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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/281

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

aging by contrast with the manner in which the powers of some great telescopes have been misapplied and frittered away. There are some astronomers who seem to be fearful of nothing so much as that they may be suspected of having done, or said, or seen something interesting. Prof. Holden does not belong in that category, and it is exceedingly gratifying to know that the most powerful telescope on our planet is in the hands of a man who will use it for the broadening of our knowledge of the universe, even at the risk of contributing to the fund of "popular" information.

The discoveries that Prof. Holden has already announced to the world, in the few months since the Lick telescope was first turned upon the sky, are of surpassing interest. We note first the observations of nebula, and particularly of the well-known "ring nebula" in Lyra, one of the most attractive of celestial objects even with a telescope of moderate size. In that singular creation Prof. Holden has discovered a marvelous coexistence of rings of stars and nebular ovals, evidently intimately related to one another in a manner that is in the highest degree significant. Then, too, in the nebula known as 37 H 4 in the constellation Draco, Prof. Holden and one of his assistants, Mr. Schaeberle, appear to have discovered a phenomenon of an entirely new order. There a central star is surrounded by ovals of nebular matter which have assumed the form of a helix, and Prof. Holden himself suggests that this spiral or screw-shaped formation appears to have resulted from the emanation of the nebulous stuff from a body that was revolving around the central star while that star itself was moving swiftly through space. His observations promise to make us acquainted with other objects belonging to this same mysterious class.

The director of the Lick Observatory has not scorned to apply its powers to the scrutiny of the well-worn and familiar features of the dead and barren moon, and there too he has found something new and interesting. He believes he has solved the mystery of Sir William Herschel's lunar volcanoes, which that great observer imagined he had actually beheld in fiery eruption.

Some of the most interesting astronomical discoveries of recent years relate to the planet Mars, and foremost are the observations of Schiaparelli, of Milan, on those curious features of the planet's disk which have been called, from their form and their apparent connection with the Martian seas, "canals," Last summer Perrotin, of Nice, announced that one of the Martian continents named Libya had apparently been inundated by a neighboring sea. Not a few astronomers have doubted the existence of these comparatively minute markings and changes upon Mars, because they could not see them themselves. But Prof. Holden and his assistants turned the monster telescope upon Mars with the most interesting results. They confirmed the existence of Schiaparelli's "canals," though they did not see any of them double (doubtless owing to unfavorable conditions), and they found that Libya was still there, unsubmerged. These observations were made some months after those of M. Perrotin; and Prof. Holden suggests that the partial disappearance of Libya, which Perrotin ascribed to an inundation, may have been due rather to some such phenomenon as a veil of clouds in the atmosphere of Mars. At any rate, what were supposed to be such cloud-masses have previously been observed on Mars.

We have called attention to these various observations in order to show in what manner the Lick telescope is being used, as well as to indicate briefly some of the results already attained. We congratulate Prof. Holden and the University of California upon the splendid success of this great astronomical enterprise. The spirit of James Lick, if it can comprehend terrestrial doings