Astrolabe Workshop – Diary 1

Astrolabe is a new thing for most of us. Writing a one blog of introduction will be unjust for the great instrument. So, I’m writing multiple.

In my comprehension,

Astrolabe can be used to model the sky (on movable disks staked over each other). And using that model, one can precisely measure time of day or night.

Astrolabe Image
Astrolabe made by Zia Ul Din Muhammad Lahori in 1658/9 AD. Source:

Well, history of Astrolabes dates back to Greece, but Muslims made it a matchless legacy. As middle ages of Islam were saturated with research in Science and Mathematics, Lahori Astrolabe was a pixel of the image middle Islamic ages were having as a whole.

Astrolabe is made up of 3 plates basically.

Plate 1: Spider

First plate is the star map of the sky and it has a circular dial (a little off from the center) which is movable over other plates. It’s called “Al-Ankabut” (meaning: spider). Features of this plate are here:

  • It rotates same as the sky rotates over the earth.
  • Location of tips of the designs made over this plate are actually stars on the sky!
  • This plate outdates only after significant number of years because of change in orientation of Earth’s Rotational axis (ignore this detail if it seems difficult).
Plate 1: Spider of Zid Ul Din’s same Astrolabe.

Plate 2: With Sky Coordinates

Second plate in back side of spider is having too many circles (a little off centered with respect to each other) on it. This plate is the sky! Usually, upper part of this plate is usually the sky visible to you and lower part is the part of sky below the horizon! This has some specs to mention:

  • This plate is not movable.
  • This plate needs to be made according to the geographical location of a person on Earth
  • Lines over this plate are constant. Lines that are horizontal in the middle of the plate, are all called “Almucantars” (means Altitude)
  • Vertical / perpendicular lines on Almucantars are called Lines of Equal Direction. (Currently known as Azimuth.
Plate 2 Having Sky division in altitudes and azimuth. Source:

Plate 3: To Hold Spider and Middle plate.

Third Plate is the holding dial at backside of the Astrolabe. It has a decorated handle for holding and on backside of the plate, there are useful information (that I don’t yet know).

Backside of Astrolabe (Plate 3)

Astrolabe Making Came Back to Lahore!

Astrolabe Workshops were made possible on February 27, 28, 2018 and March 1, 2, 2018 at Lahore.

Speakers: Professors from Netherlands

Organizers: Lahore Astronomical Society & Astronomy League of Pakistan

Venue Sponsors: Ali Institute of Education, Lahore

To my surprise, people from the West know more about our history than I do! The professors told us what an astrolabe is, how it is used and at the end, how it is made!

I want myself to make an astrolabe along my colleagues at LAST (Lahore Astronomical Society) and I am deeply thankful to Professor Jan, Wilfred and Tom who came all the way from Netherlands to teach us the art to make an astrolabe.

I look forward for people who want to join us at LAST and learn and make this astonishing device at their own and spread the knowledge. It’s no more a forgotten legacy as we aim to spread the knowledge as much as possible.

3_24_18 11_27 AM Office Lens
My Certificate for Organizing Workshop with other LAST Members

Future of Astrolabe

Lahoris are passionate to regain the glory in Astronomy after knowing the legacy their ancestors had. First step towards teaching Astrolabe is taken by Roshaan Bukhari from Lahore Astronomical Society, who is going to teach Astrolabe making in his course at LUMS Lifetime Learning.

LAST also has plans for organizing workshops at our own to make Lahoris learn astrolabe making and help regain the glory, In sha Allah.

And I will write some more blogs on Astrolabe making, containing the material to learn using and making an astrolabe yourself, In sha Allah.

I am new to Astrolabes. The brief descriptions I wrote about astrolabe can contain errors. I will be thankful if anyone with knowledge of Astrolabes corrects me out.

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