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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/247

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A NEW THEORY OF THE SUN.

more intricate phenomena of solar physics, I have long had a conviction, derived principally from familiarity with some of the terrestrial effects of heat, that the prodigious dissipation of solar heat is unnecessary to satisfy accepted principles regarding the conservation of energy, but that solar heat may be arrested and returned over and over again to the sun, in a manner somewhat analogous to the action of the heat recuperator in the regenerative engine and gas-furnace. The fundamental conditions are:

1. That aqueous vapor and carbon compounds are present in stellar or interplanetary space.

2. That these gaseous compounds are capable of being dissociated by radiant solar energy while in a state of extreme attenuation.

3. That the vapors so dissociated are drawn toward the sun in consequence of solar rotation, are flashed into flame in the photosphere, and rendered back into space in the condition of products of combustion.

Three weeks have now elapsed since I ventured to submit these propositions to the Royal Society for scientific criticism, and it will probably interest my readers to know what has been the nature of that criticism and the weight of additional evidence for or against my theory.

Criticism has been pronounced by mathematicians and physicists, but affecting singularly enough the chemical and not the mathematical portion of my argument; whereas chemists have expressed doubts regarding my mathematics while accepting the chemistry involved in my reasoning.

Doubts have been expressed as to the sufficiency of the proof that dissociation of attenuated aqueous vapor and carbonic acid is really effected by radiant solar energy, and, if so effected, whether the amount of heat so supplied to the sun could be at all adequate in amount to keep up the known rate of radiation. It was admitted in my paper that my own experiments on the dissociation of vapors within vacuous tubes amounted to inferential rather than absolute proof; but the amount of inferential evidence in favor of my views has been very much strengthened since by chemical evidence received from various sources; and I will here only refer to one of these.

Professor Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, has, in connection with Professor Herschel, of Newcastle, recently presented an elaborate paper or series of papers to the Royal Society of Edinburgh "On the Gaseous Spectra in Vacuum-Tubes," of which he has kindly forwarded me a copy. It appears from these memoirs that when vacuum-tubes, which contain attenuated vapors, have been laid aside for a length of time, they turn practically into hydrogen-tubes. In another very recent paper presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Professor Piazzi Smyth furnishes important additional proof of the presence of oxygen in the outer solar atmosphere, and gives an ex-