Bradley Schafer of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge combined data from the precession cycles with measurements he took of 70 positions on the globe and used a mathematical model to determine what point in time the Atlas's sky globe represents.
Schafer determined that the best date for the original observations was 125 BC, with a normal margin of error of ? The date of 125 BC immediately suggests that this is the lost catalog of Hipparchus, who created his star catalog in 129 BC.
The Farnese Atlas, dating to 150 AD, is a well known Roman copy of a Greek statue, and depicts 41 constellations, the celestial equator, tropics, and ecliptic.
It is currently in the Farnese Collection in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy.
The long lost star catalog of Hipparchus has been under our noses - or, more accurately, slightly above them - for more than 1,800 years.
Perhaps his most important observation, and the one that provided the key to determining the Atlas held his catalog, was precession.
Precession is the wobbling of Earth on its axis, like a spinning top as it slows down, over long periods of time.
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