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Universe Zone

How astronomers and instrument-makers in Muslim civilisation expanded our knowledge of the universe

Taqi al-Din's observatory

The wonder and glory of the starry skies impressed the scholars of Muslim civilisation – but they also looked for order and logic in what they saw. In this zone of the exhibition, you can explore the new instruments and ideas that developed to study the stars, which influenced considerably the development of astronomy.

Did you know



...that the need to predict the phases of the Moon for Ramadan and other religious festivals led to great steps forward in astronomy?

...that astrolabes and other instruments developed by astronomers were also crucial in land navigation and telling the time?

...that the first large-scale observatory in the Muslim world was that built by Sultan Malikshah in Isfahan in the late 11th century?

...that the 16th-century astronomer Taqi al-Din installed huge versions of  star-gazing tools like quadrants and sextants, to increase the accuracy of measurements made in his observatory?

In this zone:

  • Meet Al-‘Ijliyah Al-Astrulabiya in our film, and hear how she constructed astrolabes for the ruler of Aleppo in northern Syria in the 10th century
  • Find out about the shared heritage of astronomy from the Greek and Arabic names of many stars and constellations
  • Explore the meanings of some of the star-names derived from Arabic words, and see illustrations from early books of constellations
  • Play with a large-scale motion-sensitive astronomy interactive and try to move the constellations into their correct positions in the sky
  • Explore the influential effects of the 13th-century Maragha Observatory in Iran where astronomers challenged received wisdom about the universe and developed new models on which Renaissance scholars relied
  • Challenge yourself with our Moon interactive game to find lunar features that commemorate key figures in Muslim Civilisation and the study of astronomy
  • Blast a rocket upwards and hear the tale of the first person to brave a rocket-powered flight, Lagari Hasan Celebi, in 17th-century Turkey
  • Explore in an interactive touch-screen presentation how the intricate parts of an astrolabe combine to help people navigate and tell the time
  • See pictures of the complex armillary spheres that helped predict the movement of heavenly bodies.