Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/638

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seen at a glance. The matching and identification are even more complete than they were in the original experiments of Kirchhoff with the metals, for here it is not necessary to invoke a theory for the unification of bright and dark lines; the bright lines of the spectrum of oxygen being continuous with the bright lines of the solar spectrum. It is, indeed, because the solar oxygen reveals itself by bright lines that these have not been earlier detected, as they have been masked and concealed among the unoccupied luminous spaces, between the dark lines that have hitherto been the main objects of attention.

Dr. Draper has been occupied for several years with this investigation—in fact, he has grown into it. Besides Lis inherited attitude, and life-long training in this delicate line of manipulation, and his thorough familiarity with the peculiar difficulties of these investigations, his work could only have become successful by means of a combination of appliances, some of which are only lately available. His task was to produce a gas spectrum, and maintain it at a brilliancy which would admit of its being photographed alongside of that of the sun itself. Oxygen is made incandescent by electricity. The most ample, steady, and sustained command of this agent was therefore indispensable. This was secured by the Gramme machine, a dynamo-electric engine connected with a large induction-coil and a battery of Leyden-jars. The impulse was furnished by a Brayton's petroleum-motor, which "can be started with a match, comes to its regular speed in less than a minute, and preserves its rate entirely unchanged for hours together." This was belted to the Gramme machine, which, at its usual rate of running, gave 1,000 ten inch sparks per minute. This "torrent of intense electric fire," consisting of twenty ten-inch sparks per second, was passed through Plücker's tubes, containing oxygen, the spectrum of which is thrown upon a sensitive photographic surface, while the solar spectrum is formed beside it, and both are fixed together upon the tablet. The embarrassments of the investigation are thus referred to in Dr. Draper's paper:

"This research has proved to be more tedious and difficult than would be supposed, because so many conditions must conspire to produce a good photograph. There must be a uniform, prime-moving engine of two horse power, a dynamo-electric machine thoroughly adjusted, a large Ruhmkorff coil with its Foucault break in the best order, a battery of Leyden-jars carefully proportioned to the Plücker's tube in use, a heliostat which of course involves clear sunshine, an optical train of slit, prisms, lenses, and camera well focused, and, in addition to all this, a photographic laboratory in such complete condition that wet, sensitive plates can be prepared which will bear an exposure of fifteen minutes and a prolonged development. It has been difficult to keep the Plücker's tubes in order; often before the first exposure of a tube was over, the tube was ruined by the strong Leyden sparks. Moreover, to procure tubes of known contents is troublesome. For example, my hydrogen-tubes gave a spectrum photograph of fifteen lines, of which only three belonged to hydrogen. In order to be sure that none of these were new hydrogen-lines, it was necessary to try tubes of various makers, to prepare pure hydrogen and employ that, to examine the spectrum of water, and finally to resort to comparison with the sun."

In regard to the significance of the inquiry in relation to spectroscopic study, Dr. Draper remarks:

"We must, therefore, change our theory of the solar spectrum, and no longer regard it merely as a continuous spectrum with certain rays absorbed by a layer of ignited metallic vapors, but as having also bright lines and bands superposed on the background of continuous spectrum. Such a conception not only opens the way to the discovery of others of the non-metals, sulphur, phosphorus, selenium, chlorine, bromine, iodine, fluorine, carbon, etc., but also may account for some of the so-called dark lines, by regarding them as intervals between bright lines."