Popular Science Monthly/Volume 31/August 1887/Astronomy with an Opera-Glass III
|ASTRONOMY WITH AN OPERA-GLASS.|
THE MOON AND THE SUN.
By GARRETT P. SERVISS.
"IT is a most beautiful and delightful sight," exclaims Galileo, in describing the discoveries he had made with his telescope, "to behold the body of the moon, which is distant from us nearly sixty semi-diameters of the earth, as near as if it was at a distance of only two of the same measures. ... And, consequently, any one may know with the certainty that is due to the use of our senses that the moon assuredly does not possess a smooth and polished surface, but one rough and uneven, and, just like the face of the earth itself, is every-where full of vast protuberances, deep chasms, and sinuosities."
There was, perhaps, nothing in the long series of discoveries with which Galileo astonished the world after he had constructed his telescope, which, as he expresses it, "was devised by me through God's grace first enlightening my mind," that had a greater charm for him than his lunar observations. Certainly there was nothing which he has described with greater enthusiasm and eloquence. And this could hardly have been otherwise, for the moon was the first celestial object to which Galileo turned his telescope, and then for the first time human eyes may be said to have actually looked into another world than the earth, though his discoveries and those of his successors have not realized all the poetic fancies about the moon contained in the verses that are ascribed to Orpheus:
Which gods Selene name, and men the moon.
Yet Galileo's observations at once upset the theory, for which Apollonius was responsible, and which seems to have been widely prevalent up to his time, that the moon was a smooth body, polished like a mirror, and presenting in its light and dark spots reflections of the continents and oceans of the earth. He also demonstrated that its surface was covered with plains and mountains, but the "cities and temples" of the moon have remained to our time only within the ken of romance.
Galileo's telescope, as I have before remarked, was, in the principle of its construction, simply an opera-glass of one tube. He succeeded in making a glass of this kind that magnified thirty diameters, a very much higher power than is given to the opera-and field-glasses of to-day. Yet he had to contend with the disadvantages of single lenses, achromatic combinations of glass for optical purposes not being contrived until nearly a hundred years after his death, and so his telescope did not possess quite as decided a superiority over a modern field-glass as the difference in magnifying power would imply. In fact, if the reader will view the moon with a first-rate field-glass, he will perceive that the true nature of the surface of the lunar globe can be readily discerned with such an instrument. Even a small opera-glass will reveal much to the attentive observer of the moon; but for these observations the reader should, if possible, make use of a field-glass, and the higher its power the better. The illustrations accompanying this article were made by the author with the aid of a glass magnifying six diameters.
Of course, the first thing the observer will wish to see will be the mountains of the moon, for everybody has heard of them, and the most sluggish imagination is stirred by the thought that one can look off into the sky and behold "the eternal hills" of another planet as solid and substantial as our own. But the chances are that, if left to their own guidance, ninety-nine persons out of a hundred would choose exactly the wrong time to see these mountains. At any rate, that is my experience with people who have come to look at the moon through my telescope. Unless warned beforehand, they invariably wait until full moon, when the flood of sunshine poured perpendicularly upon the face of our satellite conceals its rugged features as effectually as if a veil had been drawn over them. Begin your observations with the appearance of the narrowest crescent of the new moon, and follow it as it gradually fills, and then you will see how beautifully the advancing line of lunar sunrise reveals the mountains, over whose slopes and peaks it is climbing, by its ragged and sinuous outline. The observer must keep in mind the fact that he is looking straight down upon the tops of the lunar mountains. It is like a view from a balloon, only at a vastly greater height than any balloon has ever attained. Even with a powerful telescope the observer sees the moon at an apparent distance of several hundred miles, while with a field-glass, magnifying six diameters, the moon appears as if forty thousand miles off. The apparent distance with Galileo's telescope was eight thousand miles. Recollect how when seen from a great height the rugosities of the earth's surface flatten out and disappear, and then try to imagine how the highest mountains on the earth would look if you were suspended forty thousand miles above them, and you will, perhaps, rather wonder at the fact that the moon's mountains can be seen at all.
