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Earliest Star Map Found

Parts of the world's oldest known star map, long attributed to the second-century BCE Greek astronomer Hipparchus but never discovered, were found hidden in medieval Christian texts housed in northern Egypt, according to a paper published yesterday.

Researchers analyzed filtered images of writings known to be palimpsests—where earlier texts are removed in a form of ancient recycling—using multispectral imaging, a technique that quantifies light data outside normal human vision (see 101). On one folio, or leaf of paper, researchers were surprised to find the coordinates of the constellation Corona Borealis, suggesting more of the map may be found using the technique on other documents.

Hipparchus' star catalog is often cited as the basis of Ptolemy's "Almagest," a work that established the concept of the universe as Earth-centered for a thousand years. Learn more about Hipparchus' life here.

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