An Illustrated Guide to Space Maps
Nebra Sky Disc, Germany, 1600 BC. (Photo: Rainer Zenz/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0) With its patinated bronze background and shiny gold sun, moon and stars, the 3600-year-old Nebra Sky Disc is worth gazing at for its beauty alone. But the ancient object is cool for a lot of other reasons: It’s the earliest depiction of outer space we’ve ever found, and it’s also thought to be the oldest known portable astronomical instrument. For as long as humans have stared at the sky, we have sought to understand our place in the cosmos. This lovely orb is one of a long line of attempts of humans to map the unmappable—space. The story behind the disc’s discovery is almost as crazy as the disc itself: it was dug up by metal-detector- wielding treasure hunters in 1999, along with “two swords, two axes, a chisel, and fragments of armlets.” Is it art or science? From the Harmonia Macrocosmica, Holland, 1660. From the Harmonia Macrocosmica, Holland, 1660. "Idea dell'Universo." "Systema Solare et Planetarium."
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