Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/560

This page has been validated.
542
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as an amulet, and that so the rondelles removed from the heads of men who had been subject to epileptic fits would acquire a virtue in the eyes of the ignorant and superstitious, and be employed as charms. And this seems to be both the simplest and most intelligible explanation of the phenomena of hole-pierced heads, and of the wearing of the portions removed from those heads by men and women who had not themselves been trepanned.—Cornhill Magazine.

 

THE NEW STAR IN THE MILKY WAY.

A "NEW STAR" is a representative of a class of phenomena so rare that the number recorded during the last few centuries may be counted on the fingers. Hence we readily conceive that, since they are very striking in themselves as breaking the monotony of the starry heavens, and since also their nature was considered till quite recently to be shrouded in mystery, a most lively interest has been stirred up by the recent new arrival, not only among astronomers, but among that large class who are always on the qui vive for celestial wonders.

When tortured by the many instruments which modern science places at the observer's disposal, a new star is quite a thing per se; while at times their brilliancy is extraordinary, some of these "new stars" having rivaled both Mars and Jupiter in brightness, and even sometimes Venus.

The time that they take to wax and to wane varies very considerably; some have lasted at their greatest brightness only for days, others have remained visible for months or occasionally for years. It generally happens that a "new star" when first seen is brightest, and many have thought that this is simply because the star is at the stage most likely to be noticed by us; but this may not be the entire truth, as can be gathered from a consideration of the various views which have been put forward as to their nature.

Among the many hypotheses that have been suggested to explain how it is that these strange bodies make their appearance from time to time, we may first of all mention that which supposed them due to the sudden colliding of a comet with a star; another theory assumed that a star at some period of its existence became enveloped in a kind of crust or slag, which by some cause or other became disrupted, and revealed the glowing mass within.

Both these hypotheses, although they might to a certain degree explain the sudden brightness of the star, would not hold good with regard to the rapid diminution of its light, because,