We recall to the visitor our methodology for calculating the beginning of the month for determining the calendar for Makkah.
After the new moon is born, we first look for the earliest crescent in the evening sky of Makkah. If it is visible, then the new month starts the next day. If not, we look further and further west until the time of fajr in Makkah. If the crescent is visible anywhere to the west before fajr in Makkah, then the new month starts on the next day, exactly as if the crescent had been visible in the evening in Makkah itself. We call this concept that of extended visibility.
The methodology for calculating the beginning of the month in Makkah can be applied to any place on earth. The month will begin next day if: (1) the new moon is born (2) if the young crescent is visible in the evening sky of the place considered, or (3) if it is visible at somewhere to the west of the place before fajr there. Otherwise the month will last a day longer.
We follow this methodology in order to determine the beginning of important Islamic dates for the various countries of the world. For several strategically chosen countries on different continents we choose a town towards the eastern limit of the country. We choose the eastern limit because fajr in the east is earlier than fajr in the west. If visibility is acquired for the east, then it will also be acquired for the west where fajr is even later. We avoid situations where there is visibility for the west but not for the east, because in such cases, the country will be divided into two for celebrating the feast day. For most countries, such a situation will not be acceptable.
We now invite the reader to consult the visibility curves for the beginning of Ramadan 1433 (Ramadan 2012). Two visibility curves are pertinent: that of 19th July 2012 and that of 20th July 2012. The new moon is born on 19th July 2012 at 04 hours 23 minutes Universal Time. The blue and green zones represent the areas of the world where the crescent can be seen with the naked eye, blue under good atmospheric conditions, green representing easy visibility.
The visibility curve for 19th July 2012 shows most of the earth in a non visibility zone. Thus there will be no direct sighting on the various continents. However, a blue and green zone covers a large part of the Pacific Ocean. Thus it becomes essential to calculate whether fajr in some countries – with no direct visibility on the evening of 19th July 2012 – is not after the visibility of the crescent on some Pacific island, thus insuring visibility to the west of the country under consideration, before fajr in the country. These countries can thus start the fasting of Ramadan 2012 on 20th July 2012.
For the other countries the visibility curve for 20th July 2012 will apply. Here most of the world is in a green zone. Thus all countries which cannot start Ramadan 2012 on 20th July 2012 will start fasting on 21st July 2012.
For calculating the visibility limit for countries in the first category, i.e. those that will start fasting on 20th July 2012, the choice of the island in the Pacific Ocean becomes essential. Many of the islands are small and the population insignificant. In the Sharia, testimony to the sighting of the young crescent is capital. In our days of modern science, this testimony can best be furnished in the form of photographs of the new crescent taken by reliable persons, groups of astronomers, for instance. Until now, the accuracy of our Makkah calendar is confirmed by the large collection of photographs in our photo gallery. Thus we gave special importance towards choosing the island in function of the photograph we may be able to obtain there – weather conditions permitting – on the evening of 19th July 2012.
These considerations led us to the choice of French Polynesia as the key island for checking visibility of the new moon in the Pacific Ocean on 19th July 2012. The population of French Polynesia is estimated at almost 300 000 in 2011. Representative of French Polynesia is the city of Papeete, situated at 17.5 ° S and 149.5 °W. The archipelago is situated in the green zone in the visibility curve. Thus the sighting of the young crescent with the naked eye is easy. As mentioned above, we are very hopeful of obtaining a photograph of the crescent in French Polynesia around sunset on 19th July 2012.
In his paper “A Method for predicting the first sighting of the New Crescent Moon”, the British astronomer B. D. Yallop gives the following formula for determining the best time for sighting the new moon after sunset in a given place (HM Nautical Almanac Office NAO, NAO Technical Note, Updated April 1998) :
Best time of visibility of the new moon = Sunset time + 4/9 * (Difference between sunset and moonset time)
Let us now examine the situation after birth of the new moon (conjunction) on 19th July 2012 at 04H23M Universal Time (UTC):
Once the place and time of visibility were determined, we chose 23 strategically situated cities in Africa and Europe and 8 in the Americas. Makkah and Jerusalem are also given for reference.
The results of the calculation are reproduced in the following table. The sources used for determining the fajr times are indicated at the head of the table.
We have used these results to establish a list of countries according to the date of the beginning of Ramadan 2012. The reader can consult this table by clicking here.
For the facility of the reader, we have also provided a map with markers of different colours for countries which start Ramadan 2012 on 20th July 2012 and those that do so next day.
The concept of extended visibility to the west of a place before fajr in the place, together with careful choice of the place of visibility has allowed us to publish the dates of the beginning of Ramadan 2012 for various countries. In future we intend to develop this concept of extended visibility to each and every point of the globe, thus leading to an accurate calendar for all places in the world.