Ulugbek’s Observatory, Samarkand
Ulugbek was a 15th century Timurid ruler living in the ‘silk road’ city of Samarkand – the grandson of the conqueror of Asia, Timur (Tamerlane). Being the descendant of Timur is in itself quite interesting, but an even more interesting is the fact that he was an astronomer and mathematician who was able to predict eclipses and accurately calculate the stellar year to within a minute of modern electronic calculations.
He also excelled in mathematics and wrote “accurate trigonometric tables of sine and tangent values correct to at least eight decimal places” – that sounds pretty amazing for the 15th century. If only I knew what that meant!
The remains of Ulugbek’s observatory are just a couple of kilometers from Samarkand.
The observatory was built by Ulugbek in 1424. It would have stood about three storeys high, circular in plan with a 46m diameter and a height of just a little over 30m. The remains of the huge sextant are now covered over.
Close the remains of Ulugbek’s observatory there is a museum building which was built the 1970s to commemorate the great man. The museum contains copies of Ulugbek’s star charts.
Unfortunately Ulugbek ended up being beheaded by the order of his own eldest son. However, a few years later he got the recognition he deserved when another relative placed Ulugbek’s remains in the tomb of Timur in Samarkand.
In a strange way you could say that Ulugbek ended up amongst the stars that he was fascinated about his whole life as there is a crater on the moon that is named after him.