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Astro Camera to Schedule Prayer Times at UK Mosques

Nov 10, 2016 10:25 AM EST

Hundreds of mosques have congregated to find a state-of-the-art technology to a grave problem that has faced the Muslim community for centuries, and that's finding out the exact time of dawn. Camera technology, originally built for astrophysics, is now helping many mosques in the United Kingdom schedule their morning prayers, popularly referred to as fajr, which is observed by various communities at the same time.

Fajr is normally practiced at the break of the light. However, since the sun rises at different times, it leads to varying prayer times, with the difference being as high as 45 minutes. This difference in time is seen even for mosques that are not so far away, reported The Times.

The project, known as OpenFajr, was rolled out by Dr. Shahid Merali, a Birmingham-based general practitioner, who decided to standardize dawn prayer for mosques with the help of high-technology used by astronomers to gather information about the skies. He made use of a light-sensitive camera that could visualize the horizon in 360 degrees. Once it was installed on the top of a roof, it managed to capture 25,000 images within a year of the sky at dawn. The device was programmed to take images of the sky every minute and the photos were later studied by religious scholars, researchers, and academics to create a timetable that harmonized the prayer for 150,000 Muslims in 170 mosques in Birmingham.

The results were described in May in a paper that was published on the internet. Now mosques in Peterborough and London are planning to make similar efforts, which will then be tried through the length and breadth of the country, according to The Times.

Different Muslim communities have their own calculation methods to find out the approximate time of fajr; however, there isn't a specific formula. The OpenFajr project has been successful in the sense that it can find out the exact time when light strikes the Earth and can help Muslims around the world find a consensus time to come and pray together.

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