The Ulugh Beg Observatory is an astronomical observatory located on a hill near Samarkand, in modern day Uzbekistan. This observatory, which is often considered to be one of the finest of its kind in the medieval Islamic world, was constructed during the 15th century when Samarkand was one of the two most important cities of the mighty Timurid Empire (the other being Herat, in modern day Afghanistan).
The observatory was built by Ulugh Beg, sultan of the Timurid Empire. The Ulugh Beg Observatory is believed to have been built during the late 1420s, though serious studies in astronomy may have already begun in Samarkand two decades beforehand. This is entirely possible, as Ulugh Beg was governor of Samarkand at that time.
Ulugh Beg: The Rising Astronomer
Ulugh Beg was interested in astronomy from an early age, and when he became sultan he continued to be far more interested in the arts, culture and scholarly pursuits than in governing an empire. In fact, Ulugh Beg is best remembered as an astronomer and mathematician. Otherwise, his name would have likely been relegated to a mere footnote in the history books.
Statue of Ulugh Beg (CC BY-SA 3.0)