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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/172

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Nothing more was ever seen of the light, so far as any record informs us, until 1865, when Grover, an English observer, caught sight of it again, under circumstances similar to those of its first apparition, and watched it for half an hour, when it once more disappeared. It should be said that, in the case of Dr. Gerling's observation, referred to by Prof. Holden, a "small, round, isolated, conical mountain" was found in the place where the light had been, on the evening following its appearance. It is altogether probable that the gray or black spot perceived by Schroeter was the shadow of a similar mountain, for it is well known that some of the lunar mountains and hills are hardly visible at all except when lateral illumination indicates their position and form by means of the shadows.

Herschel thought he had seen three active volcanoes. If Prof. Holden's discovery accounts for one of these, it is possible that the observations I have just described may give a clew to the others. The phenomenon seen by Schroeter and Grover was located fifty or sixty miles north of the point where Prof. Holden beheld the extraordinary blaze of light last July, and at a point where the mountains, drawing around a culminating peak, confront with tremendous buttresses the broad level of the Mare Imbrium.

The objection has been made by Messrs. Elger and Williams, two competent English observers, that Herschel's volcanoes can not be identical with the glittering peaks seen by either Holden or Gerling, because the latter were observed close to the line of sunrise, where the morning rays touched them, while the phenomena that attracted Herschel's attention were situated far within that part of the disk where the only light came from the earth. But Prof. Holden does not say that the illumination he witnessed was identical in place with those recorded by Herschel, but simply that it was identical in kind. Besides, it must be remembered that, if these luminous appearances are due to peculiar angles of reflection, a similar effect must be produced whether the reflecting surfaces are presented to the sunlight or only to the earth-shine. The difference would be simply in the degree of brightness of the phenomena.

But while the discovery with the Lick telescope may account for Herschel's mistake, it does not clear up the mystery of the cause of these extraordinary lights. In every case quoted above, the illumination was evidently very much greater than that of Aristarchus, the most brilliant of the shining mountains. Proctor estimated that the reflective power of Aristarchus must be equal to that of new-fallen snow. But the mountain-crest observed by Prof. Holden blazed with a dazzling brilliancy that it would be difficult to account for except upon the theory that nearly all of the sunlight falling upon it was reflected to the ob-