The Prague Astronomical Clock

The Prague Astrolabe

An intermittent interest in astronomy helps me to come to terms with our human smallness and, it seems more and more likely, transience.

Most of my preparation for our Spring 2015 holiday in Central Europe was spent on Vienna, Poland and Hungary. I did not read up on this unique clock, a particularly brilliant example of human technological creativity, built in 1410.

The clock measures three kinds of time: common civil time, Old Czech time and, unique in the world, Babylonian time, which is related to the zodiac and sidereal time. If you compare the tower clock (11:30) to the roman numerals that indicate Czech civil time (10:30 in Roman numerals – the golden hand pointer is halfway between X and XI) will show that Prague when we were there on April 13, 2015 used Summer Time, equivalent to DST in North America.

The magnificent astrolabe is beautifully explained on this site. It shows how the clock works in excellent English using several moving depictions. (I can’t vouch for the Russian, German or Czech.)

A worthy way to spend your time if you have an interest in astronomy and inventiveness or if, like me, you need a welcome escape from contemplating the vulnerability of our species… if it maintains its present, social trajectory.