It is one of the ancient, unusual and extraordinary depictions of long-lost stars plotted by astronomer Hipparchus. This treasure was sighted by researchers at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, at the St. Catherine Monastery in Egypt.
The map which details early workings in plotting the entire galaxy of stars in the sky was found buried in Christian texts, according to Scientific America. The researchers were digging through piles of the monastery’s well-kept works of Hipparchus which have been at the library for centuries.
James Evans, a historian of astronomy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, has described the findings as exceptional. The work which has been published in the Journal for the History of Astronomy is considered one of the pioneering attempts to understand the skies and its stars by ancient Greece astronomers.
Evans said the work by Hipparchus gave an opening to early attempts to use science to understand the placement of stars. The culture of astronomy at the period was that early scientists sought to describe the patterns they saw in the sky and used them to predict the positioning.
Evans said the manuscripts had a collection of Syriac texts which were written between the 10th and 11th centuries. Biblical scholar at the University of Cambridge, UK, Peter Williams, initially asked his students to study the manuscripts with the thinking that they were Christian texts.
But, they turned out to be works by astronomer Eratosthenes which were written in script. When the pages were subjected to further analysis, it came out that they were stars that had been plotted on the pages. When the images were subjected to wavelengths of light and computer algorithms used to illuminate their hidden features, it revealed the stars in the sky contained in the map.
The manuscripts which were transcribed in the 5th and 6th centuries reveal details of the origins of the star and parts of a famous third-century BC poem which describes the group of stars. The fine details became clearer when a student of science historian Victor Gysembergh alerted everyone of some odd markings in the manuscripts.
He said the positioning of the stars became evident when they started plotting and reviewing the stars earmarked in the manuscripts. They were able to determine the length and breadth in degrees of the group of stars named Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, and the same with the stars at the extreme north, south, east and west.
The historians said after they studied the markings and plottings of the work of Hipparchus, it was clear he was the author of the data. The data also enabled the researchers to follow the measurements of the ancient work and place a date on it. They relied on the same to determine that the ancient astronomer made the observations during 129 BC.
The researchers credited Hipparchus as an outstanding discoverer with Ptolemy being considered a good teacher who kept a record of his predecessors’ work. His works provided insight into what the stars looked like in the skies in ancient times. He consolidated the art of predicting the positions of stars.