Article ID: CBB685624061

A study of Babylonian records of planetary stations (2021)


Late Babylonian astronomical texts contain records of the stationary points of the outer planets using three different notational formats: Type S where the position is given relative to a Normal Star and whether it is an eastern or western station is noted, Type I which is similar to Type S except that the Normal Star is replaced by a reference to a zodiacal sign, and Type Z the position is given by reference to a zodiacal sign, but no indication of whether the station is an eastern or western station is included. In these records, the date of the station is sometimes preceded by the terms in and/or EN. We have created a database of station records in order to determine whether there was any pattern in the use of these notation types over time or an association with any bias in the station date or the type of text the station was recorded in. Predictive texts, which include Almanacs and Normal Star Almanacs, almost always use Type Z notation, while the Diaries, compilations, and Goal-Year Texts use all three types. Type Z records almost never include in or EN, while other types seem to include these interchangeably. When compared with modern computed station dates, the records show bias toward earlier dates, suggesting that the Babylonians were observing dates when the planets appeared to stop moving rather than the true station. Overlapping reports, where a station on the same date was recorded in two or more texts, suggest that predicted station dates were used to guide observations, and that the planet’s position on the predicted stationary date was the true point of the observation rather than the specific date of the stationary point.

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Authors & Contributors
Steele, John M.
De Jong, Teije
Hunger, Hermann
Yasuyuki Mitsuma
Seetharama Javagal
Jean-Luc Peeters Fournet
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Sciamvs: Sources and Commentaries in Exact Sciences
Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry
Physics in Perspective
History of Science
University of Chicago Press
Navakarnataka Publications
Orbits; planets
Celestial mechanics
Caspar, Max (1880-1956)
Kepler, Johannes
Hooke, Robert
Hipparchos of Rhodes
Copernicus, Nicolaus
Time Periods
17th century
Early modern
3rd century
Middle and Near East
Alexandria (Egypt)

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