Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/488

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of the sun, and the distance between them, from center to center, is about eight million miles.

The manner in which the spectroscope revealed the existence of two stars in β Aurigæ is a beautiful illustration of the unexpected and, so to speak, automatic application of an old principle in the discovery of new facts not looked for. It was noticed at the Harvard Observatory that the lines in the photographed spectrum of β Aurigæ (and of a few other stars to be mentioned later) appeared single in some of the photographs and double in others. Investigation proved that the lines were doubled at regular intervals of about two days, and that they appeared single in the interim. The explanation was not far to seek. It is known that all stars which are approaching us have their spectral lines shifted, by virtue of their motion of approach, toward the violet end of the spectrum, and that, for a similar reason, all stars which are receding have their lines shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. Now, suppose two stars to be revolving around one another in a plane horizontal, or nearly so, to the line of sight. When they are at their greatest angular distance apart as seen from the earth one of them will evidently be approaching at the same moment that the other is receding. The spectral lines of the first will therefore be shifted toward the violet, and those of the second will be shifted toward the red. Then if the stars, when at their greatest distance apart, are still so close that the telescope can not separate them, their light will be combined in the spectrum; but the spectral lines, being simultaneously shifted in opposite directions, will necessarily appear to be doubled. As the revolution of the stars continues, however, it is clear that their motion will soon cease to be performed in the line of sight, and will become more and more athwart that line, and as this occurs the spectral lines will gradually assume their normal position and appear single. This is the sequence of phenomena in β Aurigæ.

Such facts, like those connecting rows and groups of stars with masses and spiral lines of nebula, present a terrible temptation to speculation; but who shall say that they do not also, like obscure signboards, indicate the opening of a way which, starting in an unexpected direction, nevertheless leads deep into the mysteries of the universe?

Southward from β we find the star θ, which is a beautiful quadruple. We shall do best with our five-inch here, although in a fine condition of the atmosphere the four-inch might suffice. The primary is of the third magnitude; the first companion is of magnitude seven and a half, distance 2″, p. 5°; the second, of the tenth magnitude, distance 45″, p. 292°; and the third, of the tenth magnitude, distance 125″, p. 350°.

We should look at the double Σ 616 with one of our larger