The Samarqand Observatory

The observatory of Samarqand dates from 1424AD and was a `monumental' building equipped with a huge meridian, made of masonry, a ‘Fakhri sextant’, of a radius of 40.4 metres. It was built By Uluh Beg (1394-1449).

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The Samarqand Observatory dates from 1424. It was built by Ulugh Beg (1394-1449). Ulugh Beg was a prince keen on the sciences, enjoying the company of, and discussions with scholars.

The observatory of Samarqand was a `monumental' building equipped with a huge meridian, made of masonry, a ‘Fakhri sextant’, of a radius of 40.4 metres.

John Greaves writing in 1652 says that according to a trustworthy Turkish astronomer, the radius of that meridian arc was about equal to the height of the dome of the Ayasofya Mosque (Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul, thus, approximately fifty metres.

At Samarqand worked 100 scientists. Amongst these was al-Khashi (famed for his work on practical mathematics for astronomers, surveyors, architects, clerks and merchants,) and Qadi Zade, who was the head of the madrasa.

Samarqand, in the early decades of the 15th century, Krisciunas observes, was `the astronomical capital of the world.’ Observations were made there for almost three decades, and resulted in 1437 in the Ilkhanide Tables, of which a hundred copies still exist. Further findings included the stellar year, found to be 365 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes and 8 seconds, and a star catalogue, containing 1012 stars, was also devised.

The observatory at Samarqand remained active until nearly 1500 A.D, before being brought down in the upheavals which marked the region. In 1908 its remains yielded a fragment of the gnomon used to determine the height of the sun from the length of the shadow.

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