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Space & Astronomy

Can a medieval tapestry help find Planet Nine?

By T.K. Randall
May 4, 2018 · Comment icon 26 comments

Mankind has long been watching the skies. Image Credit: PD - Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch
Scientists have been looking to the past to help them determine the whereabouts of the elusive ninth planet.
Believed to be up to ten times the mass of the Earth and with an orbital period of up to 20,000 years, this enigmatic world has been the subject of intense debate ever since researchers at the California Institute of Technology first revealed that its existence might actually be a very real possibility.

This latest study, which is being conducted by medievalist Marilina Cesario and astronomer Pedro Lacerda at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, aims to use medieval tapestries and documents to help learn more about the objects visible in the sky hundreds of years ago.

"We have a wealth of historical records of comets in Old English, Old Irish, Latin and Russian which have been overlooked for a long time," said Cesario.
"Early medieval people were fascinated by the heavens, as much as we are today."

The information obtained from the tapestries can help to predict where Planet Nine might be.

"We can take the orbits of comets currently known and use a computer to calculate the times when those comets would be visible in the skies during the Middle Ages," said Lacerdo.

"The precise times depend on whether our computer simulations include Planet Nine. So, in simple terms, we can use the medieval comet sightings to check which computer simulations work best: the ones that include Planet Nine or the ones that do not."

Source: Live Science | Comments (26)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
You mention Halley's comet, so let's examine that one first.  There is indeed an illustration of a comet-like object embroidered on the cloth.  But what can scientists tell from that?  Does it show anything useful about the size, location or direction of this object?  It is not even portrayed at the correct time - it's been placed several months early to emphasise the belief that it's a sign of God's wrath following Harold's coronation.   Dr Cesario is not a scientist.  I'm sure she's a perfectly nice person who spends a lot of time on her "work focused on a textual and cultural analys... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by jaylemurph 6 years ago
Dr. Cesario doesn't claim herself to be a scientist. She's an historian. The headline of the UM article refers to "scientists" in general, but does not call her a scientist. Nor does the LiveScience article the UM bot is citing. You're the only one calling her a scientist, so I guess you're just angry at yourself. I teach undergraduates critical reading skills so they can understand effectively how to read articles like these. You clearly need a little brushing up on it, so let me know if I can help. --Jaylemurph
Comment icon #19 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
First may I say - it’s desperately sad to learn that there are people who reach undergraduate level (and even gain places at universities!) without being able to read and critically assess articles like this; we can all be grateful there are people like you out there to help these unfortunates and I hope they are few in number. A great many scientists around the world have a keen interest in the theoretical planet 9 and are using the latest equipment, the finest precision and powerful computers to analyse complex data.  The results produced so far have failed to convince anyone either way, ... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by krone 6 years ago
Tom, you're the one who scoffed at the idea that ancients could accurately measure or depict the movements of the heavens, so you're not one to talk about the lack of knowledge on this board. How can you possibly suggest anyone on this discussion knows less than you do when you're blissfully ignorant of the fact that the ancient people who (for example) designed Stonehenge were able to accurately trace the movements of the stars, sun and moon? Why wouldn't we avail ourselves of the records people from a few centuries ago kept of the heavens when people thousands of years older were so spot on ... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by krone 6 years ago
Yeah, but Tom's whole MO seems to be less about finding facts than it is about showing off his knowledge. Whether that knowledge is worth showing off is irrelevant. His comments are ego-driven, not fact-driven.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
What on Earth are you talking about? Nobody is talking about movement of the stars, the Sun or the Moon.  This hasn't been mentioned anywhere in this thread.  That's because it's not in the slightest bit relevant. The article is talking about comets.  "We have a wealth of historical records of comets..."  "We can take the orbits of comets currently known..."  "We can use the medieval comet sightings to..."  I thought that most people reading this would know what comets are, or at least have the mental agility to do a bit of research online before shooting off their mouths and looking ign... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
Just how many facts have been offered in this debate?  One, I believe, which took very little time to discredit.  I hope the learned doctors working on this project have a bit more to work with than that.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
You hope? So YOU don't know what THEY do have to work on? So your entire argument has been based on YOUR ignorance not THEIRS. Says it all really.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 6 years ago
When have anyone here said that humans are the only living things in this universe with high intelligence ? How is that even relevant to the topic ? Please point out anyone who have dismissed the possibility of other planets ? I think they should call it Ix.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
Have you any idea how to construct a scientific argument? This project will not produce any useful evidence.  I don't need to know how many documents they might choose to analyse - I can state with absolute certainty that they will not find anything in the research that will produce a shred of evidence to support their proposal.  This is because some of the finest minds on the planet using real science based on phenomenally detailed measurements are unable to reach a consensus.  In contrast the information stored in medieval records is rather low. If is not my responsibility to generate r... [More]

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