Armillary sphere

Armillary sphere

An armillary sphere (variations are known as spherical astrolabe, armilla, or armil) is a model of the celestial sphere.

Description and use of the armillary sphere

The exterior parts of this machine are a compages of brass rings, which represent the principal circles of the heavens.
# The equinoctial "A", which is divided into 360 degrees (beginning at its intersection with the ecliptic in Aries) for showing the sun's right ascension in degrees; and also into 24 hours, for showing his right ascension in time.
# The ecliptic "B", which is divided into 12 signs, and each sign into 30 degrees, and also into the months and days of the year; in such a manner, that the degree or point of the ecliptic in which the sun is, on any given day, stands over that day in the circle of months.
# The tropic of Cancer "C", touching the ecliptic at the beginning of Cancer in "e", and the tropic of Capricorn "D", touching the ecliptic at the beginning of Capricorn in "f"; each 23½ degrees from the equinoctial circle.
# The Arctic Circle "E", and the Antarctic Circle "F", each 23½ degrees from its respective pole at "N" and "S".
# The equinoctial colure "G", passing through the north and south poles of the heaven at "N" and "S", and through the equinoctial points Aries and Libra, in the ecliptic.
# The solstitial colure "H", passing through the poles of the heaven, and through the solstitial points Cancer and Capricorn, in the ecliptic. Each quarter of the former of these colures is divided into 90 degrees, from the equinoctial to the poles of the world, for showing the declination of the sun, moon, and stars; and each quarter of the latter, from the ecliptic as "e" and "f", to its poles "b" and "d", "f" or showing the latitude of the stars.

In the north pole of the ecliptic is a nut "b", to which is fixed one end of the quadrantal wire, and to the other end a small sun "Y", which is carried round the ecliptic "B"—"B", by turning the nut : and in the south pole of the ecliptic is a pin "d", on which is another quadrantal wire, with a small moon "Ζ" upon it, which may be moved round by hand : but there is a particular contrivance for causing the moon to move in an orbit which crosses the ecliptic at an angle of 5⅓ degrees, in to opposite points called the "moon's nodes"; and also for shifting these points backward in the ecliptic, as the "moon's nodes" shift in the heaven.

Within these circular rings is a small terrestrial globe "J", fixed on an axis "K", which extends from the north and south poles of the globe at "n" and "s", to those of the celestial sphere at "N" and "S". On this axis is fixed the flat celestial meridian "L L", which may be set directly over the meridian of any place on the globe, so as to keep over the same meridian upon it. This flat meridian is graduated the same way as the brass meridian of the common globe, and its use is much the same. To this globe is fitted the movable horizon "M", so as to turn upon the two strong wires proceeding from its east and west points to the globe, and entering the globe at the opposite points off its equator, which is a movable brass ring set into the globe in a groove all around its equator. The globe may be turned by hand within this ring, so as to place any given meridian upon it, directly under the celestial meridian "L". The horizon is divided into 360 degrees all around its outermost edge, within which are the points of the compass, for showing the amplitude of the sun and the moon, both in degrees and points. The celestial meridian "L" passes through two notches in the north and south points of the horizon, as in a common globe: both here, if the globe be turned round, the horizon and meridian turn with it. At the south pole of the sphere is a circle of 25 hours, fixed to the rings, and on the axis is an index which goes round that circle, if the globe be turned round its axis.

The whole fabric is supported on a pedestal "N", and may be elevated or depressed upon the joint "O", to any number of degrees from 0 to 90, by means of the arc "P", which is fixed in the strong brass arm "Q", and slides in the upright piece "R", in which is a screw at "r", to fix it at any proper elevation.

In the box "T" are two wheels (as in Dr Long's sphere) and two pinions, whose axes come out at "V" and "U"; either of which may be turned by the small winch "W". When the winch is put upon the axis "V", and turn backward, the terrestrial globe, with its horizon and celestial meridian, keep at rest; and the whole sphere of circles turns round from east, by south, to west, carrying the sun "Y", and moon "Z", round the same way, and causing them to rise above and set below the horizon. But when the winch is put upon the axis "U", and turned forward, the sphere with the sun and moon keep at rest; and the earth, with its horizon and meridian, turn round from horizon to the sun and moon, to which these bodies came when the earth kept at rest, and they were carried round it; showing that they rise and set in the same points of the horizon, and at the same times in the hour circle, whether the motion be in the earth or in the heaven. If the earthly globe be turned, the hour-index goes round its hour-circle; but if the sphere be turned, the hour-circle goes round below the index.

And so, by this construction, the machine is equally fitted to show either the real motion of the earth, or the apparent motion of the heaven.

