(ORDO NEWS) — Beneath Syriac texts on ancient parchment, scientists have unearthed the oldest celestial map in human history, thought to have been lost about 2,000 years ago.
It was compiled by the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea between 162 and 127 BC.
The fragments of the map that the researchers were able to decipher contain the coordinates of the Northern Crown constellation and the stars surrounding it, quite accurate for that time.
Historians believe that the oldest map of the starry sky was created by the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea around 129 BC.
No physical evidence of its existence has been preserved: it was believed that the document was lost 2000 years ago. The map was known only through references in later works.
So, it was mentioned in the work of Claudius Ptolemy “Almagest”, written in the 2nd century AD, which contained the oldest map of the cosmos ever found.
Now, in an article for the Journal for the History of Astronomy, French scientists have announced that they have managed to find an authentic fragment of the Hipparchus map.
This discovery came as a surprise. Initially, scientists analyzed parchments with a translation of Syriac texts of the XX-XXI centuries, which belonged to the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
The authors concluded that the parchment was reused: the scribe simply scraped off the old text from it in order to write new ones – this was a common way of saving paper at that time.
Further scanning of the manuscript allowed much of what had been erased to be restored. The text described the positions of several constellations and individual stars.
Including scientists managed to completely recreate the coordinates of latitude and longitude of the constellation of the Northern Crown and the stars surrounding it.
After that, they were able not only to check the accuracy of the star’s coordinates, but to determine the dates of the measurements.
It turned out that the map was drawn up between 162 and 127 BC and was very accurate for its time, even more accurate than Ptolemy’s research.
Scholars have also reportedly shown that the coordinates of three other constellations (Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Draco) in a medieval Latin manuscript known as Aratus Latinus were also borrowed from Hipparchus.
The authors of the study believe that the entire map took up many pages until it was scraped off. Probably Hipparchus’s list, like Ptolemy’s, included observations of almost every visible star in the sky.
In the absence of telescopes, ancient Greek astronomers used telescopes to observe the stars, and such studies took countless hours of continuous work.
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