Maragheh Observatory, which was set up in 657 AH by Khajeh Nassir Tousi, a noted Iranian scientist and astrologist, was once the most prestigious observatory in the world. It still retains its glory in the heights of Maragheh, East Azarbaijan province.
Though significant parts of the structure are in ruins, the stone edifice and astrological signs across the 28-meter wide observatory to determine the direction of the stars easily represent the glorious background of this historical site.
Upon entering the observatory, a visitor is awed by the precision of astrological angles which once were based on the Meridian and the time zones throughout the world have been arranged using Maragheh as the reference point.
The observatory is currently covered with a dome-framed brass structure and is situated two kilometers west of Maragheh. Based on historical evidence, it was built on the order of the Ilkhanate king, Hulegu Khan (1256-1265 AD). The engineering side of the construction was entrusted to Khajeh Nassir Tousi. Other scientists including Allameh Qotbeddin Maraghei and Mohyeddin Maghrebi contributed to the project.
It took 15 years to build and equip the observatory. Some say that Hulegu brought astrology equipment from Baghdad when he overran the city.
To save the installation from further destruction, Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) built a dome-framed shelter and it plans to hold an exhibit of astrology devices used at Maragheh observatory.
What makes the observatory more attractive is the 20 meter to 44 meter deep wells and caves around it where astrologist Khajeh Nassir and his students could track down the movements and the location of stars in the sky.
Mehr Temple, is another historical site in Maragheh which was used by the Zoroastrians for worshipping the sun. It is a magnificent domed temple sections of which are located underground. It is dates back to the Sassanid (224-651 AD) era.
It was built 5-meter underground with domed roof. Verses from holy Qur’an were later etched on the interior walls of the temple.