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Ramadan Moon 2011: Earth Image of the Week August 5, 2011
Ramadan moon
The first light of this lunar cycle as seen on Sunday from the International Space Station.
This week’s crescent moon in the western sky has a profound significance for members of the planet’s Muslim faith.

It marks the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the start of 29 to 30 days of fasting during daylight hours.

Most ground-based observers weren’t able to see the thin silver crescent of the young moon until dusk on Monday.

But astronauts orbiting aboard the International Space Station were able to see the fresh Ramadan moon rise and set 13 times as they orbited in and out of daylight on Sunday.

The new moon occurred on Saturday at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (1840 GMT).

It usually takes about two to three days following the new moon for people on the ground to spot the new crescent phase with the naked eye through the lingering light of dusk along the western horizon.

Some Islamic countries do not begin the observance of Ramadan until the moon is actually sighted.

But others use astronomical tables to determine when the Ramadan moon has arrived.

The photograph to the upper right was taken on Sunday, July 31, by NASA astronaut Ron Garan as the young moon was about to sink into the gloom of dusk.

Image: NASA Astronaut Ron Garan