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(See Notes to Illustrations)



AT XMAS 1913



H. H. TURNER, D.Sc., D.C.L., F.R.S.






Constable & Co., 1901. Price 2s. 6d.

Edward Arnold, 1904. Price 10s. 6d.

John Murray 1912. Price 2s. 6d.






These lectures, delivered at the Royal Institution at Christmas 1913, as the eighty-eighth course of Juvenile Lectures, were taken down at the time by a shorthand writer. When I entered on the revision for publication, my first intention was to abandon the language of the lecture-room, substituting a narrative form. But I found the translation attended by all sorts of difficulties, so that the task assumed somewhat alarming dimensions. At this point I happened to look again at Faraday's Chemical History of a Candle, and saw that he had not thought it necessary to depart from the lecturing mode: with great relief I therefore ventured to follow him in this matter.

There are passages where I will ask the indulgent reader to remember that many of my audience were of very tender years: there are others where he will perhaps kindly allow his thoughts to dwell on the parents who came with them. If the alternation of view-point is somewhat erratic at times, I trust he will make some allowance for the difficulties.

Very few alterations of importance have been made, although the two years which have slipped away between the giving of the lectures and the passing of the final proof-sheets have added their due share to astronomical history. It seemed desirable to note the discovery of a ninth Satellite to Jupiter, by Mr. S. B. Nicholson, in the table on p. 180 and on p. 181; but footnotes have been used for this addition, in order to keep the text nearer the original date. Possibly I have overlooked something in dealing with similar recent discoveries: Astronomy moves fast in these days, and it is not easy to keep the pace she sets.

The hypothesis of a Sunspot-swarm of meteors, given on pp. 200-206, has been added intentionally. At the time of the lectures it had only just been formulated, and although the picture on p. 205 was shown, little was said on the matter. Two years' consideration has strengthened my confidence in this interpretation of the facts known to us, without producing any objections of a fatal character; and it seemed to me therefore that, as I was writing a book, I ought to put it in; to omit it might be interpreted as a lack of confidence on my part. At the same time I do not wish to ignore the attitude of other astronomers, which is duly acknowledged on p. 205.

I have made every effort to acknowledge the source of the illustrations and to obtain permission for their publication where needful. But there may be some oversights. If so, I would beg the same kind consideration for the lecturer turned author as is extended to him from all quarters during his preparation of the lectures, immediately he mentions the magic words "Royal Institution" and "Children's Lectures."

H. H. T.

University Observatory,
November 10, 1915.


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Cover of Book

On the back is the great Tower Telescope of the Mount Wilson Observatory, California, to which reference is made on p. 122.

On the panel is the representation of the billiard-ball experiment on p. 286. The experiment was made by some of the children in the audience, and the author asked one of them to make a picture of it for the book. Without any suggestion from him, she chose to idealize it, introducing some of the zodiacal signs as agents; and seeing that the notion to be illustrated is that of the falling together of stars from different quarters of the heavens, the picturesque change is specially appropriate. Altogether it was felt that no other illustration was so representative of the voyages of the heavenly bodies; and to choose it for the cover was therefore natural.


ICAROMENIPPUS (Frontispiece)

While these lectures were being prepared for publication, the author was privileged to admire various drawings by "Alice (aged 13)" contributed to a magazine of original drawings which makes periodical but rather mysterious appearances in Oxford. It seemed to him that a picture of Icaromenippus, designed by an artist of an age representative of the important part of his audience, would be a welcome addition to this volume. The application was kindly received and in a few weeks' time no less than nine quite different designs were sent, any one of which would meet requirements. The choice was difficult, but skilled assistance indicated the one here reproduced.

A comment on the eternal divergence between Art and Science is suggested. The mere astronomer will no doubt point out that the crescent moon is not limited by its illumination, but is part of a large globe which would make the position of Icaromenippus impossible. But artists have so often and so persistently claimed the right to ignore this fact that it would be discourteous to maintain this objection.

Pages 15 and 16.—The pictures of Tycho Brahe's observatory and sextant are from the beautiful collections made by Professor Weinek of Prague, and published in the observatory volumes.

Page 19.—The Earth and Halley's Comet. This drawing originally appeared in the Illustrated London News for Sept. 25, 1909, and is reproduced by kind permission.

Page 36.—The Great Comet of 1858 is from Telescope Teachings by the Hon. Mrs. Ward (Groombridge & Sons, 1859), a book with numerous beautiful illustrations much prized by our fathers and grandfathers.

