At an event organised by Professor Victor Debattista of UCLan, in conjunction with the President of the Lancashire Council of Mosques Abdul-Hamid Qureshi, on 14th June 2018, UCLan Astronomers and local Muslim Leaders met up at UCLan’s Alston Observatory to look for the predicted New Moon that would end the fast of Ramadan. Then the visitors were invited into the Alston Planetarium to watch a presentation by UCLan Astrophysics under-graduate student, Steven Gough-Kelly, explaining how the relative orbital motions of the Earth around the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth, create the conditions for sighting a New Moon. This month’s New Moon was particularly significant in the Muslim Calendar, because it ended the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which devout Muslims fast as a mark of their faith. Representatives from the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Bolton Council of Mosques, and West Yorkshire Council of Mosques were present, with around 30 visitors in all.
After sunset and appropriate prayers had been said, the visitors invited the astronomers to share their meal in which they broke their fast. The planetarium was set up for a traditional meal and all tucked into the delicious food. The astronomers commented on how this was a unique event in the history of the planetarium, and the visitors commented that it was possibly the most unusual venue in which they had ever broken their fast.
Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, Observatory Director, said “This has been one of the most culturally enlightening evenings I can remember. The education and the flow of information has definitely been a two-way process. I will remember this for a long time.”