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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/529

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LUNAR LORE AND PORTRAITURE.

Improved instruments have demonstrated that life, as we understand it, is impossible on the lunar body, revealing to us that it is composed of rocks and matter of a highly reflective character; its surface being broken up by ranges of lofty, perpendicular mountains, craters of elevation, precipitous caves and hollows; that the dark plains are the beds of oceans long ago evaporated or withdrawn into the interior of the planet; that it is subject to enormous degrees of heat and cold, has no water or apparent atmosphere, and, if so, neither wind, wave, nor sound.

Nothing varies the monotony of the long days and nights composing the lunar year, save the changing positions of the intensely black shadows falling from hills and mountains that cut off or fling back into space the white light of the sun; or the swift, silent fall of the crumbling walls of some hollow crater.

On looking at the moon through the telescope for the first time, one is struck by the melancholy character of its broken yet shining surface. Desolate plains are seen stretching away from the central view to the dazzling sunlit edge where, under the immedate solar glare, they seem sheeted with everlasting snow. To the right, as they gradually approach the region of darkness, the white softens into the greenish gray of a sandy desert.

But, ho! what tracks are these like the footprints of huge camels? Has some celestial caravan passed this way and disappeared from sight in the far south? Shall we see another wending its slow way after?

And yonder—another marvel—a fountain of silver sending from its argent depths rivers of precious metal to wander over sandy plains! Will the wonders never cease? Beyond, on the brilliant terminator, are promontories of pearly luster jutting out into seas of darkness, and, remoter still, pendent stars shining over ebon gulfs!

Gentle astronomer, increase your magnifying, for we long to investigate, space by space, this moon whose beauties we have never known before!

Ah, the footprints are footprints no longer—they are cup-shaped hollows innumerable! These drifts, as of snow, are ranges of mountains, and the promontories and pendent stars are crags and mountaintops just catching the rays of dawn. Down their steep sides lie the shadows of night; the topmost peaks alone have caught the glory! And beyond is the night-side of the moon, illumined by dim earthlight.

The power is increased again, and now we are looking down into a crater, and behold! one, two, three mountains rising from its central depths; their peaks hardly reach the level of its ring-shaped summit!

Here is another crater, with a solitary peak rising from its bottom. See, down below, piles of rocks are lying around its base. Three miles deep, by measurement, what awful gulfs of darkness these at the new