Muscat: Oman’s government on Monday announced the establishment of a special unit to oversee moon-sighting matters and other astronomy-related requisites of the Islamic calendar.
Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Salmy, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, issued a ministerial decision formally setting up the Department for Astronomical Affairs.
The unit shall be responsible for moon sighting affairs, operation and management of observatory and astrological scopes, preparing astronomy reports, and drafting the Hijri calendar, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) said.
The move is seen as an effort to streamline all these activities within one department, as opposed to the current practice of setting up interim panels to undertake these responsibilities ahead of important events in the Islamic calendar.
According to the ministerial decision, the department will be tasked with overseeing all sightings for the Hijri months, monitoring astronomical manifestations, supervising the work of the field and sub-committees for moon sighting, as well as coordinating moon-sighting issues for the month of Ramadan and the two Eid festivals.
Significantly, the observatories operated by the government for moon-sighting purposes will now be handled and maintained by the new department. Additionally, departmental staff will be responsible for preparing the annual Hijri calendar and prayer timings based on astronomical calculations in force in the Sultanate.