A leading astronomer has predicted Bahrain will start its Eid Al Fitr
However, it could be declared as late as Friday if no one sees the new month's crescent moon, which is expected to be visible in Bahrain today for seven minutes between 6.27pm and 6.34pm.
The starting date for the festival in the GCC follows the Unified Islamic Calendar, which was compiled by 58 Islamic countries at a conference in Jeddah in 1998.
Bahrain Astronomical Society (BAS) vice-chairman professor Dr Waheeb Al Naser said the declaration was based on several criteria, including the birth of the moon at Mecca (signalling the start of a new month in the Islamic lunar calendar) before sunset, for it to be seen after sunset, and the sighting of the new moon to be confirmed by witnesses.
"Astronomically, Eid is on Thursday as the waxing crescent, which shows the start of a new month, is set to show on early Wednesday morning following the birth of the moon," he said.
"The moon birth happens when earth, moon and sun are in one line with zero angle, and can only be seen with a solar eclipse.
"This means the new month has fallen and the crescent should then be visible after the sunset to show that Eid is the next day.
"Astronomically, it shows the crescent will be seen at around 6.27pm for seven minutes.
"But following the Islamic laws, it should be witnessed to officially say it is Eid or not.
"If no one comes forward, then Eid will be on Friday to complete 30 days of Ramadan instead of 29."
However, Dr Al Naser dismissed regional reports that Eid could have been celebrated today.
He said if anyone had claimed to have seen the crescent then they had actually seen the one signifying the end of Ramadan.
"Neighbouring countries' moon sighting committees plan to be ready if anyone came forward as a means of clearing their conscience," he said.
"This is because some people said we have missed a day of Ramadan as no one was able to see the crescent at the start.
"So procedures were made to wait and see if someone saw the crescent last night, which was not likely astronomically."
A moon-sighting panel will sit tonight to receive news about the crescent moon.
Islamic scholars say sky gazers should come forward if they see the crescent moon tonight, but if there are no sightings Sharia law will declare the moon hidden and therefore Eid will start on Friday.
Anyone who sees the crescent should report to the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, where the panel will meet.
In recent years, Bahrain has been unable to witness the crescent due to the lack of open and electricity-free areas, said Mr Al Naser.
"We cannot see the stars, for example, because we have 100 per cent electricity in all areas of Bahrain," he said.
"This makes a halo of light overhead which makes it hard to witness the crescent or stars in Bahrain."
The practice of relying on telescopes for crescent moon sightings was abandoned after being tested by Saudi Arabia five years ago.
A scientific report found that the naked eye was a more accurate way to spot the moon. firstname.lastname@example.org
(c)2013 the Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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