Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/661

This page has been validated.
651
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is approached, in which time there may be as great an increase in two or three days as there formerly was in a month. The diminution of light is generally slower than the increase. The magnitude at corresponding times in different periods may be very different. Thus, as we have already remarked, Omicron Ceti is ten times as bright at some maxima as it is at others. The periods also, so far as they have been made out, vary more widely than those of stars of the other type.

The idea has sometimes been entertained that these variations of light are due to a revolution of the star on its axis. A very little consideration will, however, show that this explanation cannot be valid. However bright a star might be on one side, or however dark on the other, any one region of its surface would be visible to us half the time and a change of brightness from different degrees of brilliancy on different sides would be gradual and regular.

It is not impossible that the variability may be in some way connected with the action of a body revolving round the star. This seems to be the case with Eta Aquilæ. The radial motion of this object shows the existence of a dark body revolving round it in the same period as that of the star's variation.

From what has been said, it will be seen that, although a sharp line cannot be drawn, there seems to be some distinction between the stars of short and long periods. The number of stars which have been known to belong to the first class is quite small, only about fifteen, all told. On the other hand, there are still left some stars having a period less than ten days, which are otherwise not distinguishable from the Omicron Ceti type. It seems quite likely that the variations in the periods of these stars are, in some way, connected with the revolution of bright or dark bodies round them.

They also vary more widely than those of stars of the other two types. This might easily happen in the case of stars really variable through a cycle of changes going on in consequence of the action of interior causes.

The periodic stars of short period, which have not been recognized as of the Algol or Beta Lyræ type, form an interesting subject of study. Although the separation between them and the stars of long period is not sharp, it seems likely to have some element of reality in it. But no conclusions on the subject can be reached until the light-curves of a large number of them are carefully drawn; and this requires an amount of patient and accurate observation which cannot be carried out for years to come.

 
SUSPECTED VARIATIONS IN THE COLOR OF STARS.

The question whether certain stars vary in color without materially changing their brightness has sometimes been raised. This was at