Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/186

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insignificant in comparison with the larger, that the former could become a cool, life-bearing globe, nourished by the beneficent rays of its organic comrade and master.

Judged by our terrestrial experience, which is all we have to go by, the magnitude of a planet, if it is to bear life resembling that of the earth, is limited by other considerations. Even Jupiter, which, as far as our knowledge extends, represents the extreme limit of great planetary size, may be too large ever to become the abode of living beings of a high organization. The force of gravitation on the surface of Jupiter exceeds that on the earth's surface as 2.64 to 1. Considering the effects of this on the weight and motion of bodies, the density of the atmosphere, the laws of pneumatics, etc., it is evident that Jupiter would, to say the very least, be an exceedingly uncomfortable place of abode for beings resembling ourselves. But Jupiter, if it is ever to become a solid, rocky globe like ours, must shrink enormously in volume, since its density is only 0.24 as compared with the earth. Now, the surface gravity of a planet depends on its mass and its radius, being directly as the former and inversely as the square of the latter. But in shrinking Jupiter will lose none of its mass, although its radius will become much smaller. The force of gravity will consequently increase on its surface as the planet gets smaller and more dense.

The present mean diameter of Jupiter is 86,500 miles, while its mass exceeds that of the earth in the ratio of 316 to 1. Suppose Jupiter shrunk to three quarters of its present diameter, or 64,800 miles, then its surface gravity would exceed the earth's nearly five times. With one half its present diameter the surface gravity would become more than ten times that of the earth. On such a planet a man's bones would snap beneath his weight, even granting that he could remain upright at all! It would seem, then, that, unless we are to abandon terrestrial analogies altogether and "go it blind," we must set an upper limit to the magnitude of a habitable planet, and that Jupiter represents such upper limit, if, indeed, he does not transcend it.

The question then becomes, Can the faint objects seen by Dr. See and his fellow-observers, in the near neighborhood of certain stars, be planets in the sense just described, or are they necessarily far greater in magnitude than the largest planet, in the accepted sense of that word, which can be admitted into the category—viz., the planet Jupiter? This resolves itself into another question: At what distance would Jupiter be visible with a powerful telescope, supposing it to receive from a neighboring star an amount of illumination not less than that which it gets from the sun? To be sure, we do not know how far away the faint objects described by