Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/660

This page has been validated.

period of variation. It will be seen that the epoch of greatest negative velocity, which referred to the center of mass of the system, is 16.2 km, per second, occurs at the time of maximum brightness. The greatest positive velocity, 23.9 km., occurs during the sixth day of the period just after the time of minimum brightness.

Finally, the moments of inferior and superior conjunction of the dark body with the bright one are neither of them an epoch of minimum brightness, which takes place half-way between the two.

The most plausible conclusion we can draw is that the light of the star is affected by the action of the dark body during its revolution. But how the change may be produced we cannot yet say.


A classification of variable stars, based on the period of variation and the law of change, was proposed by Pickering. It does not, however, seem that a hard and fast line can yet be drawn between different types and classes of these bodies, one type running into another, as we have found in the case of the Algol and Beta Lyræ types. Yet the discovery of the cause of the variation in these types makes it likely that a division into two great classes, dependent on the cause of variation, is possible. We should then have:

(1) Stars, or systems, constituting to vision a single star, of which the apparent variability arises from the rotation of the system as a whole, or from the revolution of its components around each other.

(2) Stars of which the changes arise from other and as yet unknown causes.

The main feature of the stars of the first class is that we are under no necessity of supposing any actual change in the amount of light which they emit. Their apparent variations are purely the effect of perspective, arising from the various aspects which they present to us during their revolution round each other. If we could change our point of view so that the plane of the orbit of Algol's planet no longer passed near our system, Algol would no longer be a variable star. Under the same circumstances the apparent variations in a star of the Beta Lyræ type would cease to be noticeable, if they did not disappear entirely.

The stars of this class are also distinguished by the uniformity and regularity with which they go through their cycle of change.

The stars of the other class, which we may call the Omicron Ceti type, are different not only in respect to the length of the period, but in the character of the variation. There are certain general laws of variation and irregularities of brightness which stars of this class go through. Starting from the time of the minimum, the increase of light is at first very slow. It grows more and more rapid as the maximum