Worshipers crowd around the Kaaba shrine in the Saudi city of Mecca, venerated as the most sacred site in Islam, in a satellite picture from DigitalGlobe. The image was captured from orbit on Nov. 2, just before the beginning of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. During the Hajj, millions of Muslims walk counterclockwise seven times around the Kaaba.
'Tis the season for religious holidays, including Hanukkah for Jews and Christmas for Christians. But the Muslim world has already marked its biggest religious observance of the year, with an orbiting satellite as a witness.
Today's offering for the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar adds an Islamic twist to the holiday countdown: Here's a picture from DigitalGlobe showing thousands of people gathering around the Kaaba shrine in Mecca on Nov. 2, just before the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Participating in the Hajj is a duty able-bodied Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives. The capstone of the experience is the Eid al-Adha, a festival that commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God.
The scriptural story serves to illustrate the linkages between different religious traditions. Whether you observe Eid al-Adha or Hanukkah, Advent or none of the above, here's wishing you wider perspectives on the world and its inhabitants during this holiday season.
Some of those wider perspectives are on view in our Month in Space Pictures slideshow, which we've just published for November. Here's a lineup of links for the pictures included in the slideshow, plus pointers to some other space-themed Advent calendars:
- On the beam: Laser at ESO observatory in Chile
- Moon over air: Our planet and the moon, seen from orbit.
- On to Mars! Launch of the Mars Science Laboratory.
- After the landing: Recovery team converges on Soyuz craft.
- Chilly homecoming: Japanese astronaut back on Earth.
- Does Pacman have teeth? WISE view of a colorful nebula.
- Southern exposure: Partial solar eclipse seen from New Zealand.
- Trail of trouble: Stranded Russian probe streaks across sky.
- Back from a mock Mars: Volunteers end 520-day simulation.
- Quartet of moons: Cassini spots four satellites amid Saturn's rings.
- A little lunar base: Exhibit takes shape at New York museum.
- Flooding in Bangkok: DigitalGlobe's view of high waters in Thailand.
- The Tarantula roars: Space telescopes focus on a spidery nebula.
- Blastoff in a blizzard: Soyuz rocket takes off for space station.
- Freakishly flat: ESO looks at a remarkably flat galaxy.
- The first and the last: Shuttle crews from STS-1 and STS-135.
- Crazy storm on Saturn: Cassini documents long-lasting cloud system.
- Welcome to the aliens: Greetings from New Zealand seen by satellite.
- Go with the flow: NASA satellite tracks lava from Hawaii volcano.
- After the launch: NPP satellite liftoff leaves behind a trail in the sky.
- More space slideshows from msnbc.com.
- Hubble Advent calendar from The Atlantic's In Focus.
- Space Advent calendar from Zooniverse.
Check back on Saturday for the next installment of our Advent calendar, which will be featuring new views of Earth from space every day until Christmas.
Correction for 2:10 a.m. ET Dec. 3: Space consultant Charles Lurio pointed out that in Islamic tradition, it's Ishmael who is offered to God by Abraham. I originally went with Isaac, in accordance with Genesis 22, but in this context I guess I should go with the Koran's version of the story. Many thanks to Charles for setting me straight.
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