Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/861

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[HISTORY
ASTRONOMY

He, nevertheless, used telescopes to good purpose in his studies of lunar topography, and his designations for the chief mountain-chains and “seas” of the moon have never been superseded. He, moreover, threw out the suggestion (in his Cometographia, 1668) that comets move round the sun in orbits of a parabolic form.

The establishment, in 1671 and 1676 respectively, of the French and English national observatories at once typified and stimulated progress. The Paris institution, it is true, The Paris observatory. lacked unity of direction. No authoritative chief was assigned to it until 1771. G. D. Cassini, his son and his grandson were only primi inter pares. Claude Perrault’s stately edifice was equally accessible to all the more eminent members of the Academy of Sciences; and researches were, more or less independently, carried on there by (among others) Philippe de la Hire (1640-1718), G. F. Maraldi (1665-1729), and his nephew, J. D. Maraldi, Jean Picard, Huygens, Olaus Römer and Nicolas de Lacaille. Some of the best instruments then extant were mounted at the Paris observatory. G. D. Cassini G.D. Cassini. brought from Rome a 17-ft. telescope by G. Campani, with which he discovered in 1671 Iapetus, the ninth in distance of Saturn’s family of satellites; Rhea was detected in 1672 with a glass by the same maker of 34-ft. focus; the duplicity of the ring showed in 1675; and, in 1684, two additional satellites were disclosed by a Campani telescope of 100 ft. Cassini, moreover, set up an altazimuth in 1678, and employed from about 1682 a “parallactic machine,” provided with clockwork to enable it to follow the diurnal motion. Both inventions have been ascribed to Olaus Römer, who used Römer. but did not claim them, and must have become familiar with their principles during the nine years (1672-1681) spent by him at the Paris observatory. Römer, on the other hand, deserves full credit for originating the transit-circle and the prime vertical instrument; and he earned undying fame by his discovery of the finite velocity of light, made at Paris in 1675 by comparing his observations of the eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites at the conjunctions and oppositions of the planet.

The organization of the Greenwich observatory differed widely from that adopted at Paris. There a fundamental scheme of practical amelioration was initiated by John Flamsteed, the first astronomer royal, and has never Flamsteed. since been lost sight of. Its purpose is the attainment of so complete a power of prediction that the places of the sun, moon and planets may be assigned without noticeable error for an indefinite future time. Sidereal inquiries, as such, made no part of the original programme in which the stars figured merely as points of reference. But these points are not stationary. They have an apparent precessional movement, the exact amount of which can be arrived at only by prolonged and toilsome enquiries. They have besides “proper motions,” detected in 1718 by E. Halley in a few cases, and since found to prevail universally. Further, James Bradley discovered in 1728 the annual shifting of the stars due to the aberration of light (see Aberration), and in 1748, the complicating effects upon precession of the “nutation” of the earth’s axis. Hence, the preparation of a catalogue recording the “mean” positions of a number of stars for a given epoch involves considerable preliminary labour; nor do those positions long continue to satisfy observation. They need, after a time, to be corrected, not only systematically for precession, but also empirically for proper motion. Before the stars can safely be employed as route-marks in the sky, their movements must accordingly be tabulated, and research into the method of such movements inevitably follows. We perceive then that the fundamental problems of sidereal science are closely linked up with the elementary and indispensable procedures of celestial measurement.

The history of the Greenwich observatory is one of strenuous efforts for refinement, stimulated by the growing stringency of theoretical necessities. Improved practice, again, reacted upon theory by bringing to notice residual errors, demanding the correction of formulae, or intimating neglected disturbances. Each increase of mechanical skill claims a corresponding gain in the subtlety of analysis; and vice versa. And this kind of interaction has gone on ever since Flamsteed reluctantly furnished the “places of the moon,” which enabled Newton to lay the foundations of lunar theory.

Edmund Halley, the second astronomer royal, devoted most Halley. of his official attention to the moon. But his plan of attack was not happily chosen; he carried it out with deficient instrumental means; and his administration (1720-1742) remained comparatively barren. That of his successor, though shorter, was vastly more productive. Bradley. James Bradley chose the most appropriate tasks, and executed them supremely well, with the indispensable aid of John Bird (1700-1776), who constructed for him an 8-ft. quadrant of unsurpassed quality. Bradley’s store of observations has accordingly proved invaluable. Those of 3222 stars, reduced by F. W. Bessel in 1818, and again with masterly insight by Dr A. Auwers in 1882, form the true basis of exact astronomy, and of our knowledge of proper motions. Those relating to the moon and planets, corrected by Sir George Airy, 1840-1846, form part of the standard materials for discussing theories of Bliss. movement in the solar system. The fourth astronomer royal, Nathaniel Bliss, provided in two years a sequel of some value to Bradley’s performance. Nevil Maskelyne, who succeeded him in 1764, set on foot, in 1767, the publication of the Nautical Almanac, and about the same time had an achromatic telescope fitted to the Greenwich Maskelyne. mural quadrant. The invention, perfected by John Dollond in 1757, was long debarred from becoming effective by difficulties in the manufacture of glass, aggravated in England by a heavy excise duty levied until 1845. More immediately efficacious was the innovation made by Pond. John Pond (astronomer royal, 1811-1836) of substituting entire circles for quadrants. He further introduced, in 1821, the method of duplicate observations by direct vision and by reflection, and by these means obtained results of very high precision. During Sir George Airy’s long term of office (1836-1881) exact astronomy and the traditional purposes of the royal observatory were promoted Airy. with increased vigour, while the scope of research was at the same time memorably widened. Magnetic, meteorological, and spectroscopic departments were added to the establishment; electricity was employed, through the medium of the chronograph, for the registration of transits; and photography was resorted to for the daily automatic record of the sun’s condition.

Meanwhile, advances were being made in various parts of the Wargentin. continent of Europe. Peter Wargentin (1717-1783), secretary to the Swedish Academy of Sciences, made a special study of the Jovian system. James Bradley had described to the Royal Society on the 2nd of July 1719 the curious cyclical relations of the three inner satellites; and their period of 437 days was independently discovered by Wargentin, who based upon it in 1746 a set of tables, superseded only by those of J. B. J. Delambre in 1792. Among the fruits of the strenuous career of Nicolas Louis de Lacaille Lacaille. were tables of the sun, in which terms depending upon planetary perturbations were, for the first time, introduced (1758); an extended acquaintance with the southern heavens; and a determination of the moon’s parallax from observations made at opposite extremities of an arc of the meridian 85° Tobias Mayer. in length. Tobias Mayer of Göttingen (1723-1762) originated the mode of adjusting transit-instruments still in vogue; drew up a catalogue of nearly a thousand zodiacal stars (published posthumously in 1775); and deduced the proper motions of eighty stars from a comparison of their places as given by Olaus Romer in 1706 with those obtained by himself in 1756. He executed besides a chart and forty drawings of the moon (published at Göttingen in 1881), and calculated lunar tables from a skilful development of Euler’s theory, for which a reward of £3000 was in 1765 paid to his widow by the British government. They were published by the Board of Longitude, together with his solar tables, in 1770. The material interests of navigation were in these works primarily regarded;