Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/255

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THE SPECTROSCOPE AND THE WEATHER.

in late years been increased to a most astonishing extent. The question is important, and somewhat new as well. I propose, therefore, to devote the remainder of my space to its answer, rather than to the practical rules for using the smaller instruments, especially, too, as they have been already introduced to the public, both by my friend Mr. Rand Capron, in his pamphlet "A Plea for the Rain-band," and by myself, in the fourteenth volume of the "Edinburgh Astronomical Observations"-also in the "Journal of the Scottish Meteorological Society," and in the September number of the "Astronomical Register for 1877."

The greater part of higher power spectroscopes are not suitable to rain-band work, for their fields are usually too dark. But having recently built up for myself a large-sized variety of the instrument, possessing perhaps the greatest combination of power with transparency yet attained, and having it always mounted in an upper chamber looking out at an altitude of about 5° over the northwestern horizon (or most suitably for rain-band work), I will try to describe shortly its action therein.

The classical "rain-band," which in the little instrument is merely a very narrow fringe to an almost infinitely thin black line, is so magnified laterally in the larger instrument as to fill the whole breadth of the field. The thin black line before spoken of is now not only split into two, but these are both strong, thick, sharply defined lines, separated from each other by six or seven times the breadth of either. These are the celebrated solar D-lines, D1 and D2, arising from the sodium metalloid burning or incandescent in the sun. They are, therefore, perfectly uninfluenced by changes of the terrestrial atmosphere, hot or cold, wet or dry, and are, therefore, invaluable as references for degree of visibility of the water-vapor lines and bands which rise or fall in intensity precisely with those changes. There are several of these earthly water-vapor lines and bands in and between and about the D-lines themselves; then a long breadth of band toward the red side of D1; then a pair of lines not so widely apart as the D-lines, but sometimes just as sharp and black; then two or three fainter bands; then a grand triple, of which the nearer line sometimes attains greater blackness than either D-line; then beyond that three distinct, equal-spaced, isolated bands; and, farther away toward the red, a stretch of faint haze and haze-bands.

All these go to make up the one thin rain-band of the little spectroscopes; and I fortunately had, through the month of August and the early days of September, occupied myself each morning in noting the greater or less intensity of each and all these water-vapor lines and bands in terms of the two solar constants D1 and D2; and every such morning there was an abundance of details to see, to recognize, and to measure. But on the morning of Monday, September 4th, when the little instrument had truly enough marked on its very small scale,