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Topic section: The maharaja’s marble masterpiece
TOPIC SECTION:
The maharaja’s marble masterpiece
Picture: 10326306s1embed.jpg
Model of the Samrat yantra, a giant sundial at the open-air observatory in Jaipur built by Maharaja Jai Singh II.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
In 1724, the Maharaja Sawa Jai Singh II began construction of the Jantar Man

India is today looking inward, exploring the Earth from space

tar observatory at Jaipur in India. At this time India was one of the richest countries in the world. A modern-style banking system and the profits from the world’s largest silk and cotton industries generated the kind of wealth needed for Sawa Jai Singh II to indulge his passion for astronomy, an area in which India was a world leader.

Picture: 10196844s1embed.jpg

Photograph of the Samrat yantra, a giant sundial at the open-air observatory in Jaipur built by Maharaja Jai Singh II.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

 

Having discovered that existing astronomical tables were riddled with errors, Singh constructed his observatory in order to make accurate records of the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the known planets. Having no real need for delicate optical telescopes, he opted instead for massive naked-eye instruments, which were finely crafted in stone and marble. Clearly based on the observatory built by Ulugh Beg at Samarkand, Uzbekistan, three hundred years earlier, the Jantar Mantar was one of five such observatories constructed by the Maharaja in pursuit of his obsession.

Having built on a long tradition of observing the stars, India is today looking inward, exploring the Earth from space as well as establishing telecommunications satellite links across the Indian subcontinent and beyond.
 
 
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Topic section: A star of astronomy
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Patrick Moore is famous as the presenter of the long-running The Sky at Night programme. With his permanently raised eyebrow and evident enthusiasm for the night sky, Moore has become the face of popular astronomy in Britain.  > more

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Topic section: The man who found a planet
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A refugee musician from Hanover, William Herschel, settled in Slough and discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. He then became the most famous astronomer of his age.  > more

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Topic section: The big eye of Parsonstown
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The Earl of Rosse constructed what was then the world’s largest reflecting telescope in 1846 at his family seat of Parsonstown (now Birr) in Ireland. The original Rosse mirror is on display in the Science Museum.  > more
 
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