Thursday, 3 May 2012

Ancient Egyptians tracked eclipsing binary star Algol

Turn your telescope to the constellation of Perseus and you might note an unusual star called Algol, dubbed the 'Demon Star' or the 'Raging One'. You wouldn't notice anything much different at first, unless you happened to be looking during a window of a few hours -- every 2.867 days -- when Algol's brightness visibly dims.

This unusual feature was first noticed back in 1667 by an astronomer named Geminiano Montanari, and later confirmed -- with a proposed possible mechanism - in 1783 by John Goodricke, who precisely measured the period of variability: it dims every 2.867 days.

But a new paper by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, claims that the ancient Egyptians may have recorded Algol's periodic variability 3000 years ago, based on their statistical analysis of a bit of papyrus known as the Cairo Calendar.

Discovery News

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