« ПредишнаНапред »
THE NEW ASTRONOMY.
When we look up at the heavens the naked eye watches, there are we see, if we watch through the five stars which do change their night, the host of stars rising in the places in the ranks, and these change east and passing above us to sink in in an irregular and capricious manthe west, always at the same dis- ner, going about among the others, tance and in unchanging order, now forward and now back, as if each seeming a point of light as lost and wandering through the sky. feeble as the glow-worm's shine in These wanderers were long since the meadow over which they are known by distinct names, as Merrising, each flickering as though the cury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and evening wind would blow it out. Saturn, and believed to be nearer The infant stretches forth his hand than the others; and they are, in to grasp the Pleiades; but when the fact, companions to the earth, and child has become an old man the fed, like it, by the warmth of our “ Seven Stars” are still there un- sun, and, like the moon, are visible changed, dim only in his aged sight, by the sunlight which they reflect and proving themselves the endur
to us. With the earliest use of the ing substance, while it is his own telescope it was found that while life which has gone, as the shine of the other stars remained in it mere the glow-worm in the night. They points of light as before, these bewere there just the same a hundred came magnified into disks on which generations ago, before the pyramids markings were visible, and the were built, and they will tremble markings have been found with our there still, when the pyramids have modern instruments, in one case at been worn down to dust with the least, to take the appearance of blowing of the desert sand against oceans and snow-capped continents their granite sides. They watched and islands. These, then, are not the earth grow fit for man long be- unin habitable self-shining suns, but fore man came, and they will doubt. worlds, vivified from the same fount less be shining on when our poor of energy that supplies us, and the human race itself has disappeared possible abode of creatures like ourfrom the surface of this planet. selves.
Probably there is no one of us who « Properly speaking," it is said, has not felt this solemn sense of their “man is the only subject of interest almost infinite duration as compared to man”; and if we have cared to with his own little portion of time, study the uninhabitable sun because and it would be a worthy subject for all that goes on there is found to our thought if we could study them be so intimately related to us, it is in the light that the New Astronomy surely a reasonable curiosity which sheds for us on their nature. But I prompts the question so often heard must here confine myself to the de. as to the presence of life on these scription of but a few of their num- neighbour worlds, where it seems ber, and speak, not of the infinite not impossible that life should exist. multitude and variety of stars, each Even the very little we can say in a self-shining sun, but only of those answer to this question will always which move close at hand; for it is be interesting; but we must regretnot true of quite all that they keep fully admit at the outset that it is at the same distance and order. but little, and that with some plan
Of the whole celestial army which ets, like Mercury and Venus, the
great telescopes of modern times is turned edgewise to us, it disapcannot do much more than those of pears to all but the most powerful Galileo, with which our New As- telescopes, in which it looks then tronomy had its beginning, though like the thinnest conceivable line of perhaps it should be added that light, on which the moons have been Schia parelli's late observations of seen projected, apparently like beads these two planets seem to show that sliding along a golden wire. The they always turn the same face to- rotation of the ring has been made wards the sun, just as the moon does out by direct observations; and the towards the earth. Let us leave whole is in motion about the globethese, then, and pass out to the con- a motion so smooth and steady that fines of the planetary system. there is no flickering in the shadow
The outer planets, Neptune and Uranus, remain pale disks in the
Where Saturn's steadfast shade sleeps on
its luminous ring." most powerful instruments, the first attended by a single moon, the second What is it? No solid could hold by four, barely visible; and there is together under such conditions; we so very little yet known about their can hardly admit the possibility of physical features that we shall do its being a liquid film extended in better to give our attention to one space; and there are difficulties in of the most interesting objects in the admitting it to be gaseous. But if whole heavens—the planet Saturn, not a solid, a liquid, or a gas, again on which we can at any rate see what can it be? It was suggested enough to arouse a lively curiosity nearly two centuries ago that the to know more.
