Forensic Zmanim Calculations

Claude Monet's Cliff at Etretat, Sunset
Claude Monet’s Cliff at Etretat, Sunset
Unrelated to practical zmanim calculations, it is fascinating to see that with enough work, astronomers were able to pinpoint the exact date and time that Claude Monet painted the Cliff at Etretat, Sunset painting based on the position of the sun at sunset. Researchers from Texas State University published information showing that the masterpiece was painted (or more accurately, visualized in Claude Monet's mind) at 4:53PM on February 5th, 1883.
The picture of the Kosel below was taken by my grandfather Sidney (Nesanel) Siegfried. While I can’t pinpoint the exact time the picture was taken, I do know that it was taken in the early afternoon on Aug 1st, 1932 כ״ח תמוז תרצ״ב. I leave it to the readers of this post to try and calculate the exact time the picture was taken based on the shadows.
Picture of the Kosel taken by Sidney (Nesanel) Siegfried on Aug 1, 1932 כ״ח תמוז תרצ״ב
Picture of the Kosel taken by Sidney (Nesanel) Siegfried on Aug 1, 1932 כ״ח תמוז תרצ״ב

Zmanim API 1.3.0 Released

Zmanim API 1.3.0 ReleaseThe Zmanim API version 1.3.0 was released on March 4th, 2013 כ״א אדר תשע״ג. Various changes in the new release VS the previous version 1.2.1 that was released in May 2010 can be seen below. This release includes beta support for Jewish Calendar calculations as well as a number of updated zmanim and refactored code. The Jewish Calendar support in the Zmanim API is based on Avrom Finkelstien’s HebrewDate project released in 2002. Unlike the Zmanim code, the Jewish calendar interfaces may change significantly in the future (see Jay Gindin’s various changes that may make it into this API) and should therefore be considered beta.

Changes in the Zmanim API 1.3.0 release

Changes since March 23, 2011 have been in SVN and detailed changes can be seen there.

Zmanim Map 3.5 adds Date and Algorithm Selection

World mapThe Zmanim Map was recently updated to version 3.5. This new release adds a number of new features (listed below), and some technical changes over the previous Zmanim Map 3.0 release. With this release, the main focus of the map has shifted to the zmanim tabs. The direction to Yerushalayim tab with davening directions using both the rhumb line and great circle route to Yerushalayim is still present, but is no longer the default tab.

Zmanim Map v3.5

  • The date can now be selected by the user. In previous versions the date was always the current date on the user’s computer (though the map always supported passing the date on the URL using the undocumented date=1969-02-08 parameter). The current date is still the default, but the user can now change the date.
  • The calculation algorithm is now selectable. The Zmanim API supports both the USNO and NOAA algorithms. The map has always used the USNO algorithm, and this remains the default, but users can now use the NOAA algorithm.
  • The Zmanim tab is now the default tab. This reflects user feedback indicating that most people use the map for zmanim.
  • An About tab now provides a mini user guide and general information about the map.
  • The timezone look-up now uses the Google Timezone API. Previously the map had been using the Geo Names web service. Since the elevation service also uses Google, the change to a single stable source will hopefully result in fewer outages.
  • The currently selected tab persists across location changes, so if you were viewing zmanim for a location, and changed the location to see how the zmanim were affected, you will no longer have to change tabs after each move.
  • Candle Lighting was added for Fridays. Erev Yom Tov will not show candle lighting at this point.
  • Performance improvements, minor enhancements, bug fixes and refactoring

KosherJava Zmanim API Powering Many Mobile Apps

Mobile apps using Kosher Java Zmanim APIIn the past I posted about Android Zmanim, Jay Gindin’s open source Android zmanim project that uses the KosherJava Zmanim API. The fact that Android development uses Java natively means that it is very simple for Android developers to include zmanim in their apps. Since that time there have been a number of other applications (including iPhone apps) using the code. Moshe’s KosherCocoa Obj-C port of the KosherJava Zmanim API will probably result in additional iPhone apps that use the API. Yitzchok’s older Zmanim .NET port of the KosherJava Zmanim API also opened the door for Windows Phone zmanim applications as well (Ari Polski’s Zmaim app already uses it, and there are others in the works). I may post additional details about some of them in the future, including an updated post about Jay’s latest Android Zmanim release. I am aware of the following mobile applications that use the KosherJava Zmanim API.

