Observatory of Ulugbek

THE ASTRONOMICAL MIRACLE OF MEDIEVAL UZBEKISTAN

The grandson of Great Amir Temur – Ulugbek took the reins of the government being quite young. In spite of this he strengthened Samarkand. During his reign, Temurids were not involved in military conquests, but Ulugbeg made Samarkand one of the centers of science. He was well educated, his teachers were great poets, scientists, philosophers, astronomers and mathematicians, who instilled love to knowledge into the future ruler.

Ulugbek, who studied works of honored scholars, became a fine scholar-scientist, as in astronomy and in mathematical sciences. As a result of his research was born stunning work entitled “New astronomical tables”, which contains a description of the theoretical foundations of astronomy and the coordinates of more than 1000 stars.

These tables were of great importance to astronomy, because they contained new information about the duration of the year and the obliquity of the Ecliptic to the equator and precession. In addition, they received huge popularity in Europe, India and China. And in 1665 they were published in Oxford.

All Ulugbek’s scientific works, owe for their writing and existence to a unique Observatory that Ulugbeg ordered to build in Samarkand. The construction of this Observatory began in autumn 1420 and lasted until 1423. This unique structure was a huge step in the scientific development of Samarkand and all the East. After completion of the building it spent long time on installing and fixing the observation of astronomical instruments under the guidance of a famous scientist of those times – Jamshid Kashi.

Обсерватория Улугбека
Обсерватория Улугбека
Обсерватория Улугбека
Обсерватория Улугбека

One of the basic and fundamental instruments in the Observatory was impressive dimensions quadrant, which was located in a cylindrical building, the diameter of which was 48 m (alas, in our time, preserved only remnants of foundations which were found during the excavations). The upper part of the meridian arc of this building was 40.2 m and reached the flat roof of the Observatory, and its lower part that reaching up to 11 metres, has been preserved to this day in a rocky trench. On the roof of the Observatory was azimuth circle and rotatable quadrant, which gave the ability to determine absolutely the exact coordinates of heavenly bodies. And on the roof was a small sundial.

Alas, no matter how peace-loving and humane ruler he was, people who would go against his rule, political views will always exist so what happened to Ulugbek – there were those who believed that the state needs gains, but not excessive attention to science. All these resulted in a political conspiracy, thus Ulugbek was killed in 1449. However, the death of the great scientific and a humane ruler, did not prevent the existence of the Observatory – it lasted 20 years.

Other sights of the city