Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/310

This page has been validated.

inhabitants have found it necessary to economize to the utmost whatever stock there may be of this most necessary element. The observations at Flagstaff tend to show that the dark lines on Mars mark the course of the canals by which the water melted in summer in the arctic regions is conducted over the globe to the tracts where the water is wanted. Not that the line as we see it represents actually the water itself; the straight line so characteristic of Mars's globe seems rather to correspond to the zones of vegetation which are brought into culture by means of water that flows along a canal in its center. In much the same way would the course of the Nile be exhibited to an inhabitant on Mars who was directing a telescope toward this earth: the river itself would not be visible, but the cultivated tracts which owe their fertility to the irrigation from the river would be broad enough to be distinguishable. The appearance of these irrigated zones would vary, of course, with the seasons; and we observe, as might have been expected, changes in the lines on Mars corresponding to the changes in the seasons of the planet.

A noteworthy development of astronomy in the last century has been the erection of mighty telescopes for the study of the heavens. It must here suffice to mention, as the latest and most remarkable of these, the famous instrument at the Yerkes Observatory, which belongs to the University of Chicago. Just as the century is drawing to its close, the Yerkes telescope has begun to enter on its sublime task of exhibiting the heavens under greater advantages than have ever been previously afforded to any astronomers since the world began.

The University of Chicago having been recently founded, it was desired to associate with the university an astronomical observatory which should be worthy of the astonishingplace that this wonderful city has assumed in the world's history. Mr. Yerkes, an American millionaire, generously undertook to provide the cost of this observatory. Two noble disks of glass, forty inches in diameter, were produced at the furnaces of Messrs. Mantois, in Paris; these disks were worked by Mr. Alvan Clark, of Boston, into the famous object glass which, weighing nearly half a ton, has now been mounted in what we may describe as a temple or a palace such as had never been dreamed of before in the whole annals of astronomy.

Perhaps if we could now place the science of the nineteenth century in its proper perspective the most remarkable discovery which it contains would be that of the planet Neptune. Indeed, the whole annals of science present no incident of a more dramatic character.