Celestial globe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Celestial globe with clockwork; 1579; partly gilded silver, gilded brass and steel; overall: 27.3 × 20.3 × 19.1 cm, diameter of the globe: 14 cm; from Vienna; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
Celestial globe; after 1621; paper, brass, oak and stained and light-colored wood; overall: 52.1 × 47.3 cm, diameter of the globe: 34 cm; from Amsterdam; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Celestial globes show the apparent positions of the stars in the sky. They omit the Sun, Moon, and planets because the positions of these bodies vary relative to those of the stars, but the ecliptic, along which the Sun moves, is indicated.

There is an issue regarding the “handedness” of celestial globes. If the globe is constructed so that the stars are in the positions they actually occupy on the imaginary celestial sphere, then the star field will appear reversed on the surface of the globe (all the constellations will appear as their mirror images). This is because the view from Earth, positioned at the centre of the celestial sphere, is of the gnomonic projection inside of the celestial sphere, whereas the celestial globe is orthographic projection as viewed from the outside. For this reason, celestial globes are often produced in mirror image, so that at least the constellations appear as viewed from earth. Some modern celestial globes address this problem by making the surface of the globe transparent. The stars can then be placed in their proper positions and viewed through the globe, so that the view is of the inside of the celestial sphere. However, the proper position from which to view the sphere would be from its centre, but the viewer of a transparent globe must be outside it, far from its centre. Viewing the inside of the sphere from the outside, through its transparent surface, produces serious distortions. Opaque celestial globes that are made with the constellations correctly placed, so they appear as mirror images when directly viewed from outside the globe, are often viewed in a mirror, so the constellations have their familiar appearances. Written material on the globe, e.g. constellation names, is printed in reverse, so it can easily be read in the mirror.

Before Copernicus’s 16th century discovery that the solar system is ‘heliocentric rather than geocentric and geostatic’ (that the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around) ‘the stars have been commonly, though perhaps not universally, perceived as though attached to the inside of a hollow sphere enclosing and rotating about the earth’.[1][2] Working under the incorrect assumption that the cosmos was geocentric the second century Greek astronomer Ptolemy composed the Almagest in which ‘the movements of the planets could be accurately represented by means of techniques involving the use of epicycles, deferents, eccentrics (whereby planetary motion is conceived as circular with respect to a point displaced from Earth), and equants (a device that posits a constant angular rate of rotation with respect to a point displaced from Earth)’.[3] Guided by these ideas astronomers of the middle ages, Muslim and Christian alike, created celestial globes to ‘represent in a model the arrangement and movement of the stars’.[3] In their most basic form celestial globes represent the stars as if the viewer were looking down upon the sky as a globe that surrounds the earth.

History[edit]

Ancient Greece[edit]

The Greek writer Cicero ‘reported the statements of the Roman astronomer Gaius Sulpicius Gallus of the second century BC, the first globe was constructed by Thales of Miletus’.[4] This could indicate that Celestial Globes were in production throughout antiquity however, without any Celestial Globes surviving from this time, it is difficult to say for sure. What is known is that in book VIII, chapter 3 of Ptolemy’s Almagest he outlines ideas for the design and production of a Celestial Globe.[4] This includes some notes on how the globe should be decorated, suggesting ‘the sphere a dark colour resembling the night sky’.[4]

Al-Sufi -  The Book of the Constellations[edit]

Constellation of Delphinus from a copy of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Book of Constellations , 1125[5]

Al-sufi (Abu'l-Husayn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Umar al-Sufi) was an important 10th century astronomer whose works were instrumental in the Islamic development of the Celestial Globe.[6] His Books, The Book of the Constellations, (‘designed to be accurate for the year 964 (353 AH)’ ) was a ‘description of the constellations that combines Greek/ Ptolemaic traditions with Arabic/Bedouin ones’.[7] The Book of the Constellations then served as an important source of star coordinates for makers of astrolabes and globes across the Islamic world.[8] Similarly this ‘treatise was instrumental in displacing the traditional Bedouin constellation imagery and replacing it with the Greek/Ptolemaic system which ultimately came to dominate all astronomy’.[8]

Earliest example – 11th century[edit]

The earliest surviving Celestial Globe was made between 1080 and 1085 C.E by Ibrahim ibn Sa'id al-Sahli al-Wazzan, a well known astrolabe maker working in Valencia, Spain.[9] Although the imagery on this globe appears to be unrelated to that in al-Sufi’s The Book of the Constellations al-Wazzan does seem to have been aware of this work as ‘all forty-eight of the classical Greek constellations are illustrated on the globe, just as in al-Sufi's treatise, with the stars indicated by circles’.[10]

13th Century[edit]

