The Moon is a convenient calendar, used by many cultures over the millenia, to mark monthly segments of the year. Muslims still use it, especially to mark the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, contemplation and family. The ninth month of Ramadan begins with a sighting of a thin sliver following the previous New Moon. Because Ramadan traditionally relies on a visual observation, weather often interfers with its detection on day one and sometimes day two of the new lunation. It has been possible for hundreds of years to predict when a New Moon occurs so that the next day would be the beginning of Ramadan, but according to many Islamic scholars astronomical calculations rest on mere assumptions and are hypothetical in nature, thus visual sightings are required. Recently, however, the Islamic Society of North America has proposed that calculations of the visibility should be used, offering many reasons including a quote from the Prophet: Do not fast until you see the Moon and do not break fast until you see it. If it is cloudy then estimate it. It is additionally stated that astronomical calculations have progressed to the point that they may be considered accurate. A Moonsighting website is now available to help Islamic communities determine when Islamic months begin based on calculations. September 23 was the beginning of Ramadan this year.
This LPOD image was originally published on June 12, 2005, but this is a new text.
June 7, 2005, 19h 41min UT. Nikon D70 digital camera with 400 mm lens at ISO 640, F/5.6, exposure 2 sec, +1.0 EV
Yesterday's LPOD: Bullialdus’ Bridge
Tomorrow's LPOD: The Sad State of Lunar Reference Material