ring might be composed of innumerIn all the heavens there is no more able little bodies like meteorites, cirwonderful object than Saturn, for it cling round the globe so close togepreserves to us an apparent type of ther as to give the appearance we the plan on which all the worlds see, much as a swarm of bees at a were originally made. The planet, distance looks like a continuous we must remember, is a globe nearly cloud; and this remains the most seventy thousand miles in diameter, plausible solution of what is still in and the outermost ring is over one some degree a mystery. Whatever hundred and fifty thousand miles it be, we see in the ring the condi. across. The belts on the globe show tion of things which, according to delicate tints of brown and blue, and the nebular hypothesis, once perparts of the ring are, as a whole, tained to all the planets at a certain brighter than the planet; but this stage of their formation; and this, ring consists of at least three main with the extraordinary lightness of divisions, each itself containing the globe for the whole planet would separate features. First is the gray float on water), make us look on it outer ring, then the middle one, and as still in the formative stage of unnext the curious “crape” ring, very condensed matter, where the solid much darker than the others, look- land as yet is not, and the foot could ing like a belt where it crosses the find no resting · place. Astrology planet, and apparently feebly trans- figured Saturn as “spiteful and parent, for the outline of the globe cold-an old man melancholy "; has been seen (though not very dis
but if we may indulge such a specutinctly) through it. The whole sys- lation, modern astronomy rather tem of rings is of the most amazing leads us to think of it as in the inthinness, for it is probably thinner fancy of its life, with every process in proportion to its size than the of planetary growth still in its future, paper on which this is printed is to and separated by an almost unlimitthe width of the page; and when it ed stretch of years from the time when life under the conditions in tervene between it and Saturn and which we know it can ever begin to Jupiter, we find a planet whose size exist.
and features are in striking contrast Like this appears also the condi- to those of the great globe we have tion of Jupiter, the greatest of the just quitted. It is Mars, which shines planets, whose globe, eighty-eight so red and looks so large in the sky thousand miles in diameter, turns so because it is so near, but whose dirapidly that the centrifugal force ameter is only about half that of our causes à visible flattening. The earth. This is, indeed, properly to belts which stretch across its disk be called a neighbour world, but are of all delicate tints- -some pale the planetary spaces are
so imblue, some of a crimson lake; a sea- mense that this neighbour is at green patch has been seen, and at closest still about thirty-four million intervals of late years there has been
miles away a great oval red spot, which has now The cause of the red colour of nearly gone. The belts are largely, Mars has never been satisfactorily if not wholly, formed of rolling ascertained. Its atmosphere does clouds, drifting and changing under not appear to be dark enough to proour eyes.
duce such an effect, and perhaps as Photography, in the skilful hands
probable an explanation as any is of the late Professor Henry Draper,
one the suggestion of which is a little gave us reason to suspect the possi- startling at first. It is that vegetation bility that a dull light is sent to us on Mars may be red instead of green! from parts of the planet's surface There is no intrinsic improbability besides what it reflects, as though in the idea, for we are even to-day it were still feebly glowing like a
un prepared to say with any cernearly.extinguished sun. On the
tainty why vegetation is green here, whole, a main interest of these fea
and it is quite easy to conceive of tures to us lies in the presumption atmospheric conditions wbich would they create that the giant planet is make red the best absorber of the not yet fit to be the abode of life, solar heat. Here, then, we find a but is more probably in a condition
planet on which we obtain many of like that of our earth millions of
the conditions of life which we know years since, in a past so remote that ourselves, and here, if anywhere in geology only infers its existence,
the system, we may allowably inand long before our own race began quire for evidence of the presence of to be. That science, indeed, itself something like our own race; but teaches us that such all but infinite
though we may indulge in supposiperiods are needed to prepare a tion, there is unfortunately no prosplanet for man's abode, that the
pect that with any conceivable imentire duration of his race upon it
provement in our telescopes we sball is probably brief in comparison. ever obtain anything like certainty.
We cannot assert that there are any bounds to man's invention, or that
science may not, by some means as III.-MARS AND THE MOON.
