What Is Antikythera Mechanism, World’s First Analog Computer?

Scientists have been fascinated for long by the complex mechanism of Antikythera, a 2000+ year old version of an analog computer. Recently, researchers from University College of London seems to have cracked the code. Let’s learn more about Antikythera and its role in ancient astronomical events.

Crux of the Matter

Is It 2000 Years Old?
 Yes. Called the oldest example of an analogue computer, It is an ancient Greek hand-powered orrery or a mechanical model of the Solar System

What’s Great About It?
Dated back to 87 BC, it was used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. It could also track the 4 year cycle of athletic games which was similar to an Olympiad– ancient Olympic Games.

How Do We Know About It?
It was first discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera in 1901. But the discovered fragments made up just one-third of the whole device.

In 1959, Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price gave a through analysis. Apparently, the main gear moved to represent the calendar year. The smaller gears represent the motions of the planets, sun, and moon.

Complete Design Discovered Now?
As per Scientific Reports journal,  London researchers have recently claimed to recreate the design of the device, from the ancient calculations used to create it.

Built In Instruction Manual
Koine Greek writing at the back of the mechanism suggests the inventor left either instructions for how to work it or an explanation of what the user was seeing. 

Who Made It?
Inventor of Trigonometry and ancient astronomer, Hipparchus. New research though shows the handwriting of 2 different people on Antikythera.

  • Ada Lovelace is credited to be the world’s first computer programmer. She is the daughter of notable poet, Lord Byron.
  • Charles Babbage, the creator of the world’s first mechanical computer, is often regarded as the “father of computer”.
  • The world’s first electronic digital programmable computer was named Colossus, developed by British codebreakers. It was used to decipher cryptic German messages during World War II.

Blink and Miss Heavenly Events Captured by CHIME


Researchers have discovered repeating fast radio bursts (FRB) at the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIMEobservatory. The object named FRB 180916.J0158+65 has been traced back to its place of origin, a nearby spiral galaxy containing a nebula. This finding was reported in a news briefing on Monday at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Crux of the Matter
  • FRB are explosions that produce as much energy as the sun does in nearly a century, in just a few thousandths of a second. They repeat their quick-pulsing radio tune in random bursts.  
  • As per Kenzie Nimmo, a doctoral student at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the big question had lied in what could possibly produce an FRB.
  • The bursts were eventually traced back to a dwarf galaxy with a high rate of star formation 3 billion light-years away, which contains a persistent radio source in the form of a nebula.
  • After the discovery at CHIME, Follow-up observations done by a network of telescopes in Europe allowed the research team to produce a high-resolution image of the FRB’s location. The results were published in the journal Nature.
  • Astronomers have also managed to determine how three non-repeating FRBs came from distant massive galaxies with little star formation going on. This in turn provided evidence that both repeating and non-repeating bursts arose from different types of environments.

Spiral Galaxies form a class of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in his 1936 work  Most spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge. These are often surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars, many of which reside in globular clusters and are named as they are, due to their spiral structures that extend from the centre into the galactic disc. The spiral arms are sites of ongoing star formation and are brighter than the surrounding disc because of the young, hot OB stars that inhabit them. The Milky Way is a barred spiral, although the bar itself is difficult to observe from Earth’s current position within the galactic disc. The most convincing evidence for the stars forming a bar in the galactic centre comes from several recent surveys, including the Spitzer Space Telescope. More Info