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ISNA Experts Blunder






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Why ISNA Astronomical Experts Blunder?          Omar Afzal, Ph.D.

The Moon’s earliest visibility is no longer a scientific inquiry, and there is no scientific ‘test’ to prove or disprove a sighting claim. So how to determine the first date of an Islamic month?  Since ancient times, astronomers have tried to predict the likelihood of seeing the waxing moon by defining minimum visibility criteria. Monzur’s MoonCalc currently supports 13 such criteria.

* Babylonian....................            [Age at sunset>24hrs & Lag>48 min.]

* Ibn Tariq......................      [Alt, Lag: 48 min.]

* Fotheringham            (1910)               [Alt, Rel Azi]

* Maunder.......            (1911)               [Alt, Rel Azi]

* Indian/Schoch..........                 [Alt, Rel Azi]

* Bruin ...........            (1977)               [Alt, Crescent width: 0.5 modified to 0.25 min.

* Ilyas_A........            (1984)               [Alt, Elong]

* Ilyas_B modified Babylonian            [Lag:41-49 min for 0-40 degrees Latitude]

* Ilyas_C........            (1988)               [Alt, Rel Azi]

* RGO/CFCO            (1981)               [Alt=10 degrees at sunset, Elong:12+/-]

* SAfrican Astro Obs                     [Topocenteric Alt, Rel Azi]

* Shaukat........            (?)                    [Alt:3.4, Elong: 12.7+ Crescent width: arcmin /1.2)>1]

* Yallop ….            (1997/8)           [Rel Alt, Crescent Width]

This criterion was developed from the Indian and Bruin criteria by Yallop (RGO) from 295 published moon (non)sightings compiled by Schaefer and Doggett. A parameter 'q' is derived from the relative geocentric altitude of the moon (ARCV) and topocentric crescent width. In the original technical note byYallop, q was derived at 'best time' (ie sunset + * moonset lag).       

   Criterion            q Range            Remarks                       

   A      q > +0.216              Crescent easily visible             (*Not always)

   B       +0.216 >= q > -0.014            Crescent visible under perfect conditions

   C       - 0.014 >= q > -0.016            Need optical aid to find crescent

   D      -0.016 >= q > -0.232            Optical aid only

   E       -0.232 >= q > -0.293            Crescent not visible with telescope

   F       -0.293 >= q                 Crescent not visible, below the Danjon limit


Shawwal moon’s visibility was claimed on Nov. 2, 2005 in the US (one naked-eye, and another telescopic, both from Phoenix, AZ). Both were outside E and F (Impossible) visibility curve, and raise serious questions about the credibility of the observers as well as moon’s observability.

Muslim experts interpreted and validated the two claims according to their whims, instead of evaluating them on the basis of established scientific rule of “repeatability” (For moon-sighting: Seen by all observers at the same location) and “universality” (Seen at all places west of the initial claim, within the parabola).

The following analysis of D. Qa’da crescent’s earliest sightings on Friday, 2 December 2005 is for both the astronomical experts and Muslim Ulema. They have implications about:

1.   How to define a “Hilal”? (Can the wax moon, not distinctly visible in the picture submitted by Ali Reza Mehrani, be called a Hilal?)

2.   How to evaluate telescopic claims? (Mehrani one out of a group of six on Dec. 2, 2005, Stamm one out of a group of ten on Nov. 2, 2005)

3.   How to evaluate a naked-eye sighting claim (“Impossible” by all known astronomical criteria (Phoenix, AZ on Nov. 2, 2005) for 11 minutes, all others from the same location did not see any), or Saudi Arabia (Dec. 2, 2005) where the watchers is “not sure” but conjectures that he might have seen one, etc.).

ISNA Fiqh Council always claims that it rejects all sighting reports that contradict “indisputable astronomical information”. However, its experts never spell out what is their “indisputable” astronomical criterion, and how did they validate Nov. 2, 2005 claim what ISNA had projected its visibility as “IMPOSSIBLE”.

Please look to the visibility map of Dec. 2, 2005 (MoonCal.6). Also keep in mind the fact that CFCO’s moon-watch on Dec. 2 resulted in extensive negative sightings all over the northern USA from New Haven, CT to San Francisco, CA.

