Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/244

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
234
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

polar surfaces of the sun to-morrow, be heated by increase in density, and would burst into flame at a point where both their density and temperature had reached the necessary elevation to induce combustion, each complete cycle taking, however, years to be accomplished. The resulting aqueous vapor, carbonic acid, and carbonic oxide would be drawn toward the equatorial regions, and be then again projected into space by centrifugal force.

Space would, according to these views, be filled with gaseous compounds in process of decomposition by solar radiant energy, and the existence of these gases would furnish an explanation of the solar absorption spectrum, in which the lines of some of the substances may be entirely neutralized and lost to observation. As regards the heavy metallic vapors revealed in the sun by the spectroscope, it is assumed that these form a lower and denser solar atmosphere, not participating in the fan-like action which is supposed to affect the light outer atmosphere only, in which hydrogen is the principal factor.

Such a dense metallic atmosphere could not participate in the fan action affecting the lighter photosphere, because this is only feasible on the supposition that the density of the inflowing current is, at equal distances from the gravitating center, equal or nearly equal to the outflowing current. It is true that the products of combustion of hydrogen and hydrocarbon are denser than their constituents, but this difference may be balanced by their superior temperature on leaving the sun, whereas the metallic vapors would be unbalanced, and would therefore obey the laws of gravitation, recalling them to the sun. On the surface of contact between the two solar atmospheres, intermixture induced by friction must take place, however, giving rise to those vortices and explosive effects within the zones of the sun, between the equator and the polar surfaces, to which reference has already been made in this article; these may appropriately be called the "stormy regions" of the sun, which were first observed and commented upon by Sir John Herschel. Some of the denser vapors would probably get intermixed, be carried away mechanically by the lighter gases, and give rise to that cosmic dust observed to fall upon our earth in not inappreciable quantities, and generally assumed hitherto to be the d├ębris of broken meteorolites. Excessive intermixture between the heat-producing atmosphere and the metallic vapors below appears to be prevented by the existence of an intermediate neutral atmosphere, and called the penumbra.

As the whole solar system moves through space at a pace estimated at 150,000,000 miles annually (being about one fourth of the velocity of the earth in its orbit), it appears possible that the condition of the gaseous fuel supplying the sun may vary according to its state of previous decomposition, in which other heavenly bodies may have taken part, and whereby an interesting reflex action between our sun and other heavenly bodies would be brought about. May it not be