The SATNAV of the past...

This astrolabe was made by Erasmus Habermel for Dr Franciscus Paduanis, physician to Rudolph II (1552-1612), Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria and King of Bohemia. It was made in Prague in the late 16th century. The astrolabe was the main astronomical instrument before the telescope, used by astronomers, surveyors, travellers and navigators from the 7th to the 18th century. It was used to measure heights, distances and angles, latitude (your north/south position) and to tell the local time. You could also use the astrolabe to locate the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars and even to predict future astronomical events.

Did you know?

The astrolabe was expensive and difficult to manufacture, often taking a whole year to make. It was considered a sign of prestige to own one. It is believed that the astrolabe was first used in Egypt. Records of astrolabes in use in Europe go back to the 10th century. In Muslim countries they were used to tell the times for prayer. Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences, originating in the ancient world before the 5th century.

From: Prague, Czech Republic

Date: 16th Century

Made of: Copper gilt

Find in the Museum: Curator's Choice Exhibition