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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/494

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478
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

solvent has as much to do with the amount of shifting observed as the molecular weight or the dispersion or refractive power may have. The shifting of the absorption bands in different solutions of the same substances is only one of many applications of spectroscopes to the examination of molecular phenomena in liquids. Into the interesting researches of Professor Russell, who has greatly extended this field of inquiry, we have no time to enter.

The changes of spectra due to molecular combinations and rearrangements have in addition to their theoretical importance a great practical interest, for they will afford us some day a means of answering approximately a great many questions relating to the temperature of sun and stars. The gases and vapors in the solar atmosphere are for the greater part in the molecular condition in which they give a line-spectrum, and we know of stars the spectra of which resemble our solar spectrum very nearly. We shall not be far wrong in ascribing to such stars a temperature similar to that of our sun. Other stars have absorbing envelopes showing spectra of fluted bands. We know that fluted bands belong to a more complex molecular condition, which only can exist at lower temperatures. These stars, therefore, must have a lower temperature than our sun. Dr. Huggins, who has succeeded in obtaining most valuable photographs of star-spectra, has been able to classify and arrange star-spectra; and it is more than likely that, in the series of stars arranged in order by means of their spectra, we have at one end those of the highest, at the other those of the lowest, temperature. We are as yet far from being able to assign any particular temperature to a star, but the question by means of the spectroscope has been reduced to one which can be decided in our laboratories, and, however difficult it may be, we may rest assured that it will ultimately be solved. As to our sun, its temperature has been the subject of many investigations. Attempts have been made to deduce it (at least approximately) from the amount of heat it sends out. Different experimental laws have been proposed to connect together the heat radiation of a body, and the temperature of that body. The first law which was thus proposed gives 10,000,000° Centigrade as a lower limit; the second law reduces that lower limit to a little over 1,500°. Both these laws we now know to be wrong. More accurate laws give something like 10,000° or 20,000°, but the whole method employed is one which is open to a great many objections.

We measure the combined heat radiation of different layers on the solar surfaces, all of which are at different temperatures, and we ob; serve only an average effect which is much influenced by the absorption in the outer layers of the solar atmosphere and in the corona, and does not admit of easy interpretation. The spectroscopic method, which is yet in its infancy, has the advantage that we can observe separately each layer of the sun; and we thus examine the temperature not as an average, but for every part of the solar body. Our way