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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/397

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CHAPTERS ON THE STARS.

length 343 c.m. Two sets of plates are taken, one to include all the stars that the instrument will photograph near poles, and the other only to take in those to the eleventh magnitude. Of the latter it is intended to prepare a catalogue. Some portions of the German and English catalogues have already been published, and their results will be made use of in the course of the present work.

 

numbering the stars.

Closely connected with the work of cataloguing the stars is that of enumerating them. In view of what may possibly be associated with any one star—planets with intellectual beings inhabiting them—the question how many stars there are in the heavens is one of perennial interest. But beyond the general statement we have already made, this question does not admit of even an approximate answer. The question which we should be able to answer is this: How many stars are there of each easily visible magnitude? How many of the first magnitude, of the second, of the third, and so on to the smallest that have been measured? Even in this form we cannot answer the question in a way which is at the same time precise and satisfactory. One magnitude merges into another by insensible gradations, so that no two observers will agree as to where the line should be drawn between them. The difficulty is enhanced by the modern system—very necessary, it is true—of regarding magnitude as a continuously varying quantity and estimating it with all possible precision. In adjusting the new system to the old one, it may be assumed that an average star of any given magnitude on the old system would be designated by the corresponding number on the new system. For example, an average star of the fourth magnitude would be called 4.0; one of the fifth, 5.0, etc. Then the brightest stars, which formerly were called of the fourth magnitude, would now be, if the estimate were carried to hundredths, 3.50, while the faintest would be 4.50. What were formerly called stars of the fifth magnitude would range from 4.50 to 5.50, and so on. But we have meet with a difficulty when we come to the sixth magnitude. On the modern system, magnitude 6.0 represents the faintest star visible to the naked eye; but the stars formerly included in this class would, on the average, be somewhat brighter than this, because none could be catalogued except those so visible.

The most complete enumeration of the lucid stars by magnitudes has been made by Pickering ('Annals of the Harvard Observatory,' Vol. XIV). The stars were classified by half magnitudes, calling

M. M.
Mag. 2.0 all from 1.75 to 2.25
2.5 "" 2.25 to 2.75
etc., etc.

For the northern stars Pickering used the Harvard Photometry; for