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

More than 2,100 years ago, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus mapped stars – and for a long time, this was considered the first human attempt to assign numerical coordinates to stellar bodies. But despite its fame, the thesis’ existence was known only through the writings of another ancient astronomer named Claudius Ptolemy, who compiled his celestial inventory some 400 years later.

So far, that is.

Researchers believe they have found fragments of a lost historical document of Hipparchus hidden in a book of medieval Greek manuscripts.

“This new evidence is the most reliable to date and allows significant progress to be made in reconstructing Hipparchus’ catalog of stars,” says a study on the discovery published in the journal Science. The history of astronomy this week. This discovery could shed new light on the history of astronomy.

Hipparchus, also known as the father of trigonometry, is often considered the greatest astronomer of ancient Greece. Parts of his star map appear to have appeared in the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a book of Syriac texts in which the pages of the manuscript were erased so that they could be written again, but which still bear visible traces of their former form. This private sanctuary is located in the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Catherine in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Multispectral imaging reveals the Greek text enhanced in red below the black Syriac text.

Bible Museum

diff from Electronic Library of Early Manuscripts and the Lazarus Project based in Rochester Institute of Technology It unveiled the deleted text and numbers using different wavelengths of light, a technique known as multispectral imaging.

Subsequently, researchers from the Sorbonne University and the University of Cambridge were able to decipher the descriptions of four star groups. Not only has the mapping of Hipparchus been unveiled, but the team also said the recently uncovered digital evidence is largely consistent with that. truly stellar coordinates.

This would make Hipparchus’ catalog more accurate than the more recent Ptolemy version, although the researchers acknowledge that they work with a small sample and that large errors can be found in parts of Hipparchus’ star catalog that have not survived.

As cutting-edge digital technologies continue to restore vital parts of cultural heritage lost due to damaged and degraded documents or deliberate erasure, scientists say Codex Climaci Rescriptus could thus far reveal more of Hipparchus’ stellar observations.

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