Page 39.—The Return of Halley to see his Comet is, as stated in the text, from a picture in the possession of Mr. H. P. Hollis, of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and is reproduced by his kind permission.

Page 42.—Changes in a Comet's tail by E. E. Barnard. This is not the pair of pictures shown on the screen at the lectures, but is a triumph of Professor Barnard's skill given in the Astrophysical Journal, Vol. XXII., Plate VIII. (facing p. 251).

Page 48. Wreck of the Searchlight apparatus. This illustration is from p. 380 of Pearson's Magazine, in the volume July-December, 1907; and is reproduced by kind permission of the Editorial Manager. The author is fortunate enough to possess the original pair of drawings for this excellent story.

Pages 60 and 61.—Transit of Venus. These illustrations are reproduced (by permission of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press) from Chambers's Handbook of Astronomy.

Page 63.—Horrox observing the Transit of Venus. This is reproduced, by kind permission of Mr. Napier Clark, formerly of Southport and now of 16 Hallhead Road, Edinburgh, from a picture in his possession painted by W. R. Lavender. There is no description or portrait of Horrox in existence, and the representation is therefore purely imaginary. The observation was made at the village of Much Hoole, near Southport, on Nov. 24 [O.S.], 1639. Horrox was at that time about twenty. The picture has been painted with careful attention to all that is known, or can be conjectured, of the circumstances.

Page 84.—Appley Bridge Aerolite. Reproduced by kind permission of the Royal Astronomical Society from Monthly Notices, Vol. LXXV. p. 94. The aerolite fell on Oct. 13, 1914 (after the lectures were given). Its length was 9.65 in., depth 9.13, and width 6.62 ins. It ranks as the second largest recorded fall in Great Britain.

Page 93.—W. Herschel's 20-foot telescope. My thanks are due to the Herschel family for permission to reproduce this illustration. It appears as Plate B in Vol. I. of the recently published Collected Papers, and is described as "from a Drawing made either at Datchet or at Clay Hall."

Page 97.—"The Great Five-foot being taken up Mount Wilson," and p. 98, "An Accident to the Traffic up Mount Wilson," are due to the courtesy of Professor Hale. The latter represents the only serious accident attending the whole of the extended series of transport operations. Two of the men jumped from the car as it was slipping over the track, but the driver stuck to his car and went down with it. Mr. Adams, dashing down the steep incline, found him badly cut and bruised; but with ropes he was hauled up and taken to hospital.

Page 114.—Great Nebula in Andromeda. This picture is taken by kind permission of the Royal Astronomical Society from No. 98 of their series. It is from a photograph taken by G. W. Ritchey and F. G. Pease at the Yerkes Observatory on Sept. 18, 1901, with a colour screen on the 40-in. refractor.

Page 116.—Victoria Telescope. This record of an incident of the erection of the telescope I owe to the kindness of the late Sir David Gill.

Page 119.—A coelostat at Oxford. The coelostat was invented many years ago by a Frenchman named August. It was, however, not much used. In 1896 Dr. Johnstone Stoney directed attention to a paper by the great French physicist Lippmann, in which he recalled the principle. It was at once seen that the instrument was specially suitable for eclipse work, and a pair of coelostats were constructed under the direction of Dr. Common for the 1896 eclipse. The picture shows one of these being mounted in the garden of the University Observatory at Oxford, in order to test its performance before starting for Japan to observe the eclipse.

Page 120.—The Snow Horizontal Telescope, and p. 122, The High "Tower" Telescope, are from Professor Hale's Annual Reports. One sometimes feels that more than a perfunctory word of thanks is due to the astronomers of the Harvard, Lick, Yerkes, Mount Wilson and other great American observatories for the plentiful supply of beautiful pictures to the world at large.

Page 124.—The ascent in the bucket is from a snapshot taken during the visit of the Solar Union to Mount Wilson in 1910, and kindly sent to me by one of the occupants of the "elevator."

Page 127.—The cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles, from a beautiful print kindly sent me from Mount Wilson the particulars of which have unfortunately been mislaid.

Page 133.—Algol, "An Astronomical Reprobate." This illustration is reproduced by the special permission of the Proprietors of Punch. It is from the number for Jan. 18, 1899. The note under the drawing is as follows: "The star Algol behaved in a most ill-bred manner. He would advance, wink, and then retire. For years his motion and behaviour puzzled astronomers, until at last the mystery was solved by Professor Vogel, who showed that Algol had associated with him a dark star, which was invisible, and that the latter sometimes obscured the former. Algol and his invisible playmate revolved round each other, and this accounted for the fact that Algol seemed to us to wink." Sir Robert Ball's Lecture at the Royal Institution.

