Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/541

This page has been validated.
523
ASTRONOMY WITH AN OPERA-GLASS.

variable stars. I have already mentioned the positions of the principal stars in the imaginary figure of the great hunter. I may add that his upraised right arm and club are represented by the stars seen in the map above Alpha (α) or Betelgeuse, one of which is marked Nu (ν) and another, in the knob of the club, Chi (χ). I have also, in speaking of Aldebaran, described the contrast in the colors of Betelgeuse and Beta (β) or Rigel. Betelgeuse, it may be remarked, is slightly variable. Sometimes it appears brighter than Rigel, and sometimes less brilliant. It is interesting to note that according to Secchi's division of the stars into types, based upon their spectra, Betelgeuse falls into the third order, which seems to represent a type of suns in which the process of cooling, and the formation of an absorptive envelope or shell have gone on so far that we may regard them as approaching the point of extinction. Rigel, on the other hand, belongs to the first order or type which represents suns that are probably both hotter and younger in the order of development. So, then, we may look upon the two chief stars of this great constellation as representing two stages of cosmical existence. Betelgeuse shows us a sun that has almost run its course, that has passed into its decline, and that already begins to faint and flicker and grow dim before the oncoming and inevitable fate of extinction; but in Rigel we see a sun blazing with the fires of youth, splendid in the first glow of its solar energies, and holding the promise of the future yet before it. Rigel belongs to PSM V32 D537 The sword of orion and the great nebula.jpgThe Sword of Orion and the Great Nebula. a new generation of the universe; Betelgeuse to the universe that is passing. We may pursue this comparison one step farther back and see in the great nebula, which glows dimly in the middle of the constellation, between Rigel triumphant and Betelgeuse languishing, a still earlier cosmical condition—the germ of suns whose infant rays may illuminate space when Rigel itself is growing dim.

Turn your glass upon the three stars forming the Belt. You will not be likely to undertake to count all the twinkling lights that you will see, especially as many of them appear and disappear as you turn your attention to different parts of the field. Sweep all around the Belt and also between the Belt and Gamma (γ) or Bellatrix. According to the old astrologers, women born under the influence of the star Bellatrix were lucky, and provided with good tongues. Of course this was fortunate for their husbands.

Below the belt will be seen a short row of stars hanging downward