There are also a few secular apps that are non-zmanim specific that use the API for sunrise and sunset calculations. One that I know of is Jeffrey Blattman’s Dawn to Dusk Widget, and I know that there are some photography apps that use it for sunrise/set calculations as well. There are likely more that I have missed, and a few that are in active development but unreleased. If you are aware of any missed apps, please let me know.

FAQ: Outputting Zmanim for A Different Time Zone With the the Zmanim API

Question:

Why does the output of zmanim for a different time zone appear incorrect?

Answer:

One of the common issues encountered by developers using the API is that zmanim generated for a different time zone than the user’s time zone may return output that appears incorrect. For example a user in Lakewood, NJ trying to calculate sunrise for Yerushalayim may attempt to use the following code:

String locationName = "Jerusalem";
double latitude = 31.778; // Har habayis
double longitude = 35.2354;// Har Habayis
double elevation = 0;
TimeZone timeZone = TimeZone.getTimeZone("Asia/Jerusalem");
GeoLocation location = new GeoLocation(locationName, latitude, longitude, elevation, timeZone);
ZmanimCalendar zc = new ZmanimCalendar(location);
zc.getCalendar().set(2011, Calendar.FEBRUARY, 8);
System.out.println("Sunrise: " + zc.getSunrise());
System.out.println("Sunset: " + zc.getSunset());

While you would expect a sunrise of 6:27:41 AM and sunset of 5:19:19 PM, running this code on a computer anywhere in the Eastern Standard time zone would generate the following time that appears to be 7 hours early:

Sunrise: Mon Feb 07 23:27:41 EST 2011
Sunset: Tue Feb 08 10:19:19 EST 2011

The issue is simple, and the sunrise and sunset returned above are actually accurate. Zmanim are returned by the Zmanim API as a Java Date object that represents a moment in time (stored internally by Java as Unix Time – the number of milliseconds since the January 1, 1970 GMT). Sunrise in Yerushalayim on February 8th actually happens at 11:27:41 PM on February 7th EST. Java is simply outputting the Date as a String formatted to the users default time zone (EST in this example). The user probably intends to output the time in IST – Israel Standard Time (“Asia/Jerusalem” in the Olson database). To do this you have to output the zmanim using a formatter set to use the “Asia/Jerusalem” time zone.

DateFormat zmanimFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("EEE MMM dd HH:mm:ss z yyyy");
zmanimFormat.setTimeZone(location.getTimeZone());

System.out.println("sunrise: " + zmanimFormat.format(zc.getSunrise()));
System.out.println("sunset:" + zmanimFormat.format(zc.getSunset()));

will output the expected

sunrise: Tue Feb 08 06:27:41 IST 2011
sunset:Tue Feb 08 17:19:19 IST 2011

Below is the full code example.

import net.sourceforge.zmanim.*;
import net.sourceforge.zmanim.util.*;
import java.util.TimeZone;
public class FormatZmanim{
	public static void main(String [] args) {
		String locationName = "Jerusalem";
		double latitude = 31.778; //latitude of Har habayis
		double longitude = 35.2354; //longitude of Har Habayis
		double elevation = 0; //optional elevation
		//use a Valid Olson Database timezone listed in java.util.TimeZone.getAvailableIDs()
		TimeZone timeZone = TimeZone.getTimeZone("Asia/Jerusalem");
		//create the location object
		GeoLocation location = new GeoLocation(locationName, latitude, longitude, elevation, timeZone);
		ZmanimCalendar zc = new ZmanimCalendar(location); //create the ZmanimCalendar
		zc.getCalendar().set(2011, Calendar.FEBRUARY, 8); //set the date
		DateFormat zmanimFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("EEE MMM dd HH:mm:ss z yyyy"); //Create the formatter
		zmanimFormat.setTimeZone(location.getTimeZone()); //set the formatter's time zone
		System.out.println("sunrise: " + zmanimFormat.format(zc.getSunrise()));
		System.out.println("sunset:" + zmanimFormat.format(zc.getSunset()));
	}
}

Bearing to Yerushalayim and Zmanim Map 3.0

World mapThe Bearing to Yerushalayim and Zmanim Map was recently updated to version 3.0. This new release adds a number of new features to the Zmanim Map version 2.0 update released in March 2010. The main change was updating the Google Map API version from the deprecated v2 to v3. This change increases performance and adds much better support for mobile browsers. The upgrade also means that a Google Maps API key is no longer required. This makes it easy to drop it into any site without any configuration (contact me for details). Zmanim tab v3The technical notes on the original Technical Information about the Bearing to Yerushalayim Map post are still relevant, with very little having changed since the initial implementation.

