Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/253

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telescope. In 1868, O. Struve, observing at Pulkova, detected another nebulous spot in the vicinity of the place of the missing object, but this has also now vanished. Struve does not, however, consider that the nebula of 1868 is distinct from Hind's nebula, but he says:

"What I see is certainly the variable nebula itself, only in altered brightness and spread over a larger space. Some traces of nebulosity are still to be seen exactly on the spot where Hind and D' Arrest placed the variable nebula. It is a remarkable circumstance that this nebula is in the vicinity of a variable star, which changes somewhat irregularly from the ninth to the twelfth magnitude. At the time of the discovery, in 1861, both the star and the nebula were brighter than they have since become.

This is the best authenticated history of observed change in any nebula. It must be admitted that the changes are such as would not be expected if Herschel's theory were universally true.

Another remarkable occurrence in modern astronomy may be cited as having some bearing on the question as to the actual evidence for or against Herschel's theory. On November 24, 1876, Dr. Schmidt noticed a new star of the third magnitude, in the constellation Cygnus. The discoverer was confident that no corresponding object existed on the evening of the 20th of November. The brilliancy of the new star gradually declined, until, on the 13th of December, Mr. Hind found it of the sixth magnitude. The spectrum of this star was carefully studied by many observers, and it exhibited several bright lines, which indicated that the star differed from other stars by the possession of vast masses of glowing gaseous material. This star was observed by Dr. Copeland, at the Earl of Crawford's observatory, on September 2, 1877. It was then below the tenth magnitude, and of a decidedly bluish tint. Viewed through the spectroscope, the light of this star was almost completely monochromatic, and appeared to be indistinguishable from that which is often found to come from nebulæ. Dr. Copeland thus concludes:

Bearing in mind the history of this star from the time of its discovery by Schmidt, it would seem certain that we have an instance before us in which a star has changed into a planetary nebula of small angular diameter. At least it may be safely affirmed that no astronomer, discovering the object in its present state, would, after viewing it through a prism, hesitate to pronounce as to its present nebulous character.

It should, however, be added that Professor Pickering has since found slight traces of a continuous spectrum, but the object has now become so extremely faint that such observations are very difficult. This remarkable history might be adduced if we wished to procure evidence of the conversion of stars into nebulæ, but for the nebular theory we require evidence of the conversion of nebulæ into stars.

Care must be taken not to exaggerate the inferences to be drawn from the two instances I have quoted, viz., the variable nebula in Taurus and the new star in Cygnus. I think it more likely that both of