Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/245

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
235
A NEW THEORY OF THE SUN.

owing to such differences in the quality of the fuel supplied that the observed variations of the solar heat may arise?—and may it not be in consequence of such changes in the thermal condition of the photo-sphere that the extraordinary convulsions revealed to us as sun-spots occur?

The views here advocated could not be thought acceptable unless they furnished at any rate a consistent explanation of the still some-what mysterious phenomena of the zodiacal light and of comets. Regarding the former, we should be able to revert to Mairan's views, the objection by Laplace being met by a continuous outward flow from the solar equator. Luminosity would be attributable to particles of dust emitting light reflected from the sun, or to phosphorescence. But there is another cause for luminosity of these particles, which may deserve serious consideration. Each particle would be electrified by gaseous friction in its acceleration, and its electric tension would be vastly increased in its forcible removal, in the same way as the fine dust of the desert has been observed by Dr. Werner Siemens to be in a state of high electrification on the apex of the Cheops Pyramid. Could not the zodiacal light also be attributed to slow electric discharge backward from the dust toward the sun?—and would not the same cause account for a great difference of potential between the sun and earth, which latter may be supposed to be washed by the solar radial current? May not the presence of the radial solar current also furnish us with an explanation of the fact that hydrogen, while abounding apparently in space, is practically absent in our atmosphere, where aqueous vapor and carbonic acid, which would come to us directly from the sun, take its place? An action analogous to this, though on a much smaller scale, may be set up also by terrestrial rotation, giving rise to an electrical discharge from the outgoing equatorial stream to the polar regions, where the atmosphere to be pierced by the return flood is of least resistance. Thus the phenomenon of the aurora borealis or northern lights would find an easy explanation.

The effect of this continuous outpour of solar materials could not be without very important influences as regards the geological conditions of our earth. Geologists have long acknowledged the difficulty of accounting for the amount of carbonic acid that must have been in our atmosphere, at one time or another, in order to form with lime those enormous beds of dolomite and limestone, of which the crust of our earth is in great measure composed. It has been calculated that, if this carbonic acid had been at one and the same time in our atmosphere, it would have caused an elastic pressure fifty times that of our present atmosphere; and, if we add the carbonic acid that must have been absorbed in vegetation in order to form our coal-beds, we should probably have to double that pressure. Animal life, of which we find abundant traces in these "measures," could not have existed under such conditions, and we are almost forced to the conclu-