessed and photographed the entirety of the event, however, given my condition, I was satisfied to see and capture just totality.  We set our alarms for 4:30 am, giving us 1 hour to position ourselves along the same ridge I used earlier in the month to capture the New Year’s moon.  It was a ridge that had good visibility to both the east and west.

We arrived with plenty of time.  There was a slight breeze blowing at our arrival.  It was not very cold at all, and bundled up as I was in my winter clothing I fared well out in the night air.  We saw the moon enter into totality and carefully exposed the moon and then quickly exposing for the night sky as well to capture the stars that appeared in its vicinity.  It was an event, a Super Moon, A Blue Moon, and A Blood Moon all occurring on the same night.  It was an event that had not been seen in 150 years, and would not be seen again until January 31st of 2037!  As 5:31 am approached I asked my assistant to keep me apprised of the time.  I wanted to make sure I captured the moon at the peak of totality.  As it occurred, I called out to my assistant and said “there it is, peak totality!”.

“Is That All!?”, asked my assistant, in a very disappointed tone.

“What Do You Mean, Is That All?, were you expecting a Corona or something?” 

“It’s not a solar event, its much more subtle and quiet and most people would not even make the effort to go out in the dead of the night to see it. You should consider yourself fortunate to have seen it.”

And although it was a much photographed event due to the hype mustered about the rarity of this moon, most images I have seen left me flat.  There is one special thing about a moon in the totality of the Earth’s shadow, and that is that it is dim and allows us to see the stars that are near the moon.  Stars that we normally cannot see on a full moon evening because the moon is so bright that it extinguishes out such nearby stars much like the sun does in the day.  Therefore, when I photograph the moon in a total lunar eclipse, I am as interested in the surrounding stars as I am in the moon itself.  So without anymore delay, The Super Blue Blood Moon along with it’s accompaniment of stars in the constellation Cancer.

Super Blue Blood Moon and Stars of Cancer

Each star in the field was verified as an actual star and not a digital artifact using the Stellarium Ephemeris.  I’ll just mention a few of them.  The closest star to the moon at approximately 10 o’clock is HIP 43613 and is 673.88 light years (ly) away.  The bright star in the upper left corner, HIP 43742 and is 514.44 ly away.  The bright star to the lower left is 54 Cnc and is 124.96 ly away.  The oldest star is HIP 43206 and is 856.05 ly away and is near the lower right but second from the edge.  Several of the stars are unnamed so if anyone wants a star, contact the star registry!

Upon completing this image, I thought about the first New Year moon that I photographed and mentioned above.  I yearned to actually develop a composite that would convey what I saw.  So I opened those exposures and got to work once again.  This time, I found the necessary ingredients needed to combine both the exposures of the moon with that of the clouds and came away with what I remember.  There is a reason it is called a Super Moon.  Heck, even if it is not “super” it is still a stupendous entity in our night sky.  No wonder so much in the way of poetry is written about it, no wonder that it is used as an adjective to describe the radiance of the face of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, it is truly a wonder to behold.

Truly, A Super Moon!

We started this year with Light.  That is a good way to start! 

Until next time, Peace to you All!

 

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Sparks Of Light – 11/22/17

 

Look up

Look down

Look all around

And miracles can be found.

Even in a leaf

No longer in the Crown

Now adorns the lowly ground.

 

Look Down

 

Layers

 

Miracle

 

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Blue Is Peace

New Crescent of Rabi Al-Awwal

Blue Is Peace

Color is a fascinating subject to study.  Apart from the physics of light itself and the wave lengths of the various colors that we can see, colors have a profound psychological effect on us.  Blue is an interesting color in that it can effect us in many positive ways.  Blue is a color that suggests peace. It’s the color of the calm sea and the clear sky, both of which are linked to inner serenity, calm and clarity. Blue was also shown to slow heart rate and breathing, so it can be a good color to aid in meditation or relaxation. Blue is associated with intelligence. It has been proven that different shades of blue can improve concentration, stimulate thinking and provide mental clarity. It also improves productivity. This is a good color for study and work, as it offers relaxation and stimulation at the same time.  Blue is a color that is linked with confidence. Unlike red, which shows aggressive dominance, blue is related to a calm authority. Blue inspires trust, it is non-threatening and shows persistence.

Blue inspires many of the characteristic qualities of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  I found it interesting that this month the moon came in with the color of blue, in the Month of the birth of the Prophet.  If there was one thing the Prophet came to spread in this world it was Peace.  If there is one thing that we need more than anything else in our modern world it is peace.  From mass shootings perpetrated by those who have become totally unhinged from reality to sexual assaults on our youth by depraved and debauched individuals to attacks on our security both physically and identity, our world is in chaos and turmoil.  

So in this month of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Rabi Al-Awwal, let’s honor him by carrying the torch of his mission of spreading peace, by doing the same.  For he, peace be upon him, said, “Spread Peace, Feed people food, and pray in the night while others are sleeping and you will enter into paradise”.  In this next month, Go around and just say “Peace To You” to those you meet and let them know that as a Muslim, you are committed to spreading peace in the world.  Maybe, just maybe, we can succeed in bringing peace to a troubled world.

Til next time, Peace to you all!

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The Secret Life of The Moon

Did you see this last evening after sunset?  If I was a betting man, I would bet that most people on this planet did not see it, in fact I would be willing to bet most did not even know that this fine crescent was something that was even visible, or that it cycles.  This is not an uncommon occurrence, it happens every month and has been doing so probably longer than humans have been around, and will continue to do so far after we cease to exist.

Unseen Beauty

The moon goes through its monthly journey around the Earth, for the most part, completely unnoticed.  It does not appear with great fanfare or make some big announcement that it is about to appear.  It is one of the most beautiful objects in our sky.  It’s subtle.  It illuminates our nights with its moonshine.  It is our celestial clock, and knowing its phase as well as knowing where it is among the zodiac will tell us the time of the year.  When I look at the moon I only see beauty.  And even though it is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is also understood that beauty is universally recognized.  One hallmark of beauty, according to James Thurber, is that “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention”.  If you ponder upon this statement for a while I think you will come to the conclusion that the moon is certainly one of those things, and as it runs through it’s secret life, it does allow us to see it’s beauty, if we are willing to look.

Until next time, 

Peace!

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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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