Eid al-Fitr could start on Saturday because the Shawwal moon is predicted to be visible to the unaided eye on Friday evening rather than Thursday, according to scientists in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
According to Majid Abu Zahra from the Jeddah Astronomical Society, the moon will technically be visible in the sky on Thursday evening, but it won’t be illuminated by the sun’s rays and will be challenging to see without specialized equipment.
The moon will be “very easy to see with the naked eye if the sky is clear,” on Friday night, Abu Zahra added, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
However, officials could still declare Friday as the start of Eid if eyewitness sightings of the moon on Thursday are accepted.
Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court had previously called on people in the Kingdom to try to spot the moon signifying the end of Ramadan on Thursday evening.
Abu Dhabi’s International Astronomy Center posted a Tweet stating that the moon would not be visible from anywhere in the Islamic world on Thursday, apart from parts of West Africa if a telescope is used and the weather is right.
Although astronomical conditions suggest that the moon cannot be sighted on Thursday evening, it is possible that officials will still accept eyewitness testimony and therefore Eid al-Fitr could still begin on Friday, the center added.
It noted that there have been several occasions in the past when Eid al-Fitr begun on a certain day on which it would have been scientifically impossible to spot the Shawwal moon.
An astronomical anomaly will also take place along with the Shawwal moon, as it passes in between the sun and the earth to create a rare ‘hybrid eclipse’ that will be visible from parts of the Southern Hemisphere including Australia and Indonesia on Thursday.