Original German WWII Kriegsmarine U-Boat Celestial Navigation Star Globe by Paul Gebhardt Söhne with Luftwaffe Reissue Data Plate

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is an incredibly rare WWII German Navy Submarine celestial navigation globe, which like others we have seen were reissued post 1943 for use by the Luftwaffe. According to what is printed on the 8 1/8" diameter globe, it is DIETRICH REIMER'S HIMMELGLOBUS, or "Dietrich Reimer's Celestial Globe". This seems to have been a very common projection used by German forces during the WWII era.

The globe is held with non-magnetic alloy black painted meridian rings, and the assembly is attached to the 11 1/4" diameter wooden base with 4 steel brackets. There were originally two movable height degree arcs, but one of them has broken off at the top hub. The paper components show the usual age toning, but are still quite legible.

The base has the Luftwaffe reissue data plate still intact and fully legible, which reads:

Bauart: Paul Gebhardt Söhne Berlin
Werk-Nr.    258
Anfordorz. Fl. 23189
Paul Gebhardt Söhne

This correctly identifies it as a Himmelsglobus (Heavenly Globe), and gives the design type and other information regarding production. It is marked with a Luftwaffe Fl. number, where "23" stands for navigational equipment, and "189" is the individual piece of equipment. We have seen several other examples of Luftwaffe reissued U-Boat globes from this maker, all with similar data plates.

An invaluable tool for U-Boat crews, who normally would surface at night when the threat of being spotted by Allied aircraft and seagoing vessels was minimal, this Celestial Globe allowed the crews to navigate as sailors had for centuries previous; by using the stars above them.

Considering the high attrition rate of German U-Boats as the war went on, most of these Kriegsmarine Celestial Globes ended up at the bottom of the sea. With very few in existence today, this unique WWII nautical artifact is a very rare find indeed.

Celestial Globes
Celestial globes show the apparent positions of the stars in the sky. They omit the Sun, Moon, and planets because the positions of these bodies vary relative to those of the stars, but the ecliptic, along which the Sun moves, is indicated.

There is an issue regarding the “handedness” of celestial globes. If the globe is constructed so that the stars are in the positions they actually occupy on the imaginary celestial sphere, then the star field will appear reversed on the surface of the globe (all the constellations will appear as their mirror images). This is because the view from Earth, positioned at the centre of the celestial sphere, is of the gnomonic projection inside of the celestial sphere, whereas the celestial globe is orthographic projection as viewed from the outside. For this reason, celestial globes are often produced in mirror image, so that at least the constellations appear as viewed from earth. Some modern celestial globes address this problem by making the surface of the globe transparent. The stars can then be placed in their proper positions and viewed through the globe, so that the view is of the inside of the celestial sphere. However, the proper position from which to view the sphere would be from its centre, but the viewer of a transparent globe must be outside it, far from its centre. Viewing the inside of the sphere from the outside, through its transparent surface, produces serious distortions. Opaque celestial globes that are made with the constellations correctly placed, so they appear as mirror images when directly viewed from outside the globe, are often viewed in a mirror, so the constellations have their familiar appearances. Written material on the globe, e.g. constellation names, is printed in reverse, so it can easily be read in the mirror.

Before Copernicus’s 16th century discovery that the solar system is ‘heliocentric rather than geocentric and geostatic’ (that the earth orbits the sun and not the other way around) ‘the stars have been commonly, though perhaps not universally, perceived as though attached to the inside of a hollow sphere enclosing and rotating about the earth’. Working under the incorrect assumption that the cosmos was geocentric the second century Greek astronomer Ptolemy composed the Almagest in which ‘the movements of the planets could be accurately represented by means of techniques involving the use of epicycles, deferents, eccentrics (whereby planetary motion is conceived as circular with respect to a point displaced from Earth), and equants (a device that posits a constant angular rate of rotation with respect to a point displaced from Earth)’. Guided by these ideas astronomers of the middle ages, Muslim and Christian alike, created celestial globes to ‘represent in a model the arrangement and movement of the stars’. In their most basic form celestial globes represent the stars as if the viewer were looking down upon the sky as a globe that surrounds the earth.

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