PRACTICAL]

807

ASTRONOMY

they will virtually act in the case of a satellite. When the latter is between its primary and the sun, the attraction of the latter tends to draw the satellite away from the primary. When the satellite is in the opposite direction from the sun, the same action tends to draw the primary away from the satellite. In both cases, relative to the primary, the action is the same. When the satellite is in quadrature the convergence of the lines of attraction toward the centre of the sun tends to bring the two bodies together. When the orbit of the satellite is inclined to that of the primary planet round the sun, the action brings about a change in the plane of the orbit represented by a rotation round an axis perpendicular to the plane of the orbit of the primary. If we conceive a pole to each of these orbits, determined by the points in which lines perpendicular to their planes intersect the celestial sphere, the pole of the satellite orbit will revolve around the pole of the planetary orbit precisely as the pole of the earth does around the pole of the ecliptic, the inclination of the two orbits remaining unchanged.

If a planet rotates on its axis so rapidly as to have a considerable ellipticity, and if it has satellites revolving very near the plane of the equator, the combined actions of the sun and of the equatorial protuberances may be such that the whole system will rotate almost as if the planes of revolution of the satellites were solidly fixed to the plane of the equator. This is the case with the seven inner satellites of Saturn. The orbits of these bodies have a large inclination, nearly 27°, to the plane of the planet’s orbit. The action of the sun alone would completely throw them out of these planes as each satellite orbit would rotate independently; but the effect of the mutual action is to keep all of the planes in close coincidence with the plane of the planet’s equator.

*Literature*.—The modern methods of celestial mechanics may be considered to begin with Joseph Louis Lagrange, whose theory of the variation of elements is developed in his

*Mécanique analytique*. The practical methods of computing perturbations of the planets and satellites were first exhaustively developed by Pierre Simon Laplace in his

*Mécanique céleste*. The only attempt since the publication of this great work to develop the various theories involved on a uniform plan and mould them into a consistent whole is that of de Pontécoulant in

*Théorie analytique du système du monde*(1829-46, Paris). An approximation to such an attempt is that of F. F. Tisserand in his

*Traité de mécanique céleste*(4 vols., Paris). This work contains a clear and excellent résumé of the methods which have been devised by the leading investigators from the time of Lagrange until the present, and thus forms the most encyclopaedic treatise to which the student can refer.

Works less comprehensive than this are necessarily confined to the elements of the subject, to the development of fundamental principles and general methods, or to details of special branches. An elementary treatise on the subject is F. R. Moulton’s

*Introduction to Celestial Mechanics*(London, 1902). Other works with the same general object are H. A. Resal,*Mécanique céleste*; and O. F. Dziobek,*Theorie der Planetenbewegungen*. The most complete and systematic development of the general principles of the subject, from the point of view of the modern mathematician, is found in J. H. Poincaré,*Les Méthodes nouvelles de la mécanique céleste*(3 vols., Paris, 1899, 1892, 1893). Of another work of Poincaré,*Leçons de mécanique céleste*, the first volume appeared in 1905.*Practical Astronomy.*

Practical Astronomy, taken in its widest sense, treats of the instruments by which our knowledge of the heavenly bodies is acquired, the principles underlying their use, and the methods by which these principles are practically applied. Our knowledge of these bodies is of necessity derived through the medium of the light which they emit; and it is the development and applications of the laws of light which have made possible the additions to our stock of such knowledge since the middle of the 19th century.

At the base of every system of astronomical observation is the law that, in the voids of space, a ray of light moves in a right line. The fundamental problem of practical astronomy is that of determining by measurement the co-ordinates of the heavenly bodies as already defined. Of the three co-ordinates, the radius vector does not admit of direct measurement, and must be inferred by a combination of indirect measurements and physical theories. The other two co-ordinates, which define the direction of a body, admit of direct measurement on principles applied in the construction and use of astronomical instruments.

In the first system of co-ordinates already described the fundamental axis is the vertical line or direction of gravity at the point of observation. This is not the direction of gravity proper, or of the earth’s attraction, but the resultant of this attraction combined with the centrifugal force due to the earth’s rotation on its axis. The most obvious method of realizing this direction is by the plumb-line. In our time, however, this appliance is replaced by either of two others, which admit of much more precise application. These are the basin of mercury and the spirit-level. The surface of a liquid at rest is necessarily perpendicular to the direction of gravity, and therefore horizontal. Considered as a curved surface, concentric with the earth, a tangent plane to such a surface is the plane of the horizon. The problem of measuring from an axis perpendicular to this plane is solved on the principle that the incident and reflected rays of light make equal angles with the perpendicular to a reflecting surface. It follows that if PO (fig. 5) is the direction of a ray, either from a heavenly body or from a terrestrial point, impinging at O upon the surface of quicksilver, and reflected in the direction OR, the vertical line is the bisector OZ, of the angle POR. If the point P is so adjusted over the quicksilver that the ray is reflected back on its own path, P and R lying on the same line above O, then we know that the line PO is truly vertical. The zenith-distance of an object is the angle which the ray of light from it makes with the vertical direction thus defined.

Fig. 5. | Fig. 6. |

To show the principle involved in the spirit-level let MN (fig. 6) be the tube of such a level, fixed to an axis OZ on which it may revolve. If this axis is so adjusted that in the course of a revolution around it the bubble of the level undergoes no change of position, we know that the axis is truly vertical. Any slight deviation from verticality is shown by the motion of the bubble during the revolution, which can be measured and allowed for. The level may not be actually attached to an axis, a revolution of 180° being effected round an imaginary vertical axis by turning the level end for end. The motion of the bubble then measures double the inclination of this imaginary axis, or the deviation of a cylinder on which the level may rest from horizontality.

Fig. 7. |

Fig. 8. |

The problem of determining the zenith distance of a celestial object now reduces itself to that of measuring the angle between the direction of the object and the direction of the vertical line realized in one of these ways. This measurement is effected by a combination of two instruments, the telescope and the graduated circle. Let OF (fig. 7) be a section of the telescope, MN being its object glass. Let the parallel dotted lines represent rays of light emanating from the object to be observed, which, for our purpose, we regard as infinitely distant, a star for example. These rays come to a focus at a point F lying in the focal plane of the telescope. In this plane are a pair of cross threads or spider lines which, as the observer looks into the telescope, are seen as AB and CD (fig. 8). If the telescope is so pointed that the image of the star is seen in coincidence with the cross threads, as represented in fig. 8, then we know that the star is exactly in the line of sight of the telescope, defined as the line joining the centre of the object glass, and the point of intersection of the cross threads. If the telescope is moved around so that the images of two distant points are successively brought into coincidence with the cross threads, we know that the angle between the directions of these points is equal to that through which the telescope has been turned. This angle is measured by means of a graduated circle, rigidly attached to the tube of the telescope in a plane parallel to the line of sight. When the telescope is turned in this plane, the angular motion of the line of sight is equal to that through which the circle has turned.

Fig. 9. |

Stripped of all unnecessary adjuncts, and reduced to a geometric form, the ideal method by which the zenith distance of a heavenly body is determined by the combination which we have described is as follows:—Let OP (fig. 9) be the direction of a celestial body at which a telescope, supplied with a graduating circle, is pointed. Let OZ be an axis, as nearly vertical as it can easily be set, round which