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Scientist tackles mystery of ancient astronomical device

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Author Topic: Scientist tackles mystery of ancient astronomical device  (Read 173 times)
Kai Fonder
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« on: January 10, 2015, 12:07:56 am »

The real breakthrough in understanding came in 2005, when a team of scientists used X-ray tomography to peer through the encrusted metal and reveal the layers of gears inside. Digital techniques yielded the first sharp images of the inscriptions on the dials and casings.

The studies revealed at least 30 interlocking gears, and researchers believe the device held at least two dozen more.

The assembly was housed in a wooden box and operated by a hand crank. Elaborate dials traced the movement of heavenly bodies, while ingenious gearing mimicked the fluctuating speeds at which the moon crosses the night sky, even though the Greeks had no understanding of the elliptical orbit responsible for the effect.

One dial plotted the four-year cycle of Olympic Games. Another predicted the timing of solar and lunar eclipses, apparently down to the hour.

That was the dial that Evans and Christian Carman of the University of Quilmes in Argentina, focused on for their new analysis, published in the Archive for History of Exact Science.

Based on the style of Greek lettering on the Antikythera Mechanism, previous estimates of its construction date ranged between 150 and 100 B.C. But Evans and Carman took an astronomical approach, comparing eclipse dates on the mechanism to Babylonian eclipse records and a NASA eclipse catalog.

They concluded that the "start date" for the eclipse predictor was 205 B.C.

That doesn't prove the device was built then, but Evans thinks it was. "For us, it seems most likely that it was built close to the period for which it would have worked best," he said.
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