In the 13th century a Celestial Globe, now housed in the  Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in Dresden, ‘was produced at one of the most important centres of astronomy in intellectual history, the Ilkhanid observatory at Maragha in north-western Iran constructed in 1259 and headed by Nasir al-Dln TusT (d. 1274), the renowned polymath.’[11] This particular scientific instrument was made by the son of the renowned scientist Mu'ayyad al-’Urdi al-Dimashqi, Muhammad b. Mu'ayyad al-'Urdl in 1288. This globe is an interesting example of how Celestial Globes demonstrate both the scientific and the artistic talents of those who make them. All ‘forty-eight classical constellations used in Ptolemy's Almagest are represented on the globe, meaning it could then be ‘used in calculations for astronomy and astrology, such as navigation, time-keeping or determining a horoscope’.[12] Artistically, this globe is an exciting insight into thirteenth century Iranian illustration as the ‘thirteenth century was a period when inlaid brass became a premier medium for figural imagery’ and so ‘the globes from this period are duly exceptional for the detail and clarity of their engraved figures’.[13]

17th Century[edit]

This 17th century celestial globe was made by Diya’ ad-din Muhammad in Lahore, 1663.[14] It is now housed at the National Museum of Scotland. It is encircled by a meridian ring and a horizon ring.[15] The latitude angle of 32° indicates that the globe was made in the Lahore workshop.[16] This specific 'workshop claims 21 signed globes—the largest number from a single shop’ making this globe a good example of Celestial Globe production at its peak.[17] The globe itself has been manufactured in one piece, so as to be seamless. This complicated process was, if not invented, then certainly perfected, in the Lahore workshop Diya’ ad-din Muhammad worked in.[18]  

There are grooves which encircle the surface of the globe that create 12 sections of 30° which pass through the ecliptic poles. While they are no longer used in astronomy today, they are called “ecliptic latitude circles” and help astronomers of the Arabic and Greek worlds find the co-ordinates of a particular star.[19] Each of the 12 sections corresponds to a house in the zodiac.

See also[edit]

Foot notes[edit]

  1. ^ Savage-Smith, Emily (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 3.
  2. ^ Borchert, Donald M. (2006). In Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd ed. Macmillan Reference. pp. 532–536.
  3. ^ a b Dewald, Jonathan (2004). Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 148–154.
  4. ^ a b c Savage-Smith, Emily (1985). A History of Celestial Globes in the Greco-Roman and Islamic Worlds" in Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 8.
  5. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (2013). God is beautiful and loves beauty: the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale University Press. pp. 123–155.
  6. ^ Blair and Bloom, Sheila and Jonathan (2013). God is beautiful and loves beauty : the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale Univ. Press. pp. 125, 153.
  7. ^ Blair and Bloom, Sheila and Jonathan. God is beautiful and loves beauty : the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale Univ. Press. pp. 125, 126.
  8. ^ a b Blair and Bloom, Sheila and Jonathan. God is beautiful and loves beauty : the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale Univ. Press. p. 153.
  9. ^ Blair and Bloom, Sheila and Jonathan. God is beautiful and loves beauty : the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale Univ. Press. pp. 126, 127, 153.
  10. ^ Blair and Bloom, Sheila and Jonathan. God is beautiful and loves beauty : the object in Islamic art and culture. Yale Univ. Press. pp. 126, 127.
  11. ^ Carey, Moya (2009). "The Gold and Silver Lining: Shams Al-Dīn Muḥammad B. Mu'ayyad Al-'Urḍī's Inlaid Celestial Globe (C. Ad 1288) from the Ilkhanid Observatory at Marāgha". Iran. 47: 97–108. doi:10.1080/05786967.2009.11864761. JSTOR 25651466. S2CID 193493577 – via JSTOR.
  12. ^ Carey, Moya (2009). "The Gold and Silver Lining: Shams Al-Dīn Muḥammad B. Mu'ayyad Al-'Urḍī's Inlaid Celestial Globe (C. Ad 1288) from the Ilkhanid Observatory at Marāgha". Iran. 47: 103–4. doi:10.1080/05786967.2009.11864761. JSTOR 25651466. S2CID 193493577 – via JSTOR.
  13. ^ Carey, Moya (2009). "The Gold and Silver Lining: Shams Al-Dīn Muḥammad B. Mu'ayyad Al-'Urḍī's Inlaid Celestial Globe (C. Ad 1288) from the Ilkhanid Observatory at Marāgha". Iran. 47: 97–108. doi:10.1080/05786967.2009.11864761. JSTOR 25651466. S2CID 193493577 – via JSTOR.
  14. ^ "Celestial globe". National Museums Scotland. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  15. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 67.
  16. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 69.
  17. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 43.
  18. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 34.
  19. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985). Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 61.

External links[edit]