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In Brief

Astro Cameras Help Mosques Schedule Prayer Times

Birmingham Central Mosque, Highgate, Birmingham, England. (Image credit: Oosoom/Wikimedia Commons)

Camera technology designed for astrophysics research is helping a network of mosques in the United Kingdom schedule dawn prayers — known as fajr — that can be observed at the same times across communities.

Fajr is traditionally practiced at daybreak, but different calculations of when the sun rises can lead to prayer times that vary greatly — as much as 45 minutes, even between mosques that are close together, reported the Times.

The so-called OpenFajr project, launched by Dr. Shahid Merali, a general practitioner with a practice in Birmingham, sought to standardize fajr from mosque to mosque with the help of technology used by astronomers for gathering data about the skies. [8 Ways Religion Impacts Your Life]

Merali used a light-sensitive camera capable of imaging the horizon in 360 degrees, He installed it on a rooftop, where it captured 25,000 photos of the early morning sky over the course of one year. The images were then analyzed by academics, researchers and religious scholars to construct a timetable that synchronized fajr for 150,000 Muslims served by 170 mosques in the Birmingham area.

The OpenFajr results were documented in a paper published online in May. Similar efforts are now planned in London and Peterborough, and eventually across the country, according to the Times.

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger

Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science senior writer covering a general beat that includes climate change, paleontology, weird animal behavior, and space. Mindy holds an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.