Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/309

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Fig. 4. His telescope was a large one, but it can safely be said that he never saw a cluster so well as this object can be perceived through the aid of photography. He found in studying object after object in all parts of the heavens that many clusters could be resolved into their constituent stars. In some of these clusters the stars are widely separated by a powerful instrument, as they appear in this photograph. In others, either on account of their greater distance or because the stars are less widely spaced, the central regions are no longer clearly resolvable as separate objects. It is thus quite possible to imagine a cluster in which the stars are so closely grouped that no telescope, however powerful, could separately distinguish them.

Now as a matter of fact we find in all parts of the heavens luminous objects which can not be separated into stars. Some of these are of definite outline and are perfectly symmetrical in form, in many cases with a brilliant star-like nucleus at their center. These are known as the planetary nebula. Other nebulæ, like the great nebula in Orion (Fig. 6), are diffuse and irregular and extend over great regions of the sky. It was long a question whether such objects were capable of resolution into stars with a sufficiently powerful telescope. Herschel rightly concluded that an important distinction can be drawn between a nebula and a star cluster, though his son did not admit this distinction.

It was only after Huggins had applied the spectroscope to an analysis of the light of a nebula that it could be said without danger of contradiction that the phenomenon is not one produced by the crowding together of separate stars, but is due to the presence of a mass of incandescent gas. Sir William Huggins' account of his first spectroscopic examination of a nebula is recorded in the first volume of the 'Publications of the Tulse Hill Observatory':

"On the evening of August 29, 1864, I directed the spectroscope for the first time to a planetary nebula in Draco. I looked into the spectroscope, No spectrum such as I had expected! A single bright line only! At first I suspected some displacement of the prism, and that I was looking at a reflection of the illuminated slit from one of its faces. This thought was scarcely more than momentary; then the true interpretation flashed upon me. The light of the nebula was monochromatic and so, unlike any other light I had as yet subjected to prismatic examination, could not be extended out to form a complete spectrum. After passing through the two prisms it remained concentrated into a single bright line, having a width corresponding to the width of the slit, and occupying in the instrument a position at that part of the spectrum to which its light belongs in refrangibility. A little closer looking showed two other bright lines on the side towards the blue, all three lines being separated by intervals relatively dark. The riddle