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Planisphere-on-Stone

Planisphere-on-Stone

 

It is also known as the planisphere-on-stone of Suzhou. Chinese scientists conducted five large-scale astronomical observations and made great strides in astronomy during the Song period. The planisphere-on-stone of Suzhou was drawn on the basis of astronomical observations made during the Yuanfeng reign of the Song Dynasty (1078-1085) and committed to stone by Wang Zhiyuan in 1247.

 

Below the star map on the stone is an inscription of 2,091 characters, which tells about ancient Chinese stellar knowledge. There are three concentric circles with equal distance between each on the map. The celestial North Pole is the commoncenter. The outer circle, that of perpetual occultation, is set as the limit beyond which no star ever rises above the horizon. The circle in the middle represents the celestial equator.

 

The smallest circle is the circle of perpetual apparition or inner circle. Stars within this circle are visible the year round. The stars shown on the map totals 1,434. Another circle that is inclined about 24 degrees to the plane of the celestial equator is the ecliptic. The 28 lines that radiate from the North Pole and have an unequal distance between each represent the 28 lunar mansions. They also mark the distances between determinative stars in terms of degrees on the celestial equator.

 

The planisphere-on-stone of Suzhou is the earliest and most perfect extant star map in China. Astronomers throughout the world have set a high value on it and accepted it as the oldest of its kind in the world.

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