Page 138.—Mars, as drawn by N. E. Green, is taken by kind permission of the Royal Astronomical Society from Plate II., Fig. 11, of their Memoirs, Vol. XLIV. It was made by use of a 13-in. reflector by Geo. With, and is dated Sept. 10, 1877, 11 hrs. 20 min; longitude 297°. The original is beautifully tinted, but it has not been possible to reproduce the tinting here.

Page 145.—Mars, with the 40-in. from a print kindly sent me by Professor Barnard. His note on the back is "40-in. direct enlargement, Sept. 28, 1909."

Page 147.—Jupiter, by Mr. Scriven Bolton. This pair of drawings was kindly made specially for this book. The original is a chalk drawing in which Jupiter's equatorial diameter is 6 in. The date of the observations is Dec. 4, 1906, and the interval between the sketches is 1½ hours.

Page 151.—Saturn. The three photographs are from a longer series kindly sent me by Professor E. E. Barnard, taken by him with the 6o-in. reflector on Mount Wilson (Cal.), Nov. 19, 1911.

Page 163.—Leverrier Statue. From the memorial volume to Leverrier, published by the Institut de France, on the centenary of his birth (March 12, 1811). The statue by Chapu was erected in 1889 in the Cour du Nord of the Paris Observatory.

Page 164.—Plaque of Adams is reproduced from a photograph taken in Westminster Abbey by Mr. Wright.

Page 185.—By kind permission of the publisher, Mr. John Murray.

Page 189.—Liquid Air Experiment. Reproduced from the Illustrated London News of Jan. 10, 1914, by kind permission of the Editor.

Page 195.—Sun as taken at Greenwich. One of a series kindly supplied for lecture purposes by the Astronomer Royal.

Page 205.—Collision of Saturn and Leonids. Reproduced from the Illustrated London News of Dec. 20, 1913, by kind permission of the Editor.

Page 212.—Drawing by Huggins. Reproduced by kind permission of the Royal Astronomical Society from Monthly Notices, Vol. XXVI. , p. 263.

Page 213.—Drawing by Nasmyth. The original drawing was presented by the artist to the Oxford University Observatory, where it now hangs.

Page 215.—Hansky's photographs, from Mitteilungen der Nikolai-Hauptsternwarte zu Pulkowo, Band, I. No. 6.

Page 218 and 220.—Figs. 62, 63 and 65-70 are again due to the courtesy of Professor Hale. They may be found in the Astrophysical Journal, Vol. XIX. and Vol. XXVIII.

Page 237.—The Japanese eclipse. The 1896 expeditions, for which the coelostats were prepared (see note above to p. 119), went one to Norway and one to Japan; but both had cloudy weather at the critical moment. A Japanese artist accompanied the latter expedition from Tokio to its observing station, and was to have painted the Corona, which never appeared. During the time of preparation, however, he made several sketches of the instruments.

Page 251.—The Southern Cross. From a photograph taken with a 6-in. lens at the Sydney Observatory, on August 13, 1890. Exposure three hours.

Page 255.—The split nebula in Andromeda is from a photograph taken by W. S. Franks.

Page 256.—The Nebula in Cygnus is from a photograph kindly presented to the Observatory by the late Dr. Isaac Roberts. Exposed Oct. 27, 1896, for 2 hrs. 18 min.

Page 259.—The star cluster in Hercules (M 13), from G. W. Ritchey's beautiful photograph taken with the 40-in. Yerkes refractor, with a colour screen.

Page 273.—The coloured plate of spectra is the plate arranged by Professor Newall for his book on the Spectroscope. At the suggestion of the publishers, and with Professor Newall's kind permission, it is adopted here, to save the preparation of a special plate.

Page 281.—The flight of ducks. From the close resemblance of this picture to Fig. 91, representing star movements, it might be supposed that it was designed to fit. But the resemblance is purely accidental. Wandering one day among Mr. Newton's stacks of beautiful lantern slides, my eye fell on this picture, and I purchased it to illustrate stellar migrations, without realizing at the moment how closely it fitted the Taurus cluster. It is from a series which appeared originally in the Illustrated London News, and is reproduced by kind permission.

Page 286.—The billiard ball experiment. See note above on the illustrations for the cover.

Page 297.—The expanding nebula round Nova Persei is from the photographs by G. W. Ritchey, taken with the two-foot reflector of the Yerkes Observatory. See Astrophysical Journal, Vol. XIV. p. 293.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1930, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.