abd al-rahman al-sufi and his book of the fixed stars: a journey of

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  • This file is part of the following reference:

    Hafez, Ihsan (2010) Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and his book

    of the fixed stars: a journey of re-discovery. PhD thesis,

    James Cook University.

    Access to this file is available from:


    The author has certified to JCU that they have made a reasonable effort to gain

    permission and acknowledge the owner of any third party copyright material

    included in this document. If you believe that this is not the case, please contact

    ResearchOnline@jcu.edu.au and quote http://eprints.jcu.edu.au/28854/



  • Abd al-Ramn al-f and His Book of the Fixed

    Stars: A Journey of Re-discovery

    Thesis submitted by Ihsan Hafez

    In October 2010

    For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    In the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences

    James Cook University

  • I

    STATEMENT OF ACCESS I, the undersigned, author of this work, understand that James Cook University will make this thesis available for use within the University Library and, via the Australian Digital Theses network, for use elsewhere. I understand that, as an unpublished work, a thesis has significant protection under the Copyright Act and; I do not wish to place any further restriction on access to this work. Signature: Date:

  • II

    STATEMENT OF SOURCES DECLARATION I declare that this thesis is my own work and has not been submitted in any form for another degree or diploma at any university or other institution of tertiary education. Information derived from the published or unpublished work of others has been acknowledged in the text and a list of references is given. Signature: Date:

  • III

    STATEMENT ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF OTHERS Nature of Assistance Contribution Names

    Titles Affiliations

    Intellectual Support Proposal writing Data Analysis Editorial assistance

    Dr F Richard Stephenson Emeritus Professor Physics Department University of Durham Dr Wayne Orchiston Associate Professor of Astronomy James Cook University Not applicable Dr F Richard Stephenson Dr Wayne Orchiston

    Financial Support Field research Stipend Write-up Grant

    Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable

    Data Collection Research assistance Librarians in below institutes: Bodleian Library, Oxford Bibliothque Nationale de France, Paris British Library, London American University of Beirut

    Signature: Date:

  • IV

    ELECTRONIC COPY DECLARATION l, the undersigned, the author of this work, declare that the electronic copy of this thesis provided to the James Cook University Library is an accurate copy of the print thesis submitted, within the limits of the technology available. Signature: Date:

  • V


    First I would like to thank my principle supervisor Professor Richard Stephenson and co-

    supervisor Associate Professor Wayne Orchiston for their immense efforts and help in

    guiding me to finalize this study. I would also like to thank Dr Graeme White (formally of

    JCU) whose original ideas steered me to identify my present research topic.

    Grateful acknowledgment is also made to all the libraries and museums for kindly

    permitting the study, reproduction and use of the manuscripts in their collections for research

    purposes, but especially the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Bibliothque Nationale de

    France in Paris, the British Library in London and the library of the American University of


    Finally I would like to thank all people and especially my family for their help,

    support and patience during the time I spent working on this project.

  • VI


    Al-fs Book of the Fixed Stars, dating from around AD 964, is one of the most important

    medieval Arabic treatises on astronomy. This major work contains an extensive star catalog,

    which lists star co-ordinates and magnitude estimates, as well as detailed star charts. Other

    topics include descriptions of nebulae, colors of stars and Arabic folk astronomy. Al-fs

    book was based on Ptolemy's classical work called the Almagest which was written around

    A.D. 137. Al-f updated Ptolemy's stellar longitudes from A.D. 137 to 964 by adding 12

    degrees and 42 minutes on Ptolemys longitude values to allow for precession. However, it is

    surprising that at present no English translation of al-fs treatise exists. Therefore this is a

    Doctorate thesis which includes for the first time a complete English translation of the main

    parts of al-f's work as well as a detailed study of this important book.

    The main topics which have been discussed in this study include a brief biography on

    al-f, the extant manuscripts of al-fs treatise, the structure of the book and star

    catalogue, and the star maps and charts. One of al-f's innovations in charting the stars was

    the production of dual illustrations for each of Ptolemys constellations. One illustration was

    as portrayed on a celestial globe. The other illustration was as viewed directly in the night

    sky. Al-fs contribution to astronomy was not only limited to writing this book but he was

    also instrumental in developing the science of astronomy for a very long time. He also

    contributed to the building of an important observatory in the city of Shiraz as well as

    constructing many astronomical instruments such as astrolabes and celestial globes. His

    influence reverberated throughout history reaching as far as the end of the 19th century. This

    study also includes a major finding which is al-fs magnitude unique 3-step intermediate

    magnitude system. Al-f identified more than one hundred new stars which he mentioned in

    his commentaries on the constellation but they were not included in the tables nor were they

    mentioned in the Almagest or any other ancient star catalogs.

