Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/542

This page has been validated.
524
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and representing the sword. In the middle of this row is the great Orion nebula. The star Theta (θ) involved in the nebula is multiple and the position of this little cluster of suns is such that, as has been said, they seem to be feeding upon the substance of the nebula surrounding them. Other stars are seen scattered in different parts of the nebula. This phenomenon can be plainly seen with an opera-glass. Our picture of the Sword of Orion shows its appearance with a good field-glass. With such a glass several tine test-objects will be found in the Sword. One of the best of these is formed by the two five-pointed stars seen in the picture close together above the nebula. No difficulty will be encountered in separating these stars with a field-glass, but it will require a little sharp watching to detect the small star between the two and just above the line joining them. So, the bending row of faint stars above and to the right of the group just described will be found rather elusive as individuals, though easily glimpsed as a whole. Of the great nebula itself not much detail can be seen. Yet by averting the eyes the extension of the nebulous light in every direction from the center can be detected and traced, under favorable circumstances, to a considerable distance. The changes that this nebula has certainly undergone in the brilliancy, if not in the form, of different parts of it, are perhaps indications of the operation of forces, which we know must prevail there, and whose tendency can only be in the direction of condensation, and the ultimate formation of future suns and worlds. Yet, as the appearance of the nebula in great telescopes shows, we can not expect that the processes of creation will here produce a homologue of our solar system. The curdled appearance of the nebula indicates the formation of various centers of condensation the final result of which will doubtless be a group of stars like some of those which we see in the heavens, and whose common motion shows that they are bound together in the chains of reciprocal gravitation. The Pleiades are an example of such a group.

Do not fail to look for a little star just west of Rigel, and which, with a good opera-glass, appears to be almost hidden in the flashing rays of its brilliant companion. If you have also a field-glass, after you have detected this shy little twinkler with your opera-glass, try the larger glass upon it. You will find then that the little star originally seen is not the only one there. A still smaller star, which had before been completely hidden, will now be perceived. I may add that, with telescopes, Rigel is one of the most beautiful double stars in the sky, having a little blue companion close under its wing. Run your glass along the line of little stars forming the lion's skin or shield that Orion opposes to the onset of Taurus. Here you will find some interesting combinations, and the star marked on the map π5 will especially attract your eye, because it is accompanied, about fifteen minutes to the northwest, by a seventh-magnitude star of a remarkably rich orange hue.