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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/248

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

planation why this important element has escaped observation by the spectroscope. Additional proof of the existence of oxygen in the outer solar atmosphere has been given by Professor Stoney, the Astronomer Royal for Ireland, and by Mr. R. Meldola in an interesting paper communicated by him to the "Philosophical Magazine," in June, 1878.

As regards the sufficiency of an inflowing stream of dissociated vapors to maintain solar energy, the following simple calculation may be of service: Let it be assumed that the stream flowing in upon the polar surfaces of the sun flashes into flame when it has attained the density of our atmosphere, that its velocity at that time is 100 feet per second (the velocity of a strong terrestrial wind), and that in its composition only one twentieth part is hydrogen and marsh-gas in equal proportions, the other nineteen twentieths being made up of oxygen, nitrogen, and neutral compounds. It is well known that each pound of hydrogen develops in burning about 60,000 heat-units, and each pound of marsh-gas about 24,000; the average of the two gases mixed in equal proportion would yield, roughly speaking, 42,000 units; but, considering that only one twentieth part of the inflowing current is assumed to consist of such combustible matter, the amount of heat developed per pound of inflowing current would be only 2,100 heat-units. One hundred cubic feet, weighing eight pounds, would enter into combustion every second upon each square foot of the polar surface, and would yield 8 60 60 2,100 60,480,000 heat-units per hour. Assuming that one third of the entire solar surface may be regarded as polar heat-receiving surface, this would give 20,000,000 heat-units per square foot of solar surface; whereas, according to Herschel's and Pouillet's measurements, only 18,000,000 heat-units per square foot of solar surface are radiated away. There would thus be no difficulty in accounting for the maintenance of solar energy from the supposed source of supply. On the other hand, I wish to guard myself against the assumption that appears to have been made by some critics, that what I have advocated would amount to the counterpart of "perpetual motion," and therefore to an absurdity. The sun can not of course get back any heat radiated by himself which has been turned to a purpose; thus the solar heat spent upon our earth in effecting vegetation must be absolutely lost to him.

My paper presented to the Royal Society was accompanied by a diagram of an ideal corona, representing an accumulation of igneous matter upon the solar surfaces, surrounded by disturbed regions pierced by occasional vortices and outbursts of metallic vapors, and culminating in two outward streams projecting from the equatorial surfaces into space through many thousands of miles. The only supporting evidence in favor of this diagram were certain indications that may be found in the instructive volume on the sun by Mr. R. A. Proctor. It was therefore a matter of great satisfaction to me to be informed, as I have been by an excellent authority and eye-witness,