Ulugbek Observatory

Not so many people know that real name of Ulugbek was Muhammad Taragay. He initiated construction of observatory in Samarkand.

Ulugbek means Great ruler. He was born on 22 March 1394. During his childhood, he was keen on exact sciences. Amir Temur hired the best teachers for his beloved grandson. For example, philosopher and writer Arif Azari and mathematician-astronomer Kazi-zade Rumi were his teachers. Amir Temur frequently took Muhammad Taragay to military campaigns. Once in Sultaniya he saw very strange building. He saw the observatory, which was constructed by Azerbaijani scholar Nasir ad-Din Tusi. Apparently, at that time, Ulugbek realized his mission.

He started to rule Samarkand when he was young. But he devoted time to researches and the elite did not like it.


Construction of the observatory was started in 1420 in the charge of astronomers, not architects. It lasted three years. It took some more years to install and tune up the tools. It is noteworthy that the building looks like an astronomical instrument for observing the stars and other celestial bodies.

After the murder of Ulugbek in 1449, the observatory worked for another 20 years. After it was abandoned and by 16th century it was partially dismantled. Soviet scientists have unearthed the part of the sextant (quadrant). The device was oriented north-south and had a radius of 40.2 m. It was used to measure the height of the stars above the horizon when they pass through the celestial meridian.

Currently there is a museum named after Ulugbek in front of the observatory. The museum stores photos from archeological works, part of frescos and various tools. But the main valuable exhibit in the museum is fragment from Ziji jadidi Kuragoni or New Kuragoni star table.

Scientific work of Muhammad Taragay remained unique up to the XVII century. During this time, the Europeans managed to make similar calculations.

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