Video: There's a new docudrama coming out tomorrow about the life of Ulugh Beg, an obscure medieval astronomer who made Samarkand, now Uzbekistan, a thriving centre of culture and science in the 15th century.
A full 150 years before Galileo gazed at the heavens with his telescope, Ulugh Beg (1394-1449) was building some of the largest astronomical instruments on Earth. Incredibly, he used his observatory to map the stars and create charts that are still considered highly accurate, even by today's standards.
Beg managed to measure the duration of the year to within 25 seconds of the actual figure, and he even correctly calculated the Earth's axial tilt at 23.52 degrees. In addition to astronomy, he was a capable mathematician and biologist. He was also a Timurid ruler, transforming the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara into vibrant cultural centres.
A new 38-minute docudrama, titled Ulugh Beg: The Man Who Unlocked the Universe and directed by Bakhodir Yuldashev (Shima, Angel of Death), chronicles the life of the little-known scientist, from his birth as a prince through to his unconventional childhood and education and ending with his untimely death.
Actor Armand Assante (Gotti, American Gangster) portrays Beg and Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Shrek) provides the narration. It features some neat CGI, live-action re-enactments of historical events and interviews with academics and astronauts.