To rectify the sphere for use, first slacken the screw "r"in the upright stem "R", and taking hold of the arm "Q", move it up or down until the given degree of latitude for any place be at the side of the stem "R"; and then the axis of the sphere will be properly elevated, so as to stand parallel to the axis of the world, if the machine be set north and south by a small compass: this done, count the latitude from the north pole, upon the celestial meridian "L", down towards the north notch of the horizon, and set the horizon to that latitude; then, turn the nut "b" until the sun "Y" comes to the given day of the year in the ecliptic, and the sun will be at its proper place for that day: find the place of the moon's ascending node, and also the place of the moon, by an Ephemeris, and set them right accordingly: lastly, turn the winch "W", until either the sun comes to the meridian "L", or until the meridian comes to the sun (according as you want the sphere or earth to move) and set the hour-index to the XXI, marked noon, and the whole machine will be rectified. — Then turn the winch, and observe when the sun or moon rise and set in the horizon, and the hour-index will show the times thereof for the given day.


Development in East Asia

Throughout Chinese history, astronomers have created celestial globes (zh-s|s=浑象) to assist the observation of the stars. The Chinese also used the armillary sphere in aiding calendrical computations and calculations. Chinese ideas of astronomy and astronomical instruments became known in Korea as well, where further advancements were also made.

According to Needham, the earliest development of the armillary sphere in China goes back to the astronomers Shi Shen and Gan De in the 4th century BC, as they were equipped with a primitive single-ring armillary instrument.Needham, Volume 3, 343.] This would have allowed them to measure the north polar distance (declination) a measurement that gave the position in a "xiu" (right ascension). Needham's early dating, however, is rejected by the sinologist Christopher Cullen who traces the beginnings of these devices to the 1st century BC. [Christopher Cullen, “Joseph Needham on Chinese Astronomy”, Past and Present, No. 87 (May, 1980), pp. 39-53 (45)]

During the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD) additional developments made by the astronomers Luoxia Hong (落下閎), Xiangyu Wangren, and Geng Shouchang (耿壽昌) advanced the use of the armillary in its early stage of evolution. In 52 BC, it was the astronomer Geng Shouchang who introduced the first permanently fixed equatorial ring of the armillary sphere. In the subsequent Eastern Han Dynasty (23-220 AD) period, the astronomers Fu An and Jia Kui added the elliptical ring by 84 AD. With the famous statesman, astronomer, and inventor Zhang Heng (张衡, 78-139 AD), the sphere was totally complete in 125 AD, with horizon and meridian rings. The world's first water-powered celestial globe was created by Zhang Heng, who operated his armillary sphere by use of an inflow clepsydra clock (see Zhang's article for more detail).

Subsequent developments were made after the Han Dynasty that improved the use of the armillary sphere. In 323 AD the astronomer Kong Ting was able to reorganize the arrangement of rings on the armillary sphere so that the ecliptic ring could be pegged on to the equator at any point desired. Then Li Chunfeng (李淳風) of the Tang dynasty created one in 633 AD with three spherical layers to calibrate multiple aspects of astronomical observations, calling them 'nests' (chhung). He was also responsible for proposing a plan of having a sighting tube mounted ecliptically in order for the better observation of celestial latitudes. However, it was Yi Xing (see below) in the next century who would accomplish this addition to the model of the armillary sphere.Needham, Volume 3, 350.] Ecliptical mountings of this sort were found on the armillary instruments of Zhou Cong and Shu Yijian in 1050 AD, as well as Shen Kuo's armillary sphere of the later 11th century, but after that point they were no longer employed on Chinese armillary instruments until the arrival of the European Jesuits.

In 723 AD, Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Yi-xing (一行) and government official Liang Ling-zan (梁令瓚) combined Zhang Heng's water powered celestial globe with an escapement device. The result was allegedly the world's first water powered mechanical clock. The famous clock tower of the Su Song built by 1094 during the Song Dynasty would employ Yi Xing's escapement with waterwheel scoops filled by clepsydra drip, and powered a crowning armillary sphere, a central celestial globe, and mechanically-operated manikins that would exit mechanically-opened doors of the clock tower at specific times to ring bells and gongs to announce the time, or to hold plaques announcing special times of the day. There was also the scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031-1095). Being the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy, Shen Kuo was an avid scholar of astronomy, and improved the designs of several astronomical instruments: the gnomon, armillary sphere, clepsydra clock, and sighting tube fixed to observe the pole star indefinitely.Sivin, III, 17]

Jang Yeong-sil, a Korean inventor, was ordered by King Sejong the Great of Joseon to build an armillary sphere. The sphere, built in 1433 was named Honcheonui (혼천의).

