In the Islamic calendar, the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the commencement of Eid Al-Fitr are determined by the sighting of the crescent Moon. This year, the conclusion of Ramadan will coincide with a unique celestial event—a “hybrid” total solar eclipse. In this article, we will explore the significance of the “Shawwal Moon” and delve into the details of this rare eclipse, which marks the beginning of Eid 2023.
The Conclusion of Ramadan
Ramadan, the month of fasting from dawn to sunset, will come to an end either on Thursday, April 20 or Friday, April 21, 2023. The sighting of the crescent Moon will signify the conclusion of Ramadan and the advent of Eid Al-Fitr, the joyous three-day festival that celebrates the breaking of the fast.
Moon Phases and the Shawwal Moon
The Islamic calendar aligns its months with the lunar phases, making the first sighting of the crescent Moon crucial for determining the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr. The upcoming New Moon, occurring on April 20, is of particular significance due to its association with a “hybrid” total solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere.
Known as the “Shawwal Moon,” this auspicious crescent Moon emerges shortly after the astronomical New Moon. While the New Moon remains invisible due to its position between the Sun and Earth, the crescent gradually becomes visible as it moves away from the Sun-Earth alignment. Once the slender crescent appears in the western sky after sunset and is sighted, it marks the advent of the Shawwal Moon and, consequently, Eid Al-Fitr.
Timing of the Shawwal Moon
The sighting of the Shawwal Moon is expected to occur on either Thursday, April 20 or Friday, April 21, 2023, depending on the observer’s location. For instance, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, April 20, the crescent Moon will only be 0.2% illuminated and may be challenging to see for a few minutes after sunset. However, on the west coast of the United States, approximately ten hours later, it will be 1% illuminated and slightly higher in the post-sunset sky, making it more likely to be observed. On Friday, April 21, 2023, the crescent Moon will be 2.4% illuminated from Mecca and generally higher and brighter in the post-sunset sky, making it visible from various parts of the world.
The ‘Hybrid’ Solar Eclipse
Coinciding with the Shawwal Moon, the New Moon of April 20, 2023, will also herald the occurrence of the first solar eclipse of the year. This eclipse will be a “hybrid” eclipse, meaning it transitions from annular to total and back to annular during its path.
On Thursday, April 20, 2023, observers in specific regions, including Exmouth in Western Australia, southeastern Timor Leste, and northwest West Papua in Indonesia, will witness the New Moon crossing the face of the Sun. This alignment will result in a narrow path of totality, where the Moon will completely block the Sun, causing a remarkable total solar eclipse.
Understanding the ‘Hybrid’ Solar Eclipse
The term “hybrid” eclipse refers to the unique nature of this celestial event. It begins as an annular eclipse, characterized by a “ring of fire” appearance, where the Moon appears slightly smaller than the Sun and leaves a ring of sunlight visible around its edges. It then transitions into a total eclipse, where the Moon appears slightly larger, entirely covering the Sun and revealing the magnificent corona. Finally, it reverts to an annular eclipse as the Moon moves further from the Sun’s center.
The path of totality during this hybrid eclipse will offer breathtaking views of the Sun’s corona and last for approximately 76 seconds in Timor Leste. Thousands of people are expected to travel to Western Australia to witness this spectacle, while around 375,000 individuals reside within the path of totality.
As we anticipate the arrival of Eid Al-Fitr in 2023, we are blessed with the convergence of the Shawwal Moon and a rare “hybrid” total solar eclipse. The conclusion of Ramadan will be marked by the celestial wonder of the Moon and Sun aligning, offering a visual spectacle that captures the awe-inspiring beauty of our universe. Let us embrace this moment and celebrate Eid Mubarak 2023.