Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/93

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MOVEMENTS OF JUPITER'S CLOUD-MASSES.

Thus, in February, 1860, Mr. Long, of Manchester, noticed across a bright belt an oblique dark streak. "Its position" (I quote from a paper of my own written six years ago, when as yet the theory now before us was in its infancy) "might be compared to that of the Red Sea on the globe of the earth, for it ran neither north and south nor east and west, but rather nearer the former than the latter direction. The length of this dark space—of this rift, that is, in the great cloud belt—was about 10,000 miles, and its width at least 500 miles; so that its superficial extent was much greater than the whole area of Europe." It remained as a rift certainly until April 10th, or for six weeks, and probably much longer. It passed away to the dark side of Jupiter, to return again after the Jovian night to the illuminated hemisphere, during at least a hundred Jovian days; and assuredly nothing in the behavior of terrestrial clouds affords any analogue to this remarkable fact. "This great rift grew, lengthening out until it stretched across the whole face of the planet, and it grew in a very strange way; for its two ends remained at unchanged distances from the planet's equator, but the one nearest to the equator traveled forward (speaking with reference to the way in which the planet turns on its axis), the rift thus approaching more and more nearly to an east and west direction." The rate of this motion was perhaps the most remarkable circumstance of all. Mr. Baxendell, one of the observers of the rift, and one of our most experienced telescopists, thus describes the changes seen in the belt: "Since Mr. Long first observed the oblique streak on February 29th, it has gradually extended itself in the direction of the planet's rotation, at the average rate of 3,640 miles per day, or 151 miles per hour, the two extremities of the belt remaining constantly on the same parallels of latitude. The belt also became gradually darker and broader."[1]

Apart from the evidence afforded by this rift respecting the swift motions of the cloud-masses enwrapping Jupiter (for a velocity of 151 miles per hour exceeds that of the most tremendous hurricanes on our earth), it has always seemed to me that this one series of observations should suffice of itself to show that the phenomena of Jupiter's cloud-laden atmosphere are not due to solar action. For the rift itself continued, and the changes affecting it continued whether Jovian day was in progress or Jovian night. For one hundred Jovian days or more, and for one hundred Jovian nights, the great cloud-masses on either side of the rift remained in position opposite each other, slowly wheeling, but still continuing face to face, as their equatorial ends rushed onward at a rate fourfold that of a swift train, even measuring their velocity only by reference to the ends remote from the equator, and regarding these as fixed. Probably the cloud-masses were moving still more swiftly with respect to the surface of the planet below.

  1. Two pictures of this belt, as seen March 12, 1860, and April 9, 1860, will be found in my article on "Astronomy," in the "Encyclopædia Britannica," vol. ii., p. 808.