This instrument consists of a small globe contained in a wooden box.
The wooden box is roughly cubic, with a brass-coloured metal hand on the top and two latches on the side two hold the box closed. On the interior of the lid there are instructions for use of the globe and slid onto a metal rod, four sliding pieces with indicator arrows that can be used to indicate points on the globe.
The globe sits in the lower half of the box with a wooden surround so that only the one hemisphere of the globe is visible. It is held in place by a circular metal ring which attaches to the poles of the globe via small metal peg that is inserted into a small hole at the ‘north pole’ of the globe. There is a matching piece affixing the the ring to the south pole. The globe rests sideways in the box; this allows it to rotate freely around its polar axis.
Around the equator of the globe, affixed to the wood, there is a metal ring with a scale etched on it, in degrees of a circle. Fitted over the globe there are two half-circle rings that are fitted together at right angles at the top with a a small metal ball and attached at the base by a ring, creating a hemispherical frame; these also have scales in degrees engraved on them. This fits over the globe and can be freely lifted off and moved.
The globe itself is heavy, likely made of solid wood, and the surface is cream in colour. The map is printed on varnished paper, and indicates important and prominent stars and constellations. There are two small holes with a metal lined edge in the wooden surround next to the globe. One of these contains a red marking pencil.
Accession Number: 2012.ast.22
Alternative Name: Husun Star Globe
Wood, Metal: Copper Alloy, Paper, Varnish, Felt
Printed on the globe: “THE HUSUN STAR GLOBE
H. HUGHES & SON LTD.
Etched on the metal rim around the equator of the globe: “H. H. & S. LTD.
Printed on a paper label stuck to the interior of the lid: “INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE OF STAR GLOBE”
Dimensions (cm): Height = 22.5, Width = 27, Length = 27
This celestial globe is to assist with the understanding of celestial coordinates, e.g. for calculations or navigation by the stars. It helps determine altitude and azimuth of heavenly bodies; identify unknown stars; determine times of rising and setting and angles to stars. Information in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics Records reads: “Celestial globes have been used for astronomy education since the 15h century, if not before. This specialized example, invented by Lieutenant English of the Royal Navy, was designed and marketed specifically to solve problems in marine navigation—and indeed was intended for shipboard use. Like the spherical blackboard, this celestial globe could be used to solve problems in spherical trigonometry. It could be drawn on with wax pencils, red and blue being the preferred colours.”
Excellent: The wooden box is scratched and chipped in places and the brass on the exterior handle and latches is dulled. The interior brass components are in slightly better condition. The label stuck on the interior of the box is browned.
The paper of the globe is very slightly yellowed. The interior brass components are tarnished in places, where the enamel covering has been worn away.
Associated Instruments: 2019.ast.236
Manufacturer: H. Hughes & Son Ltd. (London)
Date of Manufacture: 1920
This globe was one of an original set of four or five used for teaching at the Department for the Astronomy & Astrophysics. Following its use, it was stored at the University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the St George Campus. In 2017 it was moved to a new storage location in McLennan Physical Laboratories.
Additional Information and References:
According to Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics Professor Emeritus John Percy, this celestial globe is one of a set of four or five identical celestial globes that were used in teaching at the department. In an interview, Percy explained the use of the globes in the classroom:
“…[W]hen I started in 1967 the first thing that you did in your introductory astronomy course for non-science students was to introduce them to spherical trigonometry. The trigonometry of the celestial sphere, the right ascension and declination equivalent to longitude and latitude. That totally changed within three years because first of all students couldn’t relate to it; they were supposed to be non-science students and here you were doing spherical trigonometry with them. So that completely went out the window. But for teaching those concepts, and astronomy was taught as a more mathematical one instead of a more physical one, you had to have ways of picturing the celestial coordinates like latitude and longitude, and represent oceans on the sky and so on and so forth… That’s one of the reasons why you find so many globes in your collection, most of them dating back I think to pre-1960.”
This particular style of globe was a favourite of Percy, who used it for generating sky predictions for observers. He explains:
“I spent ten years as the editor of the RASC Observer’s Handbook. And I had to be able to generate some sky predictions, how far above the horizon was Mercury or something like that. And that particular globe was not just a work of art but a very fine quantitative device. That’s the one of those globes that I really made a huge amount of use of, right from the beginning… The white globe itself rotates on an axis to represent the earth’s rotation axis. And so you could set it for some particular date and time, and then for every single planet or star that might be on the globe (if it’s a moving planet you’d have to figure out its right ascension and declination). But then using the brass scales you could figure out the exact altitude and azimuth that you would find that object at. By adjusting the axis you can find any location, whether it’s Toronto or the North Pole or whatever. So it was a very versatile device, and accurate to pretty much one or two degrees which was all you needed for those purposes.”
It is possible that this particular globe is the one John Percy “commandeered” from the department set for this purpose, as by the later half of the 20th century, globes like this one were receiving little use in teaching. Instead, globes like the Torica Astro Globes (2019.ast.278) [https://utsic.utoronto.ca/wpm_instrument/torica-astro-globe/] were used for teaching students first coming to grips with making celestial coordinates.
John Percy was interviewed on March 11, 2021.