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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/406

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a telescope, be examined with a spectroscope, one might hope to see at the edge of the disk the bright lines belonging to the spectrum of the prominences, in case they are really gaseous.

Mr. Lockyer and Mr. Huggins both tried the experiment as early as 1867, but without success; partly because their instruments had not sufficient power to bring out the lines conspicuously, but more because they did not know whereabouts in the spectrum to look for them, and were not even sure of their existence. At any rate, as soon as the discovery was announced, Mr. Huggins immediately saw the lines without difficulty, with the same instrument which had failed to show them to him before. It is a fact, too often forgotten, that to perceive a thing known to exist does not require one-half the instrumental power or acuteness of sense as to discover it.

Mr. Lockyer, immediately after his suggestion was published, had set about procuring a suitable instrument, and was assisted by a grant from the treasury of the Royal Society. After a long delay, consequent in part upon the death of the optician who had first undertaken its construction, and partly due to other causes, he received the new spectroscope just as the report of Herschel's and Tennant's observations reached England. Hastily adjusting the instrument, not yet entirely completed, he at once applied it to his telescope, and without difficulty found the lines, and verified their position. He immediately also discovered them to be visible around the whole circumference of the sun, and consequently that the protuberances are mere extensions of a continuous solar envelope, to which, as mentioned above, was given the name of Chromosphere. (He does not seem to have been aware of the earlier and similar conclusions of Arago, Grant, Secchi, and others.) He at once communicated his results to the Royal Society, and also to the French Academy of Sciences, and, by one of the curious coincidences which so frequently occur, his letter and Janssen's were read at the same meeting, and within a few minutes of each other.

The discovery excited the greatest enthusiasm, and in 1872 the French Government struck a gold medal in honor of the two astronomers, bearing their united effigies.

It immediately occurred to several observers, Janssen, Lockyer, Zöllner, and others, that by giving a rapid motion of vibration or rotation to the slit of the spectroscope it would be possible to perceive the whole contour and detail of a protuberance at once, but it seems to have been reserved for Mr. Huggins to be the first to show practically that a still simpler device would answer the same purpose. With a spectroscope of sufficient dispersive power it is only necessary to widen the slit of the instrument by the proper adjusting screw. As the slit is widened, more and more of the protuberance becomes visible, and if not too large the whole can be seen at once: with the widening of the slit, however, the brightness of the background increases, so that the finer details of the object are less clearly seen, and a limit