The following is a partial list of the new features:

  • A number of additional zmanim in the More Zmanim tab, including tchilas and sof zman kiddush levana (if they occur on that day)
  • A link to download a 12 month Zmanim calendar directly from the map (using the same spreadsheet used in the Zmanim Calendar Generator). Clicking on the link from the Zmanim tab will generate a calendar with most typically used zmanim, while clicking on the link in the More Zmanim tab will download the full set of zmanim. These are available as the Calendar Type option in the Zmanim Calendar Generator
  • Increased use of jQuery and jQuery UI for formatting the zmanim tables to better match the site look & feel
  • Refactoring to make the code more robust and slightly more maintainable
  • Timezones for all of Israel now display the timezone of Asia/Jerusalem as opposed to the Asia/Gaza returned for parts of Israel by the GeoNames TimeZone web service

From a technical perspective there were a number of changes required due to updating the Google Maps API from v2 to v3. These include:

  • v3 no longer supports tabbed info windows, so the tabs are now implemented using jQuery UI
  • Renaming of a number of classes and functions such as GLatLng to LatLng
  • A number of functions that were part of API v2 were removed in v3. One example is the removal of radians in the LatLng that had been available as GLatLng.latRadians(). These missing functions required for the direction to Yerushalayim calculations are now supported in the Zmanim Map using prototypes

Zmanim API Ported to Cocoa / Objective-C

Port City JavaMoshe Berman completed the 2.0 release of his port of the KosherJava Zmanim API from Java to a Cocoa API using Objective-C. You can see the work in the KosherCocoa project page. The original work on the port dates back to Moshe’s iPhone Ultimate Omer 2 (iTunes link) app. In that app, he ported the minimum amount of code needed to calculate sunset in order to roll the day of the Omer after sunset. With Moshe’s latest check-in at github, he provided a port of a good portion of the API sticking to the basic design of the KosherJava API. The complexZmanimCalendar still remains to be ported, but the majority of zmanim in common use are in the ported ZmanimCalendar. Moshe’s blog post Introducing KosherCocoa 2.0 has additional details. Additional developer notes can be seen in the KosherCocoa wiki page. This port will be a boon to iOS developers who now have a simple way to include zmanim in their iPhone and iPad apps.
Here is some sample code that outputs zmanim to the console.

Zmanim.m

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import "ZmanimCalendar.h"

int main (int argc, const char * argv[]){

    NSAutoreleasePool * pool = [[NSAutoreleasePool alloc] init];

    //  Set up the location
    NSString *locationName = @"Lakewood, NJ";
    double latitude = 40.096; //Lakewood, NJ
    double longitude = -74.222; //Lakewood, NJ
    NSTimeZone *timeZone = [NSTimeZone timeZoneForSecondsFromGMT:-18000];

    //  Initialize the Zmanim Calendar
    GeoLocation *geoLocation = [[GeoLocation alloc] initWithName:locationName andLatitude:latitude andLongitude:longitude andTimeZone:timeZone];
    ZmanimCalendar *zmanimCalendar = [[ZmanimCalendar alloc] initWithLocation:geoLocation];

    //  Create a Formatter for the date information
    NSDateFormatter *formatter = [[NSDateFormatter alloc] init];
    [formatter setTimeZone:timeZone];
    [formatter setDateStyle:NSDateFormatterNoStyle];
    [formatter setTimeStyle:NSDateFormatterMediumStyle];

    NSDate *sunrise = [zmanimCalendar sunrise];
    NSDate *sofZmanShmaMGA = [zmanimCalendar sofZmanShmaMogenAvraham];
    NSDate *sofZmanShmaGRA = [zmanimCalendar sofZmanShmaGra];
    NSDate *sunset = [zmanimCalendar sunset];

    NSLog(@"Today's Zmanim for %@",  [geoLocation locationName]);
    NSLog(@"Sunrise: %@",  [formatter stringFromDate:sunrise]);
    NSLog(@"Sof Zman Shema MGA: %@",  [formatter stringFromDate:sofZmanShmaMGA]);
    NSLog(@"Sof Zman Shema GRA: %@",  [formatter stringFromDate:sofZmanShmaGRA]);
    NSLog(@"Sunset: %@",  [formatter stringFromDate:sunset]);

    [pool drain];
    return 0;
}

This would output (on February 8th):

Today's Zmanim for Lakewood, NJ
Sunrise: 6:58:43 AM
Sof Zman Shema MGA: 8:59:04 AM
Sof Zman Shema GRA: 9:35:04 AM
Sunset: 5:24:09 PM