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Micrographia - or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and inquiries thereupon/Chapter 60

< Micrographia - or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and inquiries thereupon

Observ. LX.Of the Moon.

HAving a pretty large corner of the Plate for the seven Starrs, void, for the filling it up, I have added one small Specimen of the appearance of the parts of the Moon, by describing a small spot of it, which, though taken notice of, both by the Excellent Hevelius, and called Mons Olympus (though I think somewhat improperly, being rather a vale) and represented by the Figure X, of the 38. Scheme, and also by the Learn'd Ricciolus, who calls it Hipparchus, and describes it by the Figure Y, yet how far short both of them come of the truth, may be somewhat perceiv'd by the draught, which I have here added of it, in the Figure Z, (which I drew by a thirty foot Glass, in October 1664. just before the Moon was half inlightned) but much better by the Reader's diligently observing it himself, at a convenient time, with a Glass of that length, and much better yet with one of threescore foot long; for through these it appears a very spacious Vale, incompassed with a ridge of Hills, not very high in comparison of many other in the Moon, nor yet very steep. The Vale it self A B C D, is much of the figure of a Pear, and from several appearances of it, seems to be some very fruitful place, that is, to have its surface all covered over with some kinds of vegetable substances; for in all positions of the light on it, it seems to give a much fainter reflection then the more barren tops of the incompassing Hills, and those a much fainter then divers other cragged, chalky, or rocky Mountains of the Moon. So that I am not unapt to think, that the Vale may have Vegetables analogus to our Grass, Shrubs, and Trees; and most of these incompassing Hills may be covered with so thin a vegetable Coat, as we may observe the Hills with us to be, such as the short Sheep pasture which covers the Hills of Salisbury Plains.

Up and down in several parts of this place here describ'd (as there are multitudes in other places all over the surface of the Moon) may be perceived several kinds of pits, which are shap'd almost like a dish, some bigger, some less, some shallower, some deeper, that is, they seem to be a hollow Hemisphere, incompassed with a round rising bank, as if the substance in the middle had been digg'd up, and thrown on either side. These seem to me to have been the effects of some motions within the body of the Moon, analogus to our Earthquakes, by the eruption of which, as it has thrown up a brim, or ridge, round about, higher then the Ambient surface of the Moon, so has it left a hole, or depression, in the middle, proportionably lower; divers places resembling some of these, I have observ'd here in England, on the tops of some Hills, which might have been caus'd by some Earthquake in the younger dayes of the world. But that which does most incline me to this belief, is, first, the generality and diversity of the Magnitude of these pits all over the body of the Moon. Next, the two experimental wayes, by which I have made a representation of them.

The first was with a very soft and well temper'd mixture of Tobacco-pipe clay and Water, into which, if I let fall any heavy body, as a Bullet, it would throw up the mixture round the place, which for a while would make a representation, not unlike these of the Moon; but considering the state and condition of the Moon, there seems not any probability to imagine, that it should proceed from any cause analogus to this; for it would be difficult to imagine whence those bodies should come; and next, how the substance of the Moon should be so soft; but if a Bubble be blown under the surface of it, and suffer'd to rise, and break; or if a Bullet, or other body, sunk in it, be pull'd out from it, these departing bodies leave an impression on the surface of the mixture, exactly like these of the Moon, save that these also quickly subside and vanish. But the second, and most notable, representation was, what I observ'd in a pot of boyling Alabaster, for there that powder being by the eruption of vapours reduc'd to a kind of fluid consistence, if, whil'st it boyls, it be gently remov'd besides the fire, the Alabaster presently ceasing to boyl, the whole surface, especially that where some of the last Bubbles have risen, will appear all over covered with small pits, exactly shap'd like these of the Moon, and by holding a lighted Candle in a large dark Room, in divers positions to this surface, you may exactly represent all the Phænomena of these pits in the Moon, according as they are more or less inlightned by the Sun.

And that there may have been in the Moon some such motion as this, which may have made these pits, will seem the more probable, if we suppose it like our Earth, for the Earthquakes here with us seem to proceed from some such cause, as the boyling of the pot of Alabaster, there seeming to be generated in the Earth from some subterraneous fires, or heat, great quantities of vapours, that is, of expanded aerial substances, which not presently finding a passage through the ambient parts of the Earth, do, as they are increased by the supplying and generating principles, and thereby (having not sufficient room to expand themselves) extreamly condens'd, at last overpower, with their elastick properties, the resistence of the incompassing Earth, and lifting it up, or cleaving it, and so shattering of the parts of the Earth above it, do at length, where they find the parts of the Earth above them more loose, make their way upwards, and carrying a great part of the Earth before them, not only raise a small brim round about the place, out of which they break, but for the most part considerable high Hills and Mountains, and when they break from under the Sea, divers times, mountainous Islands; this seems confirm'd by the Vulcans in several places of the Earth, the mouths of which, for the most part, are incompassed with a Hill of a considerable height, and the tops of those Hills, or Mountains, are usually shap'd very much like these pits, or dishes, of the Moon: Instances of this we have in the descriptions of Ætna in Sicily, of Hecla in Iceland, of Tenerif in the Canaries, of the several Vulcans in New-Spain, describ'd by Gage, and more especially in the eruption of late years in one of the Canary Islands. In all of which there is not only a considerable high Hill raised about the mouth of the Vulcan, but, like the spots of the Moon, the top of those Hills are like a dish, or bason. And indeed, if one attentively consider the nature of the thing, one may find sufficient reason to judge, that it cannot be otherwise; for these eruptions, whether of fire, or smoak, alwayes raysing great quantities of Earth before them, must necessarily, by the fall of those parts on either side, raise very considerable heaps.

