History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Representing sun and stars

The rete of an astrolabe is the decoratively cut plate which rotates to represent the apparent motion of sun and stars. A typical astrolabe has a fine network of star pointers and an offset circle for the sun's annual circuit through the zodiac [1].

The museum's smallest astrolabe does not have a complete zodiac circle [2]. The restricted size of the projection means it has been folded over on itself to create an arc. Although [3] has a zodiac circle and a few stars, its simplified rete reflects the different purpose of the instrument: underlying the rete is a terrestrial planisphere rather than a celestial grid.

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