According to a new study, scholars have discovered the oldest known star map under the text of a Christian manuscript.
The long-lost catalog was developed by Hipparchus between 162 and 127 BC
The ancient Greek astronomer made the first known attempt to map the entire night sky.
Researchers believe they have found a fragment of a long-lost star map compiled by the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who made the first known attempt to chart the entire night sky.
In an article published Tuesday in the Journal for the History of Astronomy, scholars described the discovery of what they believe to be a 2,000-year-old segment of a star map. The text of a Christian manuscript was written on top of the map, which was drawn on medieval parchment. The Christian text originated from the monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt and is now in the possession of the Bible Museum in Washington, DC.
The Hipparchus star map, developed between 162 and 127 BC, is the astronomer’s attempt to record accurate positions of celestial objects with fixed coordinates.
The researchers say the star map was scraped off so the scroll could be reused, a common practice at the time. Using a technique called multispectral imaging, the researchers took photos of the parchment with cameras at different wavelengths and were able to decipher layers of text that had been scraped off.
The imaging technique revealed numbers indicating the length and width of the constellation of the Corona Borealis in degrees and the coordinates for the stars at the farthest corners of the constellation.
“I was very excited from the start,” Victor Gysemberg, lead researcher of the study and historian of science at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, told Nature. “It was immediately clear that we had the stellar coordinates.”
The “new evidence is the most authoritative to date and allows for major advances in reconstructing Hipparchus’ star catalog,” the study authors wrote.
In addition to compiling the first known catalog of stars, Hipparchus is considered to be the first person to observe the precession of the Earth, or the way it oscillates on its axis, and the first to develop accurate calculations on the movements of the Sun and the Moon.
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