It is the contrast of lights and shadows that not only reveals them to us, but enables us to measure their height. On the moon shadows are very much darker than upon the earth, because of the extreme rarity of the moon's atmosphere, if indeed it has any atmosphere at all. By stepping around the corner of a rock there, one might pass abruptly from dazzling noonday into the blackness of midnight. The surface of the moon is extraordinarily rough and uneven. It possesses broad plains, which are probably the bottoms of ancient seas that have now dried up, but these cover only about two fifths of the surface visible to us, and most of the remaining three fifths are exceedingly rugged and mountainous. Many of the mountains of the moon are, foot for foot, as lofty as the highest mountains on the earth, while all of them, in proportion to the size of the moon's globe, are much larger than the earth's mountains. It is obvious, then, that the sunshine as it creeps over these Alpine landscapes in the moon, casting the black shadows of the peaks and craters many miles across the plains, and capping the summits of lofty mountains with light, while the lower regions far around them are yet buried in night, must clearly reveal the character of the lunar surface. Mountains that can not be seen at all when the light falls perpendicularly upon them, or, at the most, appear then merely as shining points, picture themselves by their shadows in startling silhouettes when illuminated laterally by the rising sun.
But at full moon, while the mountains hide themselves in light, the old sea-beds are seen spread out among the shining table-lands with great distinctness. Even the naked eye readily detects these as ill-defined, dark patches upon the face of the moon, and to their presence are due the popular notions that have prevailed in all quarters of the world about the "Man in the Moon," the "Woman in the Moon," "Jacob in the Moon," the "Hare in the Moon," the "Toad in the Moon," and so on. But, however clearly one may imagine that he discerns a man in the moon while recalling the nursery rhymes about him, an opera-glass instantly puts the specter to flight, and shows the round lunar disk diversified and shaded like a map.
A feature of the full moon's surface that instantly attracts attention is the remarkable brightness of the southern part of the disk, and the brilliant streaks radiating from a bright point near the lower edge. The same simile almost invariably comes to the lips of every person who sees this phenomenon for the first time—"It looks like a peeled orange." The bright point, which is the great crater-mountain Tycho, looks exactly like the pip of the orange, and the light streaks radiating from it in all directions bear an equally striking resemblance to the streaks that one sees upon an orange after the outer rind has been removed. I shall have something more to say about these curious streaks farther on; in the mean time, let us glance at our first illustration, which is a small sketch-map of the moon.
The so-called seas are marked on the map, for the purpose of reference, by the letters which they ordinarily bear in lunar maps. The numerals indicate craters, or ring-plains, and mountain-ranges. The following key-list will enable the reader to identify all the objects that are lettered or numbered upon the map. I have given English translations of the Latin names which the old astronomers bestowed upon the seas:
Fig. 1.—Map of the Moon.
Seas, Gulfs, and Marshes.
|A. The Crisian Sea.||I. The Marsh of Mists.||R. The Bay of Dew.|
|B. Humboldt Sea.||K. The Marsh of Putrefaction.||S. The Sea of Clouds.|
|C. The Sea of Cold.||L. The Sea of Vapors.||T. The Sea of Humors.|
|D. The Lake of Death.||M. The Central Gulf.||V. The Sea of Nectar.|
|E. The Lake of Dreams.||N. The Gulf of Heats.||X. The Sea of Fertility.|
|F. The Marsh of Sleep.||O. The Sea of Showers.||Z. The South Sea.|
|G. The Sea of Tranquillity.||P. The Bay of Rainbows|
|H. The Sea of Serenity.||Q. The Ocean of Storms.|
Mountains and Crater Rings.
|6.||Pitatus.||20.||Ptolemaus.||34.||Posidonius.||47.||The Carpathian Mts.|
|10.||Maginus.||24.||Cyrillus.||38.||The Caucasus Mountains.||51.||Aristarchus.|
|12.||Newton.||26.||The Altai Mountains.||39.||Eudoxus.|
The early selenographers certainly must have been men of vivid imagination, and the romantic names they gave to the lunar landscapes, and particularly to the "seas," add a charm of their own to the study of the moon. Who would not wish to see the "Bay of Rainbows," or the "Lake of Dreams," or the "Sea of Tranquillity," if for no other reason than a curiosity to know what could have induced men to give to these regions in the moon such captivating names? Or who would not desire to visit them if he could? though no doubt we should find them, like the "Delectable Mountains" in the "Pilgrim's Progress," most charming when seen from afar.
