The world’s oldest known star map found hidden in a medieval manuscript

The world’s oldest known star map found hidden in a medieval manuscript

More than 2,100 years ago, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus charted the stars, and for a long time, his paper had been considered mankind’s first attempt to assign numerical coordinates to stellar bodies. But despite its fame, the treatise was only known to exist through the writings of another well-known astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy, who compiled his own celestial inventory some 400 years later.

Until now, that is.

Researchers believe they have found fragments of Hipparchus’ lost historical document hidden in a medieval manuscript.

“This new evidence is the most authoritative to date and allows for major progress in the reconstruction of the Hipparchus star catalog,” says a study on the find published in the journal. History of Astronomy last week. The discovery could shed new light not only on Hipparchus’ attempt to map the night sky through precise measurements and calculations, but also on the history of astronomy.

Hipparchus, who is also known as the father of trigonometry, is often considered the greatest astronomer of ancient Greece. Parts of his star map appear to appear in the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a Syriac text book written in the 10th or 11th centuries, the parchment pages were erased so they could be reused (a common recycling practice at the time), but they still bear visible traces of their former form. This particular palimpsest comes from the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, although the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, now owns most of the folios of the Codex.

Multispectral images reveal the red-enhanced Greek subtext beneath the black Syriac supertext.

Museum of the Bible

Teams of the Electronic library of the first manuscripts in California and the Project Látzer based on the Rochester Institute of Technology revealed the obscured text and measurements using many wavelengths of light, a technique known as multispectral imaging.

Researchers from the Sorbonne University and the University of Cambridge were able to decipher the descriptions of four constellations. Not only did this seem to reveal Hipparchus’ mapping, but the team also says that the newly revealed numerical evidence is highly consistent with real stellar coordinates.

This would make the Hipparchus Catalog more accurate than Ptolemy’s much later Almagest astronomy manual, although the researchers acknowledge that they are working with a small sample and that there could be significant errors in parts of the Star Catalog of Hipparchus that have not yet survived or been discovered. .

Scientists say the Codex Climaci Rescriptus could yet further reveal Hipparchus’ stellar observations.

Cutting-edge digital technologies continue to recover vital fragments of cultural heritage in documents that cannot be seen by the human eye due to damage, deterioration or deliberate erasure.

The multispectral image has resurrected text of the oldest known copies of the writings of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes. Is revealed the secrets of the scrolls damaged by the eruption of Vesuvius, and exposed items from the Dead Sea Scrolls, historically significant biblical fragments recovered from the caves of Qumran, Israel.

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