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

The world's oldest known star map has been found hidden in a medieval manuscript
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More than 2,100 years ago, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus mapped the stars, and for a long time it was considered mankind’s first attempt to assign numerical coordinates to stellar bodies. But despite its fame, the treatise’s existence was only known from the writings of another ancient astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy, who compiled his own celestial inventory some 400 years later.

Until now, that is.

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

“This new evidence is the most reliable to date and represents a major advance in the reconstruction of Hipparchus’ Star Catalogue,” says a study of the finding published in the journal. History of astronomy this week. This discovery may shed new light on the history of astronomy.

Also known as the father of trigonometry, Hipparchus is often considered the greatest astronomer of ancient Greece. Portions of his star map, as seen in the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a collection of Syriac texts, where the parchment sheets were erased for rewriting, but still bear visible traces of their former form. This particular palimpsest is located in the Greek Orthodox St. Catherine Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

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

Museum of the Bible

teams from Electronic Library of Early Manuscripts and The Lazarus project based on Rochester Institute of Technology revealed the erased text and numbers using different wavelengths of light, a technique known as multispectral imaging.

Researchers from the Sorbonne University and the University of Cambridge were later able to decipher the image of the four constellations. Not only did it reveal Hipparchus’ cartography, but the team’s newly discovered digital evidence real star coordinates.

This would make Hipparchus’ Catalog more accurate than Ptolemy’s later version, although the researchers acknowledge that they were working with a small sample and that there may be significant errors in the parts of Hipparchus’ Star Catalog that do not survive.

As cutting-edge digital technologies continue to recover vital pieces of cultural heritage lost through damaged and destroyed documents or deliberate erasure, scientists say the Codex Climaci Rescriptus may reveal more of Hipparchus’ star observations.

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