unknown to us as the spectroscope
was to our grandfathers, achieve We pass by the belt of Asteroids, what now seems impossible; but to and over a distance many times our own present knowledge no such greater than that which separates means exist, though we are not forthe earth from the sun, till we ap
bidden to look at the ruddy planet proach our own world. Here, close with the feeling that it may hold beside it as it were, in comparison possibilities more interesting to our with the enormous spaces which in. humanity than all the wonders of the sun, and all the uninhabitable with the great spaces we have been immensities of his other worlds. traversing in imagination; but it is
absolutely very large, and across it The study of the moon's surface the valleys and mountains of this has been continued now from the our neighbour disappear, and pretime of Galileo, and of late years a sent to the naked eye only the vague whole class of competent observers lights and shades known to us from has been devoted to it, so that as- childhood as “the man in the moon,” tronomers engaged in other branches and which were the puzzle of the have oftener looked on this as a field ancient philosophers, who often exfor occasional hours of recreation plained them as reflections of the with the telescope than made it a earth itself, sent back to us from the constant study. I can recall one or moon as from a mirror. It, at any two such hours in earlier observing rate, shows that the moon always days, when, seated alone under the turns the same face towards us, since over-arching iron dome, the world we always see the same “man," and below shut out, and the world above that there must be a back to the opened, the silence disturbed by no moon which we never behold at all; sound but the beating of the equa- and, in fact, nearly half of this torial clock, and the great telescope planet does remain forever hidden itself directed to some hill or valley from human observation. of the moon, I have been so lost in The "man in the moon ” disappears gazing that it seemed as though a when we are looking in a telescope, look through this, the real magic because we are then brought so near tube, had indeed transported me to to details that the general features the surface of that strange alien are lost; but he can be seen in any world. Fortunately for us, the same photograph of the full moon by view. spectacle has impressed others with ing it at a sufficient distance, and more time to devote to it and more making allowance for the fact that ability to render it, so that we not the contrasts of light and shade aponly have most elaborate maps of pear stronger in the photograph than the moon for the professional astrono- they are in reality. The best time mer, but abundance of paintings, for viewing the moon, however, is drawings and photographs, which not at the full, but at the close of the give the appearance its surface first quarter; for en we see that as seen in powerful telescopes. the sunlight, falling slantingly on
Let us remember that the moon is it, casts shadows which bring out all a little over twenty-one hundred the details so that we can distinguish miles in diameter; that it weighs, many of them even here. Most of bulk for bulk, about two-thirds what the names of the main features of the earth does, so that, in con- the lunar surface were bestowed by sequence of this and its smaller size, the earlier observers in the infancy its total weight is only about one- of the telescope, when her orb eightieth of that of our globe; and
“Through optic glass the Tuscan artist that the force or gravity at its sur
viewed,' face being only one-sixth of what it At evening from the top of Fiesole is here, eruptive explosions can send
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe." their products higher than in our volcanoes. Its area is between four The signs of age are on the moon. and five times that of the United It seems pitted, torn, and rent by the States, and its average distance is a past action of long-dead fires, till its little less than two hundred and surface is like a piece of porous cinforty thousand miles.
der seen through a magnifying-glass This is very little in comparison -a burnt-out cinder of a planet, which rolls through the void like a Before we leave this dead world, ruin of what has been; and, more let us take a last glance at one of its significant still, this surface is wrin- fairest scenes—that which we obtain kled everywhere, till the analogy when looking at a portion on which with an old and shrivelled face, or the sun is rising. Its nearly level hand, or fruit, where the puckered rays stretch elsewhere over a surface skin is folded about a shrunken cen- that is, in places, of a strangely tre, forces itself upon our attention, smooth texture, contrasting with the and suggests a common cause,-a ruggedness of the ordinary soil, something underlying the analogy, which, gathered into low plaits, with and making it more than a mere re- the texture we have spoken of, look semblance. The moon, then, is dead; and if
“ Like marrowy crapes of China silk,
Or wrinkled skin on scalded milk," it ever was the home of a race like ours, that race is dead too. I have as they lie, soft and almost beautiful, said that our New Astronomy modi. in the growing light. fies our view of the moral universe When its first beams are kindling, as well as of the physical one; nor the summits cast their shadows ildo we need a more pregnant instance limitedly over the darkening plains than in this before us. In these away on the right, until they melt days of the decay of old creeds of away in the night-a night which the Eternal, it has been sought to is not utterly black, for even here a satisfy man's yearning toward it by subdued radiance comes from the founding a new religion whose God earth-shine of our own world in the is Humanity, and whose hope lies in sky. a future existence of our own race,
Let us leave here the desolation in whose collective being the indi. about us, happy that we can come vidual who must die may fancy his back at will to that world, our own aims and purposes perpetuated in familiar dwelling, where the meadan endless progress. But, alas for ows are still green, and the birds hopes looking to this alone.
still sing, and where, better yet, still here brought to face the solemn dwells our own kind-surely the thought that, like the individual, world, of all we have found in our though at a little further date, bu- wanderings, which we should ourmanity itself may die!
selves have chosen to be our home.
Say not I have a soul ; I am a soul,