Canada, like most of Europe, and a large part of Asia was outside the visibility parabola on Dec. 2. But one claim is from Australia, and many from ME. Why was a moon claimed in Australia on Dec. 2 was not visible to many in N. America. Many experienced observers did not see any moon in southern USA despite clear skies but three claims were made from there. Here are the details.

Icoproject (Jordan) (24 reports: 8 Positive, 16 Negative: 8 Cloudy, 8 Not seen on clear horizon)

Australia:  ICOP member, Salah Sukkarieh: "Due to cloud, the new Moon could not be seen in Sydney, Australia on Friday 2nd December."

*  ICOP member Mr. Afroz Ali: "The crescent was sighted in Australia on Friday 2nd December."

 (Place, time, duration of visibility, # of observers, atmospheric conditions, etc. not given)

Indonesia: ICOP member, Mutoha MMC: "From Parangtritis Beach Yogyakarta, the sky mostly cloudy, the hilal not seen.”

Pakistan: ICOP member, Mr. Saif Qureshi: "The western sky in Islamabad was clear after the sunset on 02 December 2005 but crescent was not seen by naked eyes

Iran: ICOP member Mr. Mohammad Zahed Aram mentioned that he was not able to see the crescent by binoculars despite the clear sky.

* ICOP member Mr. Alireza Mehrani: Location: 200 km west of Esfahan, Iran Sunset (observed): 16:58                 Crescent first observed through 15x80 binoculars Time: 17:05:40 LT Moon Alt: 2.982?                Elongation: 12.819?

 Crescent final observation through 25x100 & 15x70 binoculars by Ali Ebrahimi  and Abbas Ahmadiyan: Time: 17:23:25 Moon Alt: 0.104? Elongation: 12.934?

Observers: Alireza Mehrani (15x80 bin), Ali Ebrahimi (25x100 bin), Abbas

Ahmadiyan (15x70 bin), Saeed Janghorban (15x70 bin), Mahdi Mansuri (20x60 bin),

Mohammad Soltanolkottabi (15x70 bin)."

(The attached picture does not show any lighted crescent moon; Mehrani claims the Hilal was visible for 18 minuts but 4 (or 5?) out of 6 observers at the same location were unable to see any moon;)

Iraq: ICOP member Mr. Bacil Moudhaffar: "Crescent was not seen this evening (Friday) even with binocular."

Kuwait: ICOP member Mr. Hussain Khushaish: "On Friday, I & a group of 3 persons could not see the crescent even with 20x60 binocular. The sky was clear except from a layer of haze the last 2-3 degrees above western horizon.

UAE: ICOP member Mohammad Odeh: "Tried to observe the crescent from Hafit mountain (1000 m above mean sea-level) due to problems in the telescope the crescent was not seen"

Saudi Arabia:  *? ICOP member Mr. Hani Dalee: "I had an obscuring horizon that didn't allow me to see the crescent for long time. It went behind horizon when it was 3 degrees above the real Horizon as appeared in THE SKY 5. The crescent was very thin and barely seen by binoculars. But I think I glimpsed it by naked eyes after binoculars but not sure about it. It wasn't possible to be seen by naked eyes as I think and saw."

ICOP member Mr. Saleh Al-Saab said: "I could not see the crescent, but it has been seen in more than one site by binoculars."

* Algeria: ICOP member Mr. Bankih Kacem:"The western horizon was superb from Merkich station. Four observers saw crescent with three (03) binoculars, one (01) member difficultly by naked eye."

Morocco: ICOP member Mr. Othman Fadli: “It was partly cloudy”: "The official day of Dulkiada 1426 in Morocco is Saturday, 03 December 2005."

* Zanzibar: ICOP member Mr. Hamza Rijal: Dhulqaad Hillas was Sighted around 16:45 local Time (13:45 GMT. Wakfy Office confirmed that they observed the Hilal too."

Nigeria: ICOP member Mr. Bashir Sani: "The crescent…26 hours old …wasn’t seen here at the Main Campus of Ahmadu Bello University, at Samaru, Zaria.”

* South Africa: ICOP member Dr. Abdurrazak Ebrahim: "The Hilaal was clearly visible by naked-eye from Sea Point, Cape Town.” I first observed the very thin crescent [cusps at 4 to 8 o’clock] through 10 x 50 binoculars at 10 minutes after observed local sunset. The crescent became visible to the naked-eye at 20h03m 18 minutes after local sunset.

