More than 2100 years ago, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus mapped the stars, and for a long time his document was considered humanity’s first attempt to assign numerical coordinates to stellar bodies. But despite its reputation, the study was only known to exist through the writings of another well-known astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy, who compiled his own celestial inventory 400 years later.
So far, that is.
Researchers believe they have found fragments of Hipparchus’ lost historical document hidden in a medieval manuscript.
“This new piece of evidence is the most reliable to date and allows for major advances in the reconstruction of the Star Catalog of Hipparchus,” says a study of the find published in the journal Nature. 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 in the history of astronomy.
Also known as the father of trigonometry, Hipparchus is often considered the greatest astronomer of ancient Greece. Portions of the star chart appear to have appeared in the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a 10th or 11th-century Syriac text, whose parchment pages were erased for reuse (a common recycling practice at the time), but still there are visible traces of its earlier forms. they carry. This particular palimpsest came from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, but now most of the Codex’s folios belong to the Bible Museum in Washington DC.
Teams Electronic Library of Early Manuscripts in California and Lazarus Project by Rochester Institute of Technology He revealed vague texts and measurements using multiple wavelengths of light, a technique known as multispectral imaging.
Researchers from Sorbonne University and Cambridge University were then able to decipher the definitions of the four constellations. Not only did this reveal the map of Hipparchus, but the team says the newly emerged numerical evidence is extremely consistent. real star coordinates.
This would make Hipparchus’ Catalogue more accurate than Ptolemy’s much later Almagest astronomy handbook, but researchers acknowledge that they are working with a small sample and that there may be significant errors in the extant or as yet undiscovered portions of Hipparchus’s Star Catalogue. .
Scientists say the Codex Climaci Rescriptus could reveal more from Hipparchus star observations.
State-of-the-art digital technologies continue to recover vital pieces of cultural heritage in documents that the human eye cannot see due to damage, degradation or deliberate deletion.
Multispectral imaging resurrected text One of the earliest known copies of the writings of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes. Her revealed the secrets of the parchment Damaged by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the exposed elements of the Dead Sea Scrolls, historically important Bible fragments found in caves in Qumran, Israel.
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