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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/530

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

whose commingled scintillations form a celestial illumination of singular splendor.

"Thus graced and armed he leads the starry host."

By the time Orion has chased the Bull half-way up the eastern slope of the firmament, the peerless Dog-Star, Sirius, is flaming at the edge of the horizon, while farther north glitters Procyon, the Little Dog-Star, and still higher are seen the twin stars in Gemini. When these constellations have advanced well toward the meridian, as shown in our circular Map No. 1, their united radiance forms a scene never to be forgotten. Counting one of the stars in Gemini as of the first rank, there are no less than seven first-magnitude stars ranged around one another in a way that can not fail to attract the attention and the admiration of the most careless observer. Aldebaran, Capella, the Twins, Procyon, Sirius, and Rigel mark the angles of a huge hexagon, while Betelgeuse shines with ruddy beauty not far from the center of the figure. The heavens contain no other naked-eye view comparable with this great array, not even the glorious celestial region where the Southern Cross shines supreme, being equal to it in splendor.

To counterbalance the discomforts of winter observations of the stars, the observer finds that the softer skies of summer have no such marvellous brilliants to dazzle his eyes as those that illumine the hyemal heavens. To comprehend the real glories of the celestial sphere in the depth of winter one should spend a few clear nights in the rural districts of New York or New England, when the hills, clad with sparkling blankets of crusted snow, reflect the glitter of the living sky. In the pure frosty air the stars seem splintered and multiplied indefinitely, and the brighter ones shine with a splendor of light and color unknown to the denizen of the smoky city, whose eyes are dulled and blinded by the glare of street-lights. There one may detect the delicate shade of green that lurks in the imperial blaze of Sirius, the beautiful rose-red light of Aldebaran, the rich orange hue of Betelgeuse, the blue-white radiance of Rigel, and the pearly luster of Capella. If you have never seen the starry heavens except as they appear from city streets and squares, then, I had almost said, you have never seen them at all, and especially in the winter is this true. I wish I could describe to you the impression that they can make upon the opening mind of a country boy, who, knowing as yet nothing of the little great world around him, stands in the yawning silence of night and beholds the inimitably great world above him, looking deeper than thought can go into the shining vistas of the universe, and overwhelmed with the wonder of those marshaled suns.

Looking, now, at Map No. 1, we see the heavens as they appear at midnight on the 1st of December, at 10 o'clock p. m. on the 1st of January, and at 8 o'clock p. m. on the 1st of February. In the western half of the sky we recognize Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, Cetus, Aries,