It is a work of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea
European scientists discovered in a medieval manuscript from the Egyptian Orthodox monastery “Saint Catherine” a fragment of a map of the starry sky, the work of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea, TASS reported.
A team of specialists from the University of Cambridge, the Sorbonne and the French National Center for Scientific Research found that an ancient work on astronomy, previously thought to be lost, was hidden under the text of Syrian Christian writings from the X-XI century. This is the earliest map of the starry sky known to historians.
Hipparchus of Nicaea, who compiled it, lived and worked in the 2nd century BC on the island of Rhodes. The discovered fragment was rewritten in the V-VI century and contains exact coordinates of the constellation Northern Crown.
St. Catherine’s Monastery, located in the Sinai Mountains, was founded in the 6th century and is among the oldest active Christian monasteries in the world. Its library contains more than 160 palimpsests – texts written on ancient writings – and researchers hope to find new fragments of Hipparchus’ map and other lost ancient books.
N.B.: Hipparchus of Nicea (l. c. 190 – c. 120 BCE) was a Greek astronomer, geographer, and mathematician regarded as the greatest astronomer of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time. He is best known for his discovery of the precession of the equinoxes and contributed significantly to the field of astronomy on every level. He was born in Nicea, a city in the region of Bithynia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and is said to have died in Rhodes; nothing else is known of his life. Hipparchus’ methodology and conclusions, therefore, even though applied to a faulty model, gave rise to his reputation as the greatest astronomer of his time and, later, the estimation that he was the greatest in antiquity. Heath gives a brief description of the astronomical advances credited to Hipparchus: Although, in a sense, the beginnings of trigonometry go back to Archimedes (Measurement of a Circle), Hipparchus was the first person who can be proved to have used trigonometry systematically. Hipparchus, the greatest astronomer of antiquity, whose observations were made between 161 and 126 BCE, discovered the precession of the equinoxes, calculated the mean lunar month at 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2 ½ seconds (which differs by less than a second from the present accepted figure!), made more correct estimates of the sizes and distances of the sun and moon, introduced great improvements in the instruments used for observations, and compiled a catalog of some 850 stars; he seems to have been the first to state the position of these stars in terms of latitude and longitude (in relation to the ecliptic. He wrote a treatise in twelve books on Chords in a Circle, equivalent to a table of trigonometrical sines. For calculating arcs in astronomy from other arcs given by means of tables he used propositions in spherical trigonometry. (Livingstone, R.W. The Legacy of Greece. Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 132)
Illustration: Hipparchus of Nicaea by Raphael / Dryoldscholar (Public Domain)