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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/107

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THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE.

entire critical region west of the sun, and only five or six degrees below it; and for the Egyptian party to cover the whole region east of the sun and only five or six degrees below it.

Eclipse observation of the sun itself concerns all that lies outside the photosphere and faculæ. While the main features of these outer volumes are for the most part quite irregular in form, yet in a general way they lie, going outward from the photosphere, in the order of reversing layer, chromosphere, prominences and corona.

The reversing layer was discovered at the eclipse of 1870 by Professor Young. It appears to consist of a thin stratum of incandescent gases, probably between five hundred and fifteen hundred miles in thickness, immediately overlying the photosphere. Its inner bounding surface seems to be quite definite and regular, but its outer surface is certainly not so. The depth of the stratum of vapor for each element composing it is probably a function of the properties and quantity of the element in question. The reversing layer is cooler than its substrata, yet abundantly hot, if isolated from its underlying strata, to produce a spectrum consisting of thousands of bright lines occupying the positions of the dark lines of the ordinary photospheric spectrum. When the moon, at the eclipse of 1870, gradually covered the photosphere, the dark-line spectrum lasted until the instant when the photosphere entirely vanished, whereupon the reversing layer was isolated, and Young observed the sudden flashing out of its bright-line spectrum. A bright line apparently replaced each dark line, and lasted perhaps two or three seconds, until the moon entirely covered the reversing stratum.

In so complex a spectrum, lasting but a few seconds, visual observations were difficult, and no records of any considerable consequence could be made. The bright-line (flash) spectrum was photographed for the first time by Shackleton at the eclipse of 1896; and several photographs of it were secured at the three succeeding eclipses, but many were defective on account of poor focusing or other cause. They confirm Young's discovery of the reversing layer, which, by the absorption of its cooler gases, introduces the dark lines in the solar spectrum. The lengths of the arcs not covered by the moon also tell us much concerning the thicknesses of the vapors of the various elements, and therefore much concerning the structure of the sun at those levels. Additional work, with more powerful instruments, in perfect adjustment, is demanded, with a view to securing better quantitative results.

Photographs of the reversing-layer spectrum, made with two, four, or more seconds' exposure, are integrated effects. Changes taking place during the exposure are lost. For this reason, it would be very valuable if a continuous record of the spectrum at one point on the limb could be secured on a plate moving in the direction of the length