The Honcheonsigye, an armillary sphere activated by a working clock mechanism was built by the Korean astronomer Song Iyeong in 1669. It is highly valued in term of clock-making technology and is the only remaining astronomical clock from the Joseon Dynasty.

Hellenistic world

The Greek astronomer, Hipparchus (c. 190 – c. 120 BC), credited Eratosthenes (276 –194) as the inventor of the armillary sphere. [Williams, 131.] [Henry Smith Williams: “A History Of Science”, 2004, ISBN 9781419101632, p.131] [Walter William Bryant: “A History of Astronomy”, 1907, p.18] [John Ferguson: “Callimachus”, 1980, ISBN 9780805764314, p.18] [Henry C. King: “The history of the Telescope”, 2003, ISBN 9780486432656, p.7] [Dirk L. Couprie, Robert Hahn, Gerard Naddaf: “Anaximander in Context: New Studies in the Origins of Greek Philosophy”, 2003, ISBN 9780791455371, p.179] The name of this device comes ultimately from the Latin "armilla" (circle, bracelet), since it has a skeleton made of graduated metal circles linking the poles and representing the equator, the ecliptic, meridians and parallels.

Usually a ball representing the Earth or, later, the Sun is placed in its center.It is used to demonstrate the motion of the stars around the Earth. Before the advent of the European telescope in the 17th century, the armillary sphere was the prime instrument of all astronomers in determining celestial positions.

In its simplest form, consisting of a ring fixed in the plane of the equator, the "armilla" is one of the most ancient of astronomical instruments. Slightly developed, it was crossed by another ring fixed in the plane of the meridian. The first was an equinoctial, the second a solstitial armilla. Shadows were used as indices of the sun's positions, in combinations with angular divisions. When several rings or circles were combined representing the great circles of the heavens, the instrument became an armillary sphere.

Eratosthenes most probably used a solstitial armilla for measuring the obliquity of the ecliptic. Hipparchus probably used an armillary sphere of four rings. Ptolemy describes his instrument in the "Syntaxis" (book v. chap. i). It consisted of a graduated circle inside which another could slide, carrying to small tubes diametrically opposite, the instrument being kept vertical by a plumb-line.

Armillary spheres were developed by the Greeks and were used as teaching tools already in the 3rd century B.C.. In larger and more precise forms they were also used as observational instruments.

Medieval Islamic world and Renaissance Europe

Muslim astronomers produced an improved version of the Greek armillary sphere in the 8th century and they were the first to write about it in the treatise of "Dhat al-Halaq" or "The instrument with the rings" by Ibrahim al-Fazari (d.c. 777). Abbas Ibn Firnas (d.887) is thought to have produced another instrument with rings (armillary sphere) in 9th century which he gifted to Caliph Muhammad I (ruled 852-886). [Al-Makkari, (ed. 1986), ‘‘Nafh Al-Teeb’, Volume 4. Dar Al-Fikre, Egypt, p. 348-349.] The spherical astrolabe, a variation of both the astrolabe and the armillary sphere, was invented during the Middle Ages by astronomers and inventors in the Islamic world. [Emilie Savage-Smith (1993). "Book Reviews", "Journal of Islamic Studies" 4 (2), p. 296-299. quote|"There is no evidence for the Hellenistic origin of the spherical astrolabe, but rather evidence so far available suggests that it may have been an early but distinctly Islamic development with no Greek antecedents."] The earliest description of the spherical astrolabe dates back to Al-Nayrizi (fl. 892-902). Muslim astronomers also independently invented the celestial globe, which were used primarily for solving problems in celestial astronomy. Today, 126 such instruments remain worldwide, the oldest from the 11th century. The altitude of the sun, or the Right Ascension and Declination of stars could be calculated with these by inputting the location of the observer on the meridian ring of the globe.

The armillary sphere was introduced to Europe via Al-Andalus in the late 10th century with the efforts of Gerbert d'Aurillac, the later Pope Sylvester II (r. 999–1003). [Darlington, 467–472.] Pope Sylvester II applied the use of sighting tubes with his armillary sphere in order to fix the position of the pole star and record measurements for the tropics and equator. [Darlington, 679–670.] Further advances were made by Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), whose elaborate armillary spheres passing into astrolabes are figured in his "Astronomiae Instauratae Mechanica".

Renaissance scientists and public figures often had their portraits painted showing them with one hand on an armillary sphere, which represented the height of wisdom and knowledge.

Armillary spheres were among the first complex mechanical devices. Their development led to many improvements in techniques and design of all mechanical devices.

The armillary sphere survives as useful for teaching, and may be described as a skeleton celestial globe, the series of rings representing the great circles of the heavens, and revolving on an axis within a horizon. With the earth as center such a sphere is known as Ptolemaic; with the sun as center, as Copernican.

