Photographer's Note

On my return way from Shahrisabz, I visited the Ulugh Beg Observatory. It is a fascinating place in Samarkand, a bit far from the center of Samarkand (but one can always take a taxi). I find it strange that there are no pictures on TE.

Ulug Begh was a Timurid ruler as well as an astronomer, mathematician and sultan. He built the great Ulugh Beg Observatory in Samarkand between 1424 and 1429. It was considered by scholars to have been one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world at the time and the largest in Central Asia. He built the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417–1420) in Samarkand and Bukhara, transforming the cities into cultural centers of learning in Central Asia. He ruled Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, southern Kazakhstan and most of Afghanistan from 1411 to 1449.
His own particular interests concentrated on astronomy, and, in 1428, he built an enormous observatory, called the Gurkhani Zij,[citation needed] similar to Tycho Brahe's later Uraniborg as well as Taqi al-Din's observatory in Constantinople. Lacking telescopes to work with, he increased his accuracy by increasing the length of his sextant; the so-called Fakhri sextant had a radius of about 36 meters (118 feet) and the optical separability of 180" (seconds of arc).

Using it, he compiled the 1437 Zij-i-Sultani of 994 stars, generally considered[who?] the greatest star catalogue between those of Ptolemy and Brahe, a work that stands alongside Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's Book of Fixed Stars. The serious errors which he found in previous Arabian star catalogues (many of which had simply updated Ptolemy's work, adding the effect of precession to the longitudes) induced him to redetermine the positions of 992 fixed stars, to which he added 27 stars from Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi's catalogue Book of Fixed Stars from the year 964, which were too far south for observation from Samarkand. This catalogue, one of the most original of the Middle Ages, was first edited by Thomas Hyde at Oxford in 1665 under the title Tabulae longitudinis et latitudinis stellarum fixarum ex observatione Ulugbeighi and reprinted in 1767 by G. Sharpe. n 1437, Ulugh Beg determined the length of the sidereal year as 365.2570370...d = 365d 6h 10m 8s (an error of +58 seconds). In his measurements over the course of many years he used a 50 m high gnomon. This value was improved by 28 seconds in 1525 by Nicolaus Copernicus, who appealed to the estimation of Thabit ibn Qurra (826–901), which had an error of +2 seconds. However, Ulugh Beg later measured another more precise value of tropical year as 365d 5h 49m 15s, which has an error of +25 seconds, making it more accurate than Copernicus's estimate which had an error of +30 seconds. Ulugh Beg also determined the Earth's axial tilt as 23°30'17" in the sexagesimal system of degrees, minutes and seconds of arc, which in decimal notation converts to 23.5047 degrees.

In mathematics, Ulugh Beg wrote accurate trigonometric tables of sine and tangent values correct to at least eight decimal places.

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Additional Photos by Malgorzata Kopczynska (emka) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10542 W: 146 N: 26505] (127445)
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