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Teen finds ancient Mayan city using stars and satellites

15-year-old William Gadoury found the lost site by comparing constellations to known Mayan settlements on a map.

UIG via Getty Images, Luis Dafos

A 15-year-old has been credited with discovering a lost Mayan city buried deep in the Mexican jungle.

Quebecois teen William Gadoury hunted down the lost settlement by looking at 22 Mayan constellations, Yahoo News reports, citing the French-language Journal De Montreal. Gadoury then reportedly compared those star maps with actual known Mayan sites, and found a link.

Next Gadoury went a step further, looking at a 23rd constellation containing three stars. Only two of those corresponded to known cities. Having established the spot where another city should be, Gadoury worked with the Canadian Space Agency to get satellite imagery of the spot, where geometric evidence of a human settlement was found. It's thought that the site features a large pyramid, as well as 30 buildings.

"I didn't understand why the Maya built their cities far away from rivers, in remote areas, or in the mountains," Gadoury is quoted as saying. Connecting those settlements to the location of stars was, it seems, the breakthrough.

In a statement sent to CNET, Daniel De Lisle, project officer RCM data utilization and applications at the Canadian Space Agency, said, "William is the youngest scientist that the Canadian Space Agency supported in his research, by providing imagery. He has done a lot of digging and came with very convincing results."

Gadoury has reportedly named the city Kaak 'Chi, which translates to "fire mouth". Having presented his impressive findings, a trip to examine the site in person is planned.

Since this story took the Internet by storm, experts speaking to Wired have said the site may not be a lost city at all and that Mayan sites are so common that finding one wouldn't prove the Maya built according to constellations. Susan Milbrath, a curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told the site, "At any given point you would be likely to find an archaeological site."

In response to those claims, De Lisle at the Canadian Space Agency noted, "The Canadian Space Agency has been supporting many scientists in their research by providing satellite imagery.

"We met William at a conference and, because his research had some links with star constellations, land mapping and satellite imagery, we agreed to support his project by providing a few satellite images over his area of interest.

"In return for the provided imagery, scientists must provide the CSA with copies of their publications, but we are not involved in their research or its validation."

Update, 11 May 6 p.m. UK: Added comments from Canadian Space Agency and rebuttal arguments published on Wired.com.

Update, 12 May 10:51 a.m. UK: Added response from Canadian Space Agency.