Visual Encyclopedia

Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism (/ˌæntɪkɪˈθrə/ or /ˌæntɪˈkɪθərə/ ) is an ancient Greek analog computer The device was found housed in the remains of a 340 mm × 180 mm × 90 mm wooden box. It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears. A team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University used modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning to image inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine. Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests that it had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses, and even to model the irregular orbit of the moon, where the moon’s velocity is higher in its perigee than in its apogee. This motion was studied in the 2nd century BC by astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, and it is speculated that he may have been consulted in the machine's construction. Its remains were found as one lump, later separated into three main fragments which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation works. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 140 mm in diameter and originally had 223 teeth.

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