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November 2002: New Crescent Moon & Ramadan

Starting at sunset on November 5, Moslems around the world will be looking for the new crescent moon to return to the evening sky. Its sighting ushers in the Holy Month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year.

But since the Moon will be so close to the horizon and will set so soon after sunset, the Moon's sighting on this date is by no means assured. If it isn't seen this evening, the start of Ramadan will wait till the evening of November 6. Ramadan, the month of fasting from dawn* till sunset, continues till the appearance of next month's new crescent moon.

The month of Ramadan can start on different dates, depending upon your geographical location. On November 5, you're much more likely to see the whisker-thin crescent moon from South America than the United States or Canada. In Bolivia, for instance, the Moon at sunset stands twice as high in the sky as it does at middle latitudes in the United States; and furthermore, it stays out considerably longer before setting. So Ramadan might very well start on the evening of November 5 for Moslems in South America, but not till November 6 for their counterparts in the United States and Canada.

The Islamic calendar is strictly lunar. The lunar month represents the time between successive new crescent moons: twenty-nine to thirty days. The lunar year, consisting of twelve lunar months, totals 354 or 355 days. That's roughly eleven days shorter than the SEASONAL year on which our Gregorian calendar is based.

Because of this difference between lunar and seasonal reckoning, the date of Ramadan comes about eleven days earlier every year. Not a fixture of any particular season, Ramadan backtracks through all twelve calendar months in cycles of thirty-three years.

To check out young moon sighting records, click here.

* when light enough to distinguish a black thread from a white thread
Copyright autumn 2002
by Bruce McClure

Complimentary Online Ramadan Greeting Cards at 123 Greetings, Ramadanonnet, Ramadan-Greetings and Ramadaan

Another November 2002 Feature: Veterans Day First Quarter Moon

Star of the Month: Fomalhaut