Details of a 2,000-year-old Moon "computer" unveiled

The delicate workings at the heart of a 2000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists

Details of the newest research on the ancient astronomical calculator called the Antikythera Mechanism have been published online by Nature magazine in advance of Thursday's international conference in Athens.

The 2,000-year-old device is a complex of hand-cut bronze gears and dials, inscribed with numbers and astronomical terms. It was found a century ago by accident in a wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera and has baffled scientists for much of the time since then.

Researchers in recent years have clarified the device was used to calculate and display the relative positions of sun and moon, and possibly the five then-known planets. But many mysteries remained.

Now there are fewer remaining. The latest research, aided by advanced imaging software and 3-D X-ray computed tomography, confirms some previous insights by researcher Michael Wright and expands on them. The mechanism is revealed as a sophisticated mechanical calculator that displayed a variety of astronomical events and periods, including the sun and moon moving through the zodiac, accurately predicted solar eclipses, and apparently displayed movements of the known planets.

Nature has a general story about the mechanism and its historical context, coupled with material available only via paid subscription or institutional license: diagrams, a detailed technical paper from the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project and a technical summary by science historian Francoise Charette. The latter two documents were made available to Network World.

Roughly the size of shoebox, the mechanism shows two concentric scales, the inner one showing the Greek Zodiac with 360 divisions, the outer, moveable scale is the Egyptian 12-month calendar, widely use then in Greek astronomy. The Egyptian names for the months are written in Greek letters. Pointers show the relative positions of the sun and move, and a device showing the moon's phase was probably attached to the moon pointer. On the back of the device are two dials, each based on spiral design, whose pointers show time based on two astronomical cycles.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?