The limited scale of our map, of course, rendered it impossible to represent upon it more than a comparatively small number of the lunar mountains that have received names. In selecting those to be put in the map, I have endeavored to choose such as, on account of their size, their situation, or some striking peculiarity, would be most likely to attract the attention of a novice. The observer must not expect to see them all at once, however. The lunar features change their appearance to a surprising extent, in accordance with the direction of their illumination. Some great mountain-masses and ring-plains, or craters, which present scenes of magnificence when the sun is rising or setting upon them, disappear under a perpendicular light, such as they receive at full moon. The great crater-plain, known as Maginus, numbered 10 in our map, is one of these. The broken mountain-wall surrounding this vast depressed plain rises in some places to a height of over fourteen thousand feet above the valley within, and the spectacle of sunrise upon Maginus, seen with a powerful telescope, is a most impressive sight, and even with a field-glass it is very interesting. Yet, a few days later, Maginus vanishes, as if it had been swallowed up, and as Beer and Mädler have expressed it, "the full moon knows no Maginus." The still grander formation of mountain, plain, and crater, called Clavius (11 in the map), disappears almost as completely as Maginus at full moon, yet, under the proper illumination, it presents a splendid pageant of light and shadow.
On the other hand, some of the lunar mountains shine vividly at full moon, and can be well seen then, though, of course, only as light spots, since at that time they cast no shadows. Menelaus (36 in the map), Aristarchus (51), Proclus (30), Copernicus (46), and Kepler (52), are among these shining mountains. Aristarchus is the most celebrated of them all, being the brightest point on the moon. It can even be seen glimmering on the dark side of the moon—that is to say, when no light reaches it except that which is reflected from the earth. With a large telescope, Aristarchus is so dazzlingly bright under a high sun, that the eye is partly blinded in gazing at it. It consists of a mountain-ring surrounding a circular valley, about twenty-eight miles in diameter. The flanks of these mountains, especially on their inner slopes, and the floor of the valley within, are very bright, while a peak in the center of the valley, about as high as Storm King Mountain on the Hudson, shines with piercing brilliancy. Sir William Herschel mistook it for a volcano in action. It certainly is not an active volcano, but just what makes it so dazzling no one knows. The material of which this mountain is formed, would seem to possess a higher reflective power than that of any other portion of the moon's surface. One is irresistibly reminded of the crystallized mountains described in the celebrated "Moon Hoax" of Richard Adams Locke. With an opera-glass, you can readily recognize Aristarchus as a bright point at full moon. With a field-glass it is better seen, and some of the short, light rays surrounding it are perceived, while, when the sun is rising upon it, about four days after first quarter, its crateriform shape can be detected with such a glass.
Fig. 2.—Sunrise on the Sea of Serenity, and Theophilus and other Craters.
The visibility of Aristarchus on the dark side of the moon leads us to a brief consideration of the illumination by the earth of that portion of the moon's surface which is not touched directly by sunlight at new and old moon. This phenomenon is shown in our second illustration. Not only can the outlines of the dark part of the moon be seen under such circumstances, but even the distinction in color between the dusky "seas" and the more brilliant table-lands and mountain-regions can be perceived, and with powerful telescopes many minor features come into sight. A little consideration must convince any one, as it convinced Galileo more than two hundred and seventy-five years ago, that the light reflected from the earth upon the moon is sufficient to produce this faint illumination of the lunar landscapes. We have only to recall the splendors of a night that is lighted by a full moon, and then to recollect that at new or old moon the earth is "full" as seen from our satellite, and that a full earth must give some fourteen times as much light as a full moon, in order to realize the brilliancy of an earth-lit night upon the moon. As the moon waxes to us, the earth wanes to the moon, and vice versa, and so the phenomenon of earth-shine on the lunar surface must be looked for before the first quarter and after the last quarter of the moon.
The reader will find it an attractive occupation to identify, by means of the map, the various "seas," "lakes," and "marshes," for not only