Home -> Step by step guides -> Using the antikythera mechanism
- The Antikythera Mechanism: Itself a device containing multiple gears, dials and inscriptions.
- Star Charts / Astronomical Tables: Used to verify the data provided by the mechanism.
Step 1: Familiarization with the Mechanism
Firstly, you would need to fully understand the device. It includes 37 gear wheels made of bronze, built into a wooden frame. It’s assumed to have a back and front face each carrying important features. Familiarize yourself with the intricacies to understand how each wheel and gear interacts with the others.
Step 2: Alignment to a Known Solar Position
To use it, you would first need to set it to a known solar position probably the current date. The mechanism is set via a large hand-crank on the side, which turns the largest gear, the 223-tooth Main Drive Wheel. This wheel would most likely represent a specific time frame.
Step 3: Interpreting the Front Display
The front face includes two main concentric scales. The inner one represents the Greek Zodiac and the outer one, the Egyptian calendar year. A pin and slot mechanism connected to the sun wheel drives a moon pointer, showing lunar phases, while two spiral dials mark the Saros cycle and Exeligmos cycle relating to eclipses.
Step 4: Interpreting the Back Display
The back face displays two dial systems. The upper contains information on the Metonic cycle, a 19-year lunar calendar, and the Callippic cycle that corrects the Metonic cycle. It also shows the Olympiad Dial with a four-year cycle. The lower system tells about the Saros cycle and Exeligmos cycle.
Step 5: Predicting Eclipses and Astronomical Observations
The Antikythera Mechanism could predict eclipses based on Saros and Exeligmos cycles, providing valuable timing for omens and rituals. By setting the date and observing the dials, you could anticipate lunar and solar eclipses.
Step 6: Verifying with Star Charts and Observations
The mechanism’s outputs could be checked against known star charts and with direct astronomical observation. One could track planetary motions, moon phases, and other celestial events, comparing the Mechanism’s simulation with reality.
Foundational Concepts and Elements
- Astronomical Knowledge:
The mechanism is believed to represent a geocentric model of the cosmos, with the Earth at the center. Additionally, an understanding of eclipses and celestial cycles would be necessary.
The Mechanism is a mechanical calculator, designed according to mathematically-derived astronomical cycles. An understanding of ratios, fractions, and basic arithmetic would be needed, as well as the mathematics of circles and spirals.
The device is a tribute to ancient Greek engineering. An awareness of basic mechanical principles, particularly gear mechanisms, would be essential.
An instance where the Antikythera Mechanism might have been used would be in preparation for the Olympic Games. By understanding the Metonic and Olympiad dials, the Mechanism would enable a mathematician to schedule future Games accurately. Overall, the device would be an indispensable tool for any scholar striving for precision in understanding celestial phenomena.