Local sunset: 19h45 Sighting locality: Sea Point: 0 meters above sea level [band of cloud on the horizon to an altitude of 1?] First sighted by naked-eye at 20h03 [topocentric q] Moon altitude:   +09?:43':02"

Elongation: +14?:35':46" Azimuth: +03?:29':17" Width : +00?:00':31" Illumination : 01.62 %  Moon-age : 25 hr 45 min"

Germany: ICOP member Mr. Gerhard Ahmad Kaufmann: It was cloudy.

UK: ICOP member Mr. Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti said: "Negative sighting. The horizon was overcast.”

USA: *ICOP member Mr. Javad Torabinejad: "This evening, we sighted the moon in Blacksburg, VA. Immediately after sighting the moon through a pair of 7X50 binoculars, I was able to sight it by naked eye at 5:17 p.m. EST. The horns were on 2:00 and 5:30 o'clock. The sunset was at 5:04."

(Details like When? How long, By how many? Etc. are missing)

* ICOP member Dr. John Caldwell: “Saw it by binoculars and by naked eye"I looked rather late, so it could have easily been seen earlier." (Details missing, though fits into predicted visibility zone)

ICOP member, Mr. Gulamabbas Khakoo: "Unable to sight the crescent from Long Beach, California. Both days have been very cloudy."

ICOP member Dr. Muhammad Hafiz: " Due to rain Hilaal observation was made impossible."

ICOP member Mr. Bilal Gharaibeh: "Clouds accumulated and it was hard to observe.


New Moon Report (9th Biblical Month, Kislev [Dec.2, 2005])  

            (4 positive, 5 Negative despite clear skies, and 11 cloudy)

(When the crescent is sighted by two or more, sightings reported for the next day are not listed; except for Israel reports, for those who use the Jerusalem moon. Thanks for your understanding - Rich Lobert)

Arizona (Phoenix) BT                           MST                 -clouds

Arizona (Scottsdale) R. Lobert     MST                 -clouds

Arizona (Tucson) LH,DH                    MST                 -clouds

Arkansas (Holiday Island) DM JM                 CT                 -clouds

Arkansas (Clarksville) FB                      CT                 -clouds

Florida (Jacksonville) *FH                 ET                 -clear, no sighting

* Florida (Orlando) RB                           ET                 -Sighted at 5:56 pm by  1 person     -

Georgia (Winder) BA                          ET                 -cloudy

Indiana (Crawfordsville) WS                          ET                 -clouds

Iowa (Boone) LH                                    CT                 -clouds & snow

Israel (Jerusalem)  NG                          GMT+2                 -clouds

Kentucky (Jamestown) FH                     CT                 -overcast

Kuwait (Kuwait City) KF                                 GMT+3                 -hazy

Texas (Bloomington) TW                                 CT                 -clear, no sighting

* Texas (Burleson) G,NH                      CT                 -Sighted at 6:00 pm by 2 people

Texas (Canton) S,R                                 CT                 -overcast

* Texas (Cisco) RY, JF, VW, CH,SS     CT                 -Sighted at 5:48 pm by 10 people

Texas (Plano) LA                                    CT                 -clear, no sighting

Virginia (Danville) BR                           ET                 -clear, no sighting

* West Indies (Dominica) AP JF                 ECT                 -Sighted at 5:45 pm by  1 person (19 reports: 9 Negative, 9 Positive, 1 other)

Salah Sukkarieh from Sydney, Australia: Not Seen. Due to severe weather

Hussain Khushaish (MCW member) from Kuwait: Not Seen

In Kuwait, I & a group of 3 persons could not see the crescent even with 20x60 binocular. The western horizon was clear except 2-3 degrees of haze above the western horizon.

* Ali Said Al Sumry, (MCW member), Ministry of Awqaf Religious Affairs, Oman: Seen

Today 2nd December 2005, Dr. Saleh Al Shaidhani from Sultan Qaboos University has seen the crescent of the Dhul Qad'ah 1426 in Muscat, Oman, he used 14 inch RCX telescope at 15 minutes after sunset. (Details missing)

* Hamza Rijal, (MCW member), from Zanzibar, Africa: Seen around 16:45 local Time (13:45 GMT),

Wakfy Office confirmed that they observed the Hilal too.

* Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti (MCW member) from Oxford, UK: Not Seen The horizon was overcast

Ismail Ebrahim Omer (MCW member) from Lusaka, Zambia: Not Seen

The moon was not sighted in Lusaka due to clouds and rain

* Rashid Motala (MCW member) from Durban, South Africa: Seen; many witnesses in Durban.