  • VII


    2.1- A Short History of Arabic and Islamic Astronomy 6-17 2.2- Characteristics of Arabic and Islamic Astronomy 18-30 2.3- Old Arabic Astronomical Tradition and Star Mansions 31-39 2.4- The Almagest from Ptolemy to al-f 40-45


    3.1- A Short Biography 46-52 3.2- Al-fs Contemporaries 53-58 3.3- All of the Main Works by al-f 59-62 3.4- Al-fs Observatory 63-65 3.5- The Importance of al-f in the History of Astronomy 66-75 3.6- A Crater on the Moon Named Azophi 76-77


    4.1- Al-fs Introductory Chapter 78-110 4.2.1- Ursa Minor 111-116 4.2.2- Ursa Major 117-128 4.2.3- Draco 129-130 4.2.4- Cepheus 131 4.2.5- Bootes 132 4.2.6- Corona Borealis 133 4.2.7- Hercules 134-135 4.2.8- Lyra 136

    4.2.9- Cygnus 137 4.2.10- Cassiopeia 138 4.2.11- Perseus 139-140 4.2.12- Auriga 141 4.2.13- Ophiuchus 142-143 4.2.14- Serpens 144 4.2.15- Sagitta 145 4.2.16- Aquila 146-147 4.2.17- Delphinus 148 4.2.18- Equuleus 149 4.2.19- Pegasus 150 4.2.20- Andromeda 151 4.2.21- Triangulum 152 4.3.1- Aries 153 4.3.2- Taurus 154-170 4.3.3- Gemini 171-172 4.3.4- Cancer 173-174 4.3.5- Leo 175-176 4.3.6- Virgo 177-178 4.3.7- Libra 179 4.3.8- Scorpio 180-187 4.3.9- Sagittarius 188-189 4.3.10- Capricorn 190-191 4.3.11- Aquarius 192-193

  • VIII

    4.3.12- Pisces 194-195 4.4.1- Cetus 196-197 4.4.2- Orion 198-208 4.4.3- Eridanus 209-210 4.4.4- Lepus 211

    4.4.5- Canis Major 212-213 4.4.6- Canis Minor 214 4.4.7- Argo Navis 215-216 4.4.8- Hydra 217-218 4.4.9- Crater 219 4.4.10- Corvus 220 4.4.11- Centaurus 221-232 4.4.12- Lupus 233 4.4.13- Ara 234 4.4.14- Corona Australis 235 4.4.15- Piscis Austrinus 236


    5.1- Extant Manuscripts of al-fs Book 237-248 5.2- The Structure of al-fs Book and Star Catalogue 249-253 5.3- The Maps in al-fs Catalogue 254-260 5.4- Al-fs Data Analysis and the 3-step Magnitude System 261-266 5.5- Stars Mentioned by al-f and not in the Almagest 267-274 5.6- Color of Stars in al-fs Book 275-280 5.7- Stars Used on the Astrolabes in al-fs Book 281-293 5.8- Double Stars in al-fs Book 294-301 5.9- The Nebulae in al-fs Book 302-312 5.10- Old Arabic Astronomical Traditions in al-fs Work 313-319 5.11- Comments on Constellation Chapter Ursa Minor 320-323 5.12- Comments on Constellation Chapter Ursa Major 324-327 5.13- Comments on Constellation Chapter Taurus 328-333 5.14- Comments on Constellation Chapter Scorpio 334-336 5.15- Comments on Constellation Chapter Orion 337-339 5.16- Comments on Constellation Chapter Centaurus 340-342

    6. CONCLUSION 343-353 7. BIBLIOGRAPHY 354-366 8. APPENDICES 8.1- Table of Magnitude Analysis 367-390 8.2- Excerpts from the Translation of a Poem


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