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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/353

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SCENES ON THE PLANETS.

There is a charm about the great planet when he rides high in a clear evening sky, lording it over the fixed stars with his serene, unflickering luminousness, which no possessor of a telescope can resist. You turn the glass upon him and he floats into the field of view, with his cortege of satellites, like a yellow-and-red moon, attended by four miniatures of itself. You instantly comprehend Jupiter's mastery over his satellites—their allegiance is evident. No one would for an instant mistake them for stars accidentally seen in the same field of view. Although it requires a very large telescope to magnify their disks to measurable dimensions, yet the smallest glass differentiates them at once from the fixed stars. There is something almost startling in their appearance of companionship with the huge planet—this sudden verification to your eyes of the laws of gravitation and of central forces. It is easy, while looking at Jupiter amid his family, to understand the consternation of the churchmen when Galileo's telescope revealed that miniature of the solar system, and it is gratifying to gaze upon one of the first battle grounds whereon science gained a decisive victory for truth.

The swift changing of place among the satellites, as well as the rapidity of Jupiter's axial rotation, give the attraction of visible movement to the Jovian spectacle. The planet rotates in four or five minutes less than ten hours—in other words, it makes two turns and four tenths of a third turn while the earth is turning once upon its axis. A point on Jupiter's equator moves about twenty-seven thousand miles, or considerably more than the entire circumference of the earth, in a single hour. The effect of this motion is clearly perceptible to the observer with a telescope on account of the diversified markings and colors of the moving disk, and to watch it is one of the greatest pleasures that the telescope affords.

It would be possible, when the planet is favorably situated, to witness an entire rotation of Jupiter in the course of one night, but the beginning and end of the observation would be more or less interfered with by the effects of low altitude, to say nothing of the tedium of so long a vigil. But by looking at the planet for an hour at a time in the course of a few nights every side of it will have been presented to view. Suppose the first observation is made between nine and ten o'clock on any night which may have been selected. Then on the following night between ten and eleven o'clock Jupiter will have made two and a half turns upon his axis, and the side diametrically opposite to that seen on the first night will be visible. On the third night between eleven and twelve o'clock Jupiter will have performed five com-