Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/189

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175
ARE THERE PLANETS AMONG THE STARS?

against such beings as the inhabitants of the earth. Beyond the sun's domain only whirling stars, coupled in eccentric orbits; dark stars, some of them, but no planets; a wilderness, full of all energies except those of sentient life! This is not a pleasing picture, and I do not think we are driven to contemplate it. Beyond doubt, Dr. See is right in concluding that the double and multiple star systems, with their components all of magnitudes comparable among themselves, revolving in exceedingly eccentric orbits under the stress of their mutual gravitation, bear no resemblance to the orderly system of our sun with its attendant worlds. And it is not easy to imagine that the respective members of such systems could themselves be the centers of minor systems of planets, on account of the perturbing influences to which the orbits of such minor systems would be subjected.

But the double and multiple stars, numerous though they be, are outnumbered a hundred to one by the single stars which shine alone as our sun does. What reason can we have, then, for excluding these single stars, constituting as they do the vast majority of the celestial host, from a similarity to the sun in respect to the manner of their evolution from the original nebulous condition? These stars exhibit no companions, such planetary attendants as they may have lying, on account of their minuteness, far beyond the reach of our most powerful instruments. But since they vastly outnumber the binary and multiple systems, and since they resemble the sun in having no large attendants, should we be justified, after all, in regarding our system as "unique"? It is true we do not know, by visual evidence, that the single stars have planets, but we find planets attending the only representative of that class of stars that we are able to approach closely—the sun—and we know that the existence of those planets is no mere accident, but the result of the operation of physical laws which must hold good in every instance of nebular condensation.

Two different methods are presented in which a rotating and contracting nebula may shape itself into a stellar or planetary system. The first is that described by Laplace, and generally accepted as the probable manner of origin of the solar system—viz., the separation of rings from the condensing mass, and the subsequent transformation of the rings into planets. The planet Saturn is frequently referred to as an instance of the operation of this law, in which the evolution has been arrested after the separation of the rings, the latter having retained the ring form instead of breaking and collecting into globes, forming in this case rings of meteorites, and reminding us of the comparatively scattered ring of asteroids surrounding the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This Laplacean process Dr.