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Astrolabe

Astrolabe

The astrolabe is an ancient astronomical instrument, dating back more than 2,000 years, used to observe the positions of the stars. With modifications it has also been used for time-keeping, navigation, and surveying.

Astrolabes depict the visual reference points of stars on the night sky as a function of time. As such, an observer can also set the time to predict the visible star pattern expected. The most common type of astrolabe, the planispheric astrolabe, consists of a star map (the rete) engraved on a round sheet of metal. With regard to the rete, only the angular relationship of the stars needs to be accurate to ensure proper functioning of the astrolabe. A metal ring is moved across the map to represent the position of the local horizon. An outer ring is adjusted to allow for the apparent rotation of the stars around the North Star, using prominent stars as reference points.

Astrolabes were forerunners of mechanical clocks, and looked somewhat like watches. With a set of tables, the observer could determine the day and hour for a fixed location by the position of the stars. With the addition of a sighting-rule, called an alidade, an astrolabe could be used as a surveying instrument. The rule could be moved across a scale to measure elevation. Navigational astrolabes marked celestial altitudes (the altitude in degrees above the horizon).

Although there is evidence to support the assertion that ancient Greek culture had astrolabes, it is certain that the Arabs perfected and made regular use of the astrolabe. With the clear desert sky at their constant disposal, the Arab people excelled in astronomy and used the stars to navigate across the seas of sand . Regular use of astrolabes continued into the 1800s. The newer prismatic astrolabe continues to be used for precision surveying.

Modern versions of stellar charts and bowls with adjustable time and date markings on sliding rings are based upon earlier astrolabe construction and design principles.

See also Celestial sphere: The apparent movements of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars; History of exploration I (Ancient and classical); History of exploration II (Age of exploration)

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astrolabe

astrolabe (ăs´trəlāb), instrument probably used originally for measuring the altitudes of heavenly bodies and for determining their positions and movements. Although its origin is ancient and obscure, its invention is frequently ascribed either to Hipparchus or to Apollonius of Perga. For many centuries it was used by both astronomers and navigators. A simple astrolabe consisted of a disk of wood or metal with the circumference marked off in degrees. It was suspended by an attached ring. Pivoted at the center of the disk was a movable pointer called by Arab astronomers the alidade. By sighting with the alidade and taking readings of its position on the graduated circle, angular distances could be determined. Mariners, if sufficiently skilled in navigation, could use the astrolabe to determine latitude, longitude, and time of day and as an aid in making other calculations. It was much used on voyages of discovery in the 15th cent. and was important until the invention of the sextant in the 18th cent. The more elaborate astrolabes bore a star map (the planisphere, a circular map, was added by Hipparchus), a zodiacal circle, and various other useful or decorative devices.

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astrolabe

astrolabe Early astronomical instrument for showing the appearance of the celestial sphere at a given moment and for determining the altitude of celestial bodies. The basic form consisted of two concentric disks, one with a star map and one with a scale of angles around its rim, joined and pivoted at their centres (rather like a modern planisphere), with a sighting device attached. Astrolabes were used from the time of the ancient Greeks until the 17th century for navigation, measuring time, and terrestrial measurement of height and angles.

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astrolabe

astrolabe an instrument used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodies, and in navigation for calculating latitude, before the development of the sextant. In its basic form (known from classical times) it consists of a disc with the edge marked in degrees and a pivoted pointer. Recorded from late Middle English, the word comes ultimately (via Old French and medieval Latin) from Greek astrolabos ‘star-taking’.

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"astrolabe." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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astrolabe

as·tro·labe / ˈastrəˌlāb/ • n. chiefly hist. an instrument formerly used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodies, and in navigation for calculating latitude, before the development of the sextant.

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"astrolabe." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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astrolabe

astrolabe instrument used for taking altitudes and solving astronomical problems. XIV. — OF. astrelabe — medL. astrolabium — Gr. astrólabon, sb. use of n. of adj. astrólabos ‘star-taking’, f. ástron STAR + *lab-, base of lambánein take.

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"astrolabe." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"astrolabe." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/astrolabe-2

astrolabe

astrolabeAbe, babe •astrolabe

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