* Dr Abdurrazak Ebrahim (MCW member) from Sea Point (S. Africa): Seen

Cclearly visible by naked-eye from Sea Point, Cape Town. I first observed the very thin crescent [cusps at 4 to 8 o’clock] through 10 x 50 binoculars at 10 minutes after observed local sunset. The crescent became visible to the naked-eye at 20h03m i.e., 18 minutes after local sunset.

Ahmed Mohamed, (MCW member) from Windhoek, Namibia: Not Seen; due to cloudy weather.

Muhammad Hafiz (MCW member) from Guyana reported: Not Seen, due to rain.

* Javad Torabinejad (MCW member) from Blacksburg, VA: Seen.  Immediately after sighting the moon through a pair of 7X50 binoculars, I was able to sight it by naked eye at 5:17 pm EST. The horns were on 2:00 and 5:30 o'clock. The sunset was at 5:04pm. (Many details missing)

* Abdur Rahmaan Abu Abdullaah (MCW member) from Columbia, SC: Seen

I observed the first hilâl from 17:28 until 18:00 EST near Columbia, South Carolina, at Lake Murray on the Saluda Dam. With a phase of only 2.7% and elongation of 17°, this hilal was much harder to spot. Sunset was at 17:15 EST. Sighted with Nikon OceanPro 7x50 7.2° CF WP compass binoculars at 17:28 EST. Sighted with naked eye at 17:39 EST.

Ruth Jeffery (MCW member) from Houston, TX: Not Seen. Skies were completely overcast.

* Clay Chip Smith (MCW member) from Austin, TX: Seen. More than 6 Muslims saw the Hilal. Sunset was at 5:30 PM. We tracked the Hilal till it went behind the trees at 6:05 PM.

Gary Peterson (MCW member) from Tempe, Arizona: Not SeenCloudy.

* Paul Burnham (MCW member) from Chino Valley, Arizona: Seen. Initial sighting was with binoculars through a hole in the clouds at 1743 MST, lasting to 1745 MST. The arc was also clearly visible to the naked eye. A second sighting occurred between 1749 and 1750 as the arc passed a second hole. The curve appeared to extend from the 2 O'clock to the 6 O'clock position with approximately 1/3 to 1/2 the arc visible at any one time.

Gulamabbas A. Khakoo (MCW member) from Long Beach, California: Not Seen. Cloudy.

Dr. Youssef Ismail (MCW member), San Francisco, California: Not Seen. The skies were 100% clear on the horizon.

Abdul Sattar Ridhan (MCW member) from San Jose, California: Seen      

Crescent moon has been sighted by Imam of Islamic Center of Yuba City with group of people accompanying him.  (Did not report his own, but others claim)


31 December  2005 Saturday or  1 January 2006 Sunday- Starts the 10th Biblical month, Tebeth

31 December  2005 Saturday or  1 January 2006 Sunday

There is a low probability for seeing the New Moon on 31 December  2005 Saturday after sunset.

Moon elevation above the horizon for most of the United States will be 5.2 degrees at sunset.

Moon age for the four U.S. time zones east to west: 19, 20, 21, and 22 hours.

Visibility: Visible if conditions are perfect.    Sunset to moonset:  approximately 42 minutes.

If no sighting is reported anywhere after sunset on 31 December 2005, use the information below:

The new moon is expected to be seen on 1 January 2006 after sunset.

Moon elevation above the horizon for most of the United States will be 17 degrees at sunset.

Moon age for the four U.S. time zones east to west:  43, 44, 45, and 46 hours

Visibility:  Easily Visible if skies are clear.

Sunset to moonset: approximately 1 hr 57 minutes

[Data constructed with MoonCal 6.0 software]



Reporting Format: Please send the 6 items below (cut, paste, and fill in, thanks):


2.) LOCATION (city / town, state) -

3.) DATE -

4.) SIGHTED? (yes or no) -

5.) If YES, TIME sighted-(Local time) -

5.) If YES, NUMBER OF PEOPLE (including yourself) who saw it [without binoculars or telescope] -

6.) If NO, Was it clear and not seen, or clouds, overcast, haze?


Apparently, Jewish observers appear to have a better defined Crescent moon than the Muslims, and are more careful in validating visibility claims.