Planispheric Astrolabe Similar in Style to Those of Egnazio Danti

Planispheric Astrolabe Similar in Style to Those of Egnazio Danti

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The astrolabe is an astronomical calculating device used from ancient times into the eighteenth century. Measuring the height of a star using the back of the instrument, and knowing the latitude, one could find the time of night and the position of other stars. The openwork piece on the front, called the rete, is a star map of the northern sky. Pointers on the rete correspond to stars; the outermost circle is the Tropic of Capricorn, and the circle that is off-center represents the zodiac, the apparent annual motion of the sun. Engraved plates that fit below the rete have scales of altitude and azimuth (arc of the horizon) for specific latitudes. This brass astrolabe has a body with throne, a handle, a ring, one plate (for a latitude of 45 degrees), a rete, an alidade, a rule with pin, and a wedge. It is unsigned and undated. The rete resembles one made by Egnazio Danti about 1580, hence the rough date.
For a detailed description of this object, see Sharon Gibbs with George Saliba, Planispheric Astrolabes from the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984, pp. 151-153. The object is referred to in the catalog as CCA No. 2005.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1580
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 37.2 cm x 24.8 cm x 2.6 cm; 14 21/32 in x 9 3/4 in x 1 1/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
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Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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