Now, both from the figures of them, and from several other circumstances; these pits in the Moon seem to have been generated much after the same manner that the holes in Alabaster, and the Vulcans of the Earth are made. For first, it is not improbable, but that the substance of the Moon may be very much like that of our Earth, that is, may consist of an earthy, sandy, or rocky substance, in several of its superficial parts, which parts being agitated, undermin'd, or heav'd up, by eruptions of vapours, may naturally be thrown into the same kind of figured holes, as the small dust, or powder of Alabaster. Next, it is not improbable, but that there may be generated, within the body of the Moon, divers such kind of internal fires and heats, as may produce such Exhalations; for since we can plainly enough discover with a Telescope, that there are multitudes of such kind of eruptions in the body of the Sun it self, which is accounted the most noble Ætherial body, certainly we need not be much scandaliz'd at such kind of alterations, or corruptions, in the body of this lower and less considerable part of the universe, the Moon, which is only secundary, or attendant, on the bigger, and more considerable body of the Earth. Thirdly, 'tis not unlikely, but that supposing such a sandy or mouldring substance to
be there found, and supposing also a possibility of the generation of the internal elastical body (whether you will call it air or vapours) 'tis not unlikely, I say, but that there is in the Moon a principle of gravitation, such as in the Earth. And to make this probable, I think, we need no better Argument, then the roundness, or globular Figure of the body of the Moon it self, which we may perceive very plainly by the Telescope, to be (bating the small inequality of the Hills and Vales in it, which are all of them likewise shap'd, or levelled, as it were, to answer to the center of the Moons body) perfectly of a Sphærical figure, that is, all the parts of it are so rang'd (bating the comparitively small ruggedness of the Hills and Dales) that the outmost bounds of them are equally distant from the Center of the Moon, and consequently, it is exceedingly probable also, that they are equidistant from the Center of gravitation; and indeed, the figure of the superficial parts of the Moon are so exactly shap'd, according as they should be, supposing it had a gravitating principle as the Earth has, that even the figure of those parts themselves is of sufficient efficacy to make the gravitation, and the other two suppositions probable: so that the other suppositions may be rather prov'd by this considerable Circumstance, or Observation, then this suppos'd Explication can by them; for he that shall attentively observe with an excellent Telescope, how all the Circumstances, notable in the shape of the superficial parts, are, as it were, exactly adapted to suit with such a principle, will, if he well considers the usual method of Nature in its other proceedings, find abundant argument to believe it to have really there also such a principle; for I could never observe, among all the mountainous or prominent parts of the Moon (whereof there is a huge variety) that any one part of it was plac'd in such a manner, that if there should be a gravitating, or attracting principle in the body of the Moon, it would make that part to fall, or be mov'd out of its visible posture. Next, the shape and position of the parts is such, that they all seem put into those very shapes they are in by a gravitating power: For first, there are but very few clifts, or very steep declivities in the ascent of these Mountains; for besides those Mountains, which are by Hevelius call'd the Apennine Mountains, and some other, which seem to border on the Seas of the Moon, and those only upon one side, as is common also in those Hills that are here on the Earth; there are very few that seem to have very steep ascents, but, for the most part, they are made very round, and much resemble the make of the Hills and Mountains also of the Earth; this may be partly perceived by the Hills incompassing this Vale, which I have here describ'd; and as on the Earth also, the middlemost of these Hills seems the highest, so is it obvious also, through a good Telescope, in those of the Moon; the Vales also in many are much shap'd like those of the Earth, and I am apt to think, that could we look upon the Earth from the Moon, with a good Telescope, we might easily enough perceive its surface to be very much like that of the Moon.

Now whereas in this small draught, (as there would be multitudes if the whole Moon were drawn after this manner) there are several little Ebullitions, or Dishes, even in the Vales themselves, and in the incompassing Hills also; this will, from this supposition, (which I have, I think, upon very good reason taken) be exceeding easily explicable; for, as I have several times also observ'd, in the surface of Alabaster so ordered, as I before describ'd, so may the later eruptions of vapours be even in the middle, or on the edges of the former; and other succeeding these also in time may be in the middle or edges of these, &c. of which there are Instances enough in divers parts of the body of the Moon, and by a boyling pot of Alabaster will be sufficiently exemplifi'd.

To conclude therefore, it being very probable, that the Moon has a principle of gravitation, it affords an excellent distinguishing Instance in the search after the cause of gravitation, or attraction, to hint, that it does not depend upon the diurnal or turbinated motion of the Earth, as some have somewhat inconsiderately supposed and affirmed it to do; for if the Moon has an attractive principle, whereby it is not only shap'd round, but does firmly contain and hold all its parts united, though many of them seem as loose as the sand on the Earth, and that the Moon is not mov'd about its Center; then certainly the turbination cannot be the cause of the attraction of the Earth, and therefore some other principle must be thought of, that will agree with all the secundary as well as primary Planets. But this, I confess, is but a probability, and not a demonstration, which (from any Observation yet made) it seems hardly capable of, though how successful future indeavours (promoted by the meliorating of Glasses, and observing particular circumstances) may be in this, or any other, kind, must be with patience expected.