Nearly full moon on a typically cloudy night this time of year. 2004:10:28 20:41:46
We've noted in the past that the Moon in the Mideast is said to rise and set at times in a "horns-up" orientation. My efforts to photographically document this arrangement have been foiled, thus far, by the fact that winter is fast approaching. This can be discerned by two observations: first, that long-sleeve shirts are starting to appear after dark; and second, that it is cloudy at night.
However, the good contributors to the APOD site have provided a nice illustration of the phenomenon.
The crescent moon has had considerable significance in the Mideast since ancient times, although I don't know that I necessarily buy this article's claim that lunar supremacy is a general feature of nomadic mythologies. Anyway, Sargon was already a king of cities when he set up Enheduanna as priestess of the Moon at Ur, although there's no denying that nomadic traditions play an important role down to the present day. However, I suspect it's the continuity of Islam (and Judaism), and not a connection to ancient wanderers, that is chiefly responsible for the continued use of the lunar calendar in this part of the world. Notice, though, that the star-and-crescent symbol of Islam might be a distant derivative of the star of Inanna (itself probably Venus), and one begins to realize the essential imprecision of such distinctions.
The major significance of the crescent moon to anyone using a lunar calendar is that this phase marks the passing of the months, as in all such calendars of which I am aware, the new month begins with the new moon. Thus, to tell when the month is ending, one must rise before sunrise and watch the waning crescent moon rise just before the sun; likewise, the new month is known to have begun the first time the crescent moon can be seen in the evening, setting just after the sun. Since this transition is important to, for instance, determine the exact start of Ramadan, such sightings are now coordinated worldwide. Sure, you
So, what about this "horns-up" thing? The short version is, that's approximately what it'll look like whenever the Moon falls near a vertical line drawn from the Sun (which you'll only be able to perceive if the Sun is already below the horizon). Just imagine a lamp illuminating a ball from below (an experiment that you can try, if you're not one of the astronomers in the audience and already sick of demonstrations involving lamps and globes). When will the Moon appear to rise/set almost vertically?
Schematic of the Earth's orbit about the sun, linked from Dr. Thorngren's Orbit Tutorial at Palomar Community College
The answer, approximately speaking, is when you're standing sideways in the above picture, whicn can only ever happen exactly if you're within about 23 degrees latitude of the Equator. I recommend a visit to the above-linked Tutorial if you don't see why. The Mideast isn't actually at that low latitude, but it's only off by about ten degrees, so we'll call it close enough. Even when you're close, this only happens once a day -- 12 hours later, you'll be standing as close as you ever get to vertically in the picture. So to be able to see the crescent Moon, it has to be a smidgeon before sunrise or after sunset locally.
Put this all together, and the desired configuration is visible in two broad periods each year. The waning crescent Moon can be seen rising vertically in the early mornings after the September equinox, and the waxing crescent will set vertically in the evenings leading up to the March equinox. If you need a range to go observing, let's say between the equinox and the adjacent cross-quarter day. And, of course, this will work from any location sufficiently close to the equator; there's nothing special about the Mideast's longitude. So those of you in Texas actually can try this at home.