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Scientists Unearth Ibn Sina’s 11th Century Discovery

CAIRO – In a paper published by Cornell University in New York, German scientists have uncovered a text written by famous Muslim scientist and philosopher Ibn Sina (or Avicenna), who reported sighting a supernova that occurred in 1006 AD.

“We present here an Arabic report about supernova 1006 (SN 1006) written by the famous Arabic scholar Ibn Sina (Lat. Avicenna, AD 980-1037), which was not discussed in astronomical literature before,” the scientists said in the paper published on, Sputnik media agency reported on Sunday, April 24.

“The short observational report about a new star is part of Ibn Sina’s book called al-Shifa’, a work about philosophy including physics, astronomy, and meteorology.”

Ibn Sina (980-1037 AD) was a Muslim physician and philosopher who is regarded as the most famous and influential of the medieval Islamic world’s philosopher-scientists.

The scientists are Ralph Neuhaeuser, from Astrophysical Institute and University Observatory (AIU); Carl Ehrig-Eggert, from the institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Sciences; and Paul Kunitzsch, from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

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The scientists who studied Ibn Sina’s account believe it was written when he was in present-day Iran, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan, most probably the latter.

They translate his description of the supernova’s form, direction and appearance.

Ibn Sina wrote that the object was “tailless,” which distinguished it from the more common transient objects, comets with tails.

The new star was “getting fainter and fainter until it disappeared,” and that it “became fainter and disappeared,” he wrote.

“At the beginning it was towards a darkness and greenness, then it began to throw out sparks and then it became more and more whitish.”

Contemporary scientists have also provided today’s astronomers with information about supernova sightings in 1054 (from Eastern Asia and Arabia), 1181 (Eastern Asia), 1572 and 1604 AD (the latter two sighted in Eastern Asia and Europe).

“Historic reports can deliver the date of the observation (hence, the age of the supernova remnant and, if existing, of the neutron star) together with a light curve (hence, possibly the supernova type), sometimes the color and its evolution, and the position of the supernova,” the scientists explained in their paper.