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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/240

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

eluding "carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and probably oxygen," while, according to the views set forth by Dewar and Liveing, it also contains nitrogenous compounds such as cyanogen.

Adversely to the assumption that interplanetary space is filled with gases, it is urged that the presence of ordinary matter would cause sensible retardation of planetary motion, such as must have made itself felt before this; but, assuming that the matter filling space is an almost perfect fluid not limited by border surfaces, it can be shown on purely mechanical grounds that the retardation by friction through such an attenuated medium would be very slight indeed, even at planetary velocities.

But it may be contended that, if the views here advocated regarding the distribution of gases were true, the sun should draw to him-self the bulk of the least diffusible, and therefore the heaviest gases, such as carbonic acid, carbonic oxide, oxygen, and nitrogen, whereas spectrum analysis has proved, on the contrary, a great prevalence of hydrogen.

In explanation of this seeming anomaly, it can be shown, in the first place, that the temperature of the sun is so high that such compound gases as carbonic acid and carbonic oxide could not exist within him, their point of dissociation being very much below the solar temperature. It has been contended, indeed, by Mr. Lockyer, that none of the metalloids have any existence at these temperatures, although as regards oxygen Dr. Draper asserts its existence in the solar photosphere. There must be regions, however, outside that thermal limit, where their existence would not be jeopardized by heat; and here great accumulation of the comparatively heavy gases that constitute our atmosphere would probably take place, were it not for a certain counterbalancing action.

I here approach a point of primary importance in my argument, upon the proof of which my further conclusions must depend.

The sun completes one revolution on its axis in twenty-five days, and its diameter being taken at 882,000 miles, it follows that the tangential velocity amounts to 1ยท25 miles per second, or to what the tangential velocity of our earth would be if it occupied five hours instead of twenty-four in accomplishing one revolution. This high rotative velocity of the sun must cause an equatorial rise of the solar atmosphere, to which Mairan, in 1731, attributed the appearance of zodiacal light. Laplace rejected this explanation on the ground that zodiacal light extended to a distance from the sun exceeding our own, whereas the equatorial rise of the solar atmosphere due to its rotation could not exceed nine twentieths of the distance of Mercury. But it must be remembered that Laplace based his calculation upon the generally accepted hypothesis of an empty stellar space (occupied only by an imaginary ether), and it can be shown that the result of solar rotation would be widely different, if supposed to take place