Astronomers look for Ramadan moon

Egyptian astronomers say their use of technology to look for the crescent moon signaling the start of Ramadan is still fulfilling tradition.

The government scientists are repeating a 1,400-year tradition using modern technology to refine a religious question, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Muslim world’s most holy month, which includes fasting and other rituals, cannot begin until the crescent moon is observed, according to teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Its spotting has become an important matter of science and competition around the world.

“This night of witness is extremely important for we Muslims. It is the night that unifies us all,” said cleric and astronomer Abdul Monim al-Berri, looking through a telescope in a Cairo parking lot Saturday.

Technology also has allowed precise tracking of the moon and the sun so astronomers can know in advance that the crescent moon will not be visible in the Middle East sooner than Sunday night. But the search must continue. The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference even once went so far as to propose launching of a satellite simply to look for the Ramadan moon.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.


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