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Indo-Persian Planispheric Astrolabe

Indo-Persian Planispheric Astrolabe

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The astrolabe is an astronomical calculating device used from ancient times into the nineteenth century. Measuring the height of a star using the alidade on 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 Indo-Persian astrolabe has a body, handle, ring, alidade with pin, rete, five plates, and a wedge at the front that holds the instrument together. The instrument is signed [...]iya ‘al-Din Mu[...]ammmad ben Qa’im Mu[...]ammad ben Mulla ‘Isa ben Shaikh al-Hadad As[...]urlabi Hamayoni Lahori.
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. 132-134. The object is referred to in the catalog as CCA No. 87.
See also S. R. Sarma, A Descriptive Catalog of Indian Astronomical Instruments, 2019, pp. 876-882, accessed April 26, 2019. The document is downloadable from instructions at The object has Sarma’s number A077.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
Pakistan: Punjab, Lahore
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 14.2 cm x 9 cm x 3.2 cm; 5 19/32 in x 3 17/32 in x 1 1/4 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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