A representation of an armillary sphere is present in the modern flag of Portugal and has been a national symbol since the reign of Manuel I.

eamless celestial globe

In the 1980s, Emilie Savage-Smith discovered several celestial globes without any seams in Lahore and Kashmir.cite web|first=Najma|last=Kazi|title=Seeking Seamless Scientific Wonders: Review of Emilie Savage-Smith's Work|url=|publisher=FSTC Limited|date=2007-11-24|accessdate=2008-02-01] Prior to this discovery, it was believed by many modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to create a metal globe without any seams. The earliest seamless globe was invented in Kashmir by the Muslim astronomer and metallurgist Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE) during Akbar the Great's reign; another was produced in 1070 AH (1659-60 CE) by Muhammad Salih Tahtawi with Arabic and Sanskrit inscriptions; and the last was produced in Lahore by a Hindu astronomer and metallurgist Lala Balhumal Lahuri in 1842 during Jagatjit Singh Bahadur's reign. 21 such globes were produced, and these remain the only examples of seamless metal globes. These Mughal metallurgists developed the method of lost-wax casting in order to produce these globes. [citation|first=Emilie|last=Savage-Smith|title=Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use|publisher=Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.|year=1985]

See also

* Antikythera mechanism
* Astrolabe
* Astronomical clock
* Orrery, a free-standing solar system model
* Planetarium
* Prague Orloj
* Torquetum
* Celestial sphere
* Chinese constellation
* Chinese zodiac
* Jang Young Sil
* "De sphaera mundi", a book describing the armillary sphere



* Encyclopaedia Britannica (1771), "Geography".
*Darlington, Oscar G. "Gerbert, the Teacher," "The American Historical Review" (Volume 52, Number 3, 1947): 456–476.
* Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 3". Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
*Sivin, Nathan (1995). "Science in Ancient China". Brookfield, Vermont: VARIORUM, Ashgate Publishing
* Williams, Henry Smith (2004). "A History Of Science". Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1419101633.

External links

* [ Starry Messenger]
* [ Instructions for constructing an armillary sphere]
* [ AstroMedia* Verlag in Germany offers a cardboard construction kit for an armillary sphere ("Das Kleine Tischplanetarium")]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Armillary sphere — Sphere Sphere, n. [OE. spere, OF. espere, F. sph[ e]re, L. sphaera,. Gr. ??? a sphere, a ball.] 1. (Geom.) A body or space contained under a single surface, which in every part is equally distant from a point within called its center. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Armillary sphere — Armillary Ar mil*la*ry, a. [LL. armillarius, fr. L. armilla arm ring, bracelet, fr. armus arm: cf. F. armillaire. See {Arm}, n.] Pertaining to, or resembling, a bracelet or ring; consisting of rings or circles. [1913 Webster] {Armillary sphere},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • armillary sphere — [är′mə ler΄ē] n. [< L armilla, armlet, bracelet < armus: see ARM2] an ancient astronomical sighting instrument representing the great circles of the horizon, the ecliptic, the meridian, etc …   English World dictionary

  • armillary sphere — Astron. an ancient instrument consisting of an arrangement of rings, all of which are circles of the same sphere, used to show the relative positions of the celestial equator, ecliptic, and other circles on the celestial sphere. [1550 60] * * * ▪ …   Universalium

  • armillary sphere — noun Etymology: French sphère armillaire, from Medieval Latin armilla, from Latin, bracelet, iron ring, from armus shoulder more at arm Date: 1664 an old astronomical instrument composed of rings showing the positions of important circles of the… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • armillary sphere — ar′millary sphere′ n. astron. an ancient astronomical instrument consisting of an arrangement of metal rings used to show the relative positions of the celestial equator and other circles on the celestial sphere …   From formal English to slang

  • armillary sphere — /aˌmɪləri ˈsfɪə/ (say ah.miluhree sfear) noun Astronomy an arrangement of rings, all circles of a single sphere, showing the relative positions of the principal circles of the celestial sphere …  

  • armillary sphere — noun a revolving model of the celestial sphere constructed from metal rings representing the equator, the tropics, etc. Origin C17: from mod. L. armillaris relating to an armilla , a similar astronomical instrument used by ancient astronomers,… …   English new terms dictionary

  • armillary sphere — noun An instrument consisting of graduated metal circles used to represent the motions of celestial bodies around the earth …   Wiktionary

  • armillary sphere — noun a celestial globe consisting of metal hoops; used by early astronomers to determine the positions of stars • Syn: ↑armilla • Hypernyms: ↑celestial globe …   Useful english dictionary

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