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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/355

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341
SCENES ON THE PLANETS.

western edge of the disk, gradually losing their distinctness and altering their appearance, while from the region of indistinct definition near the eastern edge other markings slowly emerge and advance toward the center, becoming sharper in outline and more clearly defined in color as they swing into view.

Watching these changes, the observer is carried away by the reflection that he actually sees the turning of another distant world upon its axis of rotation, just as he might view the revolving earth from a standpoint on the moon. Belts of reddish clouds, many thousands of miles across, are stretched along on each side of the equator of the great planet he is watching; the equatorial belt itself, brilliantly lemon-hued, or sometimes ruddy, is diversified with white globular and balloon-shaped masses, which almost recall the appearance of summer cloud domes hanging over a terrestrial landscape, while toward the poles shadowy expanses of gradually deepening blue or blue-gray suggest the comparative coolness of those regions which lie always under a low sun.

After a few nights' observation even the veriest amateur finds himself recognizing certain shapes or appearances—a narrow dark belt running slopingly across the equator from one of the main cloud zones to the other, or a rift in one of the colored bands, or a rotund white mass apparently floating above the equator, or a broad scallop in the edge of a belt like that near the site of the celebrated "red spot," whose changes of color and aspect since its first appearance in 1878, together with the light it has thrown on the constitution of Jupiter's disk, have all but created a new Jovian literature, so thoroughly and so frequently have they been discussed.

And, having noticed these recurring features, the observer will begin to note their relations to one another, and will thus be led to observe that some of them gradually drift apart, while others drift nearer; and after a time, without any aid from books or hints from observatories, he will discover for himself that there is a law governing the movements on Jupiter's disk. Upon the whole he will find that the swiftest motions are near the equator, and the slowest near the poles, although, if he is persistent and has a good eye and a good instrument, he will note exceptions to this rule, probably arising, as Professor Hough suggests, from differences of altitude in Jupiter's atmosphere. Finally, he will conclude that the colossal globe before him is, exteriorly at least, a vast ball of clouds and vapors, subject to tremendous vicissitudes, possibly intensely heated, and altogether different in its physical constitution, although made up of similar elements, from the earth. Then, if he chooses, he can sail off into the delightful cloud-land of