Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Traces of the heavens

SCIENCE | Ancient stargazing map found hidden in medieval text

A detail of the undertext, the multispectral image, and the yellow tracings based on the full set of multispectral images Museum of the Bible Collection

Traces of the heavens
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining. You've read all of your free articles.

Full access isn’t far.

We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.

Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.

Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.


Already a member? Sign in.

One undergraduate ­student’s unexpected finding during a summer project led to the discovery of perhaps the earliest known map of the night sky. In 2012, Biblical scholar Peter Williams at the University of Cambridge asked his ­students to study pages of an Egyptian manuscript containing medieval Christian Syriac texts. The manuscript was thought to contain even older Christian texts erased to make room for the newer ones.

But student Jamie Klair noticed a passage in Greek that revealed astronomical material. His 2017 analysis used multispectral imaging to visualize hidden text that included myths about the origins of stars.

During a COVID-19 lockdown, Williams reexamined the texts and spotted star coordinates. He showed ­science historians Victor Gysembergh and Emmanuel Zingg, who deciphered what is likely a page of ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus’ Star Catalogue. They dated the findings to about 129 B.C., when Hipparchus performed his work. Hipparchus is thought to be the first person to attempt to map the stars, yet scholars for centuries had searched in vain for his work. The findings were published on Oct. 18 in the Journal for the History of Astronomy.


Study argues pot users fit for heart transplants

Cardiologists at Indiana University School of Medicine say cannabis users should be considered for heart transplants. The researchers analyzed more than 200 studies and concluded that clinicians often used outdated data, or assumptions, to exclude cannabis users from donations. The findings were published Oct. 14 in Circulation: Heart Failure. Sixteen percent of Americans say they smoke marijuana, according to Gallup’s most recent poll. —H.F.

Light unseen

Scientists recently developed a miniature spectrometer, an instrument that measures light at ­different wavelengths, that could literally change our perception of reality. Led by researchers at Finland’s Aalto University, the scientists used a new class of super-thin materials, two-dimensional semiconductors, to design a spectrometer that fits onto a microchip. They also replaced conventional hardware with artificial intelligence, eliminating bulky mechanical and optical components present on traditional spectrometers. The study was ­published in Science on Oct. 20.

Optical spectrometers are used in various industries, for example in medicine to perform blood gas analysis. The researchers envision their ultra-tiny device integrated in smartphones to build affordable hyperspectral cameras that can capture light not visible to the naked human eye. Or into environmental monitoring systems, to measure air and water pollution. —H.F.

Heather Frank

Heather is a science correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked in both food and chemical product development, and currently works as a research chemist. Heather resides with her family in Pittsburgh, Pa.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...