Old Town Astronomical Clock – the astronomical dial

Orloj - Astrolab002

Understanding all the functions of the Old Town Astronomical Clock(czech: Orloj) is very difficult. With help of its numerous components, indicators and symbols it is not just possible to determine the time but, for instance, also the current Zodiacal sign, positions of the Sun or Moon and many more facts. To help you understand the Old Town astronomical Clock better we will teach you to recognize some of its functions.

Old Town Square

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Introduction of the astronomical clock Prague, Old Town Square, Old Town Astronomical Clock – the astronomical dial
The part of the astronomical clock we can view from the Old Town Square is the astronomical part. It represents the solar system which is driven with help of the clockwork of the astronomical clock we had described in the previous article. The whole dial is driven by the main device with help of other submechanisms. With help of three main toothed wheels three main indicators are set into motion which show the solar and astral time and also the motion of the Moon. Certainly you will notice the small golden Sun on the dial providing the exact information about the current position of the Sun. The position of the Moon is reflected by a small bullet. Both of these indicators exactly reflect  the current positions of the Sun and Moon in the sky.

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The astronomical dial Prague, Old Town Square, Old Town Astronomical Clock – the astronomical dial
We will describe what the whole dial is composed of. The big stationary circle is its fundamental and largest part. The blue central part represents the globe whose North Pole is placed in the lower part instead of the upper which has a dark colour. These colours are important for determination of the day and night – the symbol of the Sun moves in the upper part during the day and in the dark lower part in the night. The dayparts are specified by Latin legends representing the dawn, twilight, sunrise but also the sunset.

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Numbers on the circuit of the dial

Also the small golden Roman numbers placed on the edge of the blue circle play important part on the dial. They form the dial of a common 24-hour day. The solar time is indicated by a small gilded hand moving on the circuit of the dial. Do not panic if you have the impression that the time on the atronomical clock is inaccurate. It is caused by the fact that it shows the exact central European time which is more than two minutes fast compared to our local time. Besides the Roman numbers,

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the astronomical clock also contains gilded Gothic numbes which are situated along the whole dial in the most remote part from the middle of the astronomical clock. These numbers serve for reading the original Old Czech time. This is how it works: the golden hand indicates the current time on the 24-hour-dial. We need to point out that the Old Czech day started by the sunset. So the Old Czech time does not indicate the local time but the total number of hours that had passed from the last sunset.


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The Sun, the Moon, the Zodiac Prague, Old Town Square, Old Town Astronomical Clock – the astronomical dial
These objects represent important indicators that inform us where these celestial bodies are to be found. The symbol of the Sun goes round the whole dial in twenty-four hours and the Zodiac in one year. Due to the little Sun on the astronomical clock we can define with precision for instance the day, night, sunrise or sunset. Furthermore also the position of the  Sun above the horizon, the approximate calendary date, the zodiacal sign and many more important pieces of information. Besides the position of the Sun we can also observe the position of the Moon. The dark and light sides of the Moon help us define in which phase it is just situated. The smaller circle inside the dial around which the symbol of the Sun and  Moon go round represent the signs of the Zodiac. With help of the symbol of the Sun they show the current sign. This way the Sun makes the entire circle on the circuit of the Zodiac.

How to get to Old Town Square:
Staroměstská radnice (Old Town Hall)
Staroměstské náměstí 3, 4/1,
Praha 1 – Staré Město, 110 00

GPS: 50°5’13.571″N, 14°25’14.397″E

Tram: 17, 18, 53 Staroměstská (then walk along Kaprova street)
Bus: 133 Staroměstská (then walk along Kaprova street)
Metro: A – Staroměstská (then walk along Kaprova street)

Transport connection:
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Photogallery of  Old Town Astronomical Clock (Orloj)


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