They find the oldest map of the night sky hidden in a parchment from the 2nd century BC. vs.

Astronomy was already practiced since ancient times, the first people who began to experiment in this study were Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. Their goal was to predict phenomena that would let them know when they could sow and when it was the perfect time to harvest.

The importance of astronomy in antiquity

When studying the stars, experts also knew how to make astrological predictions, to know what the future might bring. But not only, they also solve some problems of ancient civilizations, thanks to astronomy they could guide themselves with precision in their movements and other movements.

How did our ancestors study the universe?

It’s no secret that the sky fascinated cavemen, as a result, they began to study it. But how did they do it? They observed the stars, the sun and the moon, thanks to this they made the predictions of the change of seasons.

They managed to do this kind of study, They gradually improved their techniques.They built astronomical observatories. Later, other peoples began to adopt the same techniques as the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. So much so that 4,000 years BC already had calendars, they could even accurately predict eclipses.

A great astronomer of antiquity

After much research, they finally found proof that our ancestors contributed greatly to the development of astronomy today. A few years ago it was discovered that the famous Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea trying to make a star map of the night sky.

Illustration depicting Hipparchus of Nicaea making measurements.

This catalog was lost but was found in an old parchment that was in very good condition. He was in a monastery located in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, known as Saint Catherine’s Monastery. While analyzing the document, they noticed that there was something strange in it.

Study the manuscript carefully

The person in charge of carrying out the investigations on the parchment in 2012 was Jamie Clair, who at the time was a student of the famous Bible scholar Peter Williams. When he analyzed the letters of the manuscript, he noticed that they had something curious about them.

Original text from the Monastery of Santa Catalina on faint traces discovered by multispectral images. Credits: Museum of the Bible/Electronic Library of Ancient Manuscripts/Nazarus Project/University of Rochester.

Later, he discovered that it was a text in Greek which contained traces of writing under it (what is called a palimpsest). It was apparently written by the famous “Eratosthenes”, who was a rather prominent librarian and writer for the great Library of Alexandria. However, at that time they still did not know exactly what it was.

Analysis continues

Millennia ago, the practice of scraping old skins to reuse them was quite normal, for this reason, it was quite difficult to discover the card as such. In 2017, they took multispectral images of the manuscript.

This type of photography captures images of items that are not easily seen by the human eye, capturing light of a narrow range of wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum. That’s when we discovered that there were nine pages that had hidden text.

Fortunately, the scholars did not give up and continued to investigate some of the pages they found at the Monastery of Santa Catalina. After analyzing some documents, they found that they had written mysterious texts.

Detail of the hidden text in the palimpsest. Credit: Early Manuscripts Electronic Library/University of Rochester; multispectral processing by Keith T. Knox; tracings by Emanuel Zingg.

What was this mysterious writing about?

When they finally succeeded in reconstructing the handwriting and the numbers of the manuscript, the scientists realized that obviously it was stellar coordinates. But do we know exactly who created this map of the night sky? The evidence indicates Hipparchus of Nicaea.

Some works that have become famous over the years have been attributed to this famous astronomer. Despite the fact that time has passed, he is still called “the father of astronomy”.

Hipparchus had one of the most amazing minds of mankind. He was a renowned astronomer, geographer and mathematician.

We owe him transcendental inventions, such as the creation of trigonometry, the division of the Earth into meridians and parallels, the discovery of the “precession of the equinoxes”, the calculation of the distance between the Earth and the Moon, the length of a year – which differed only 6 minutes from the real one – and the most famous of all: the first scale of magnitudes which would make it possible to measure the apparent luminosity of stars and, with this, to locate them all in the dark night sky .

You may also be interested: The 3,000-year-old lens that may have been part of the world’s oldest telescope.

When did they make the card?

The researchers in charge of this project worked hard to obtain the map, but also to be able to deduce when it was captured. First, they had to figure out the location of Earth when they wrote it. Fortunately, the coordinates coincided with those of the year 129 BC.

They also realized that the map that was hidden in the scroll contains the exact width and length of the corona borealis constellation. In this way, they were able to deduce the coordinates of the stars at the extremes, north, south, east and west.

One of the most extraordinary discoveries

The discovery and study of this scroll confirms a crucial moment in the birth of science, highlighting when astronomers moved from simply describing the patterns they saw in the sky to measuring and predicting them.

Although ancient Babylonian astronomers they had measured the position of certain stars, Hipparchus was the first to define the locations of stars. using two coordinates and mapping stars across the sky.

Even before the discovery of this text, the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy it is he who is considered to have drawn up the oldest catalog of stars known in the 2nd century AD, three centuries after Hipparchus.

Research published in astronomy history review.

References: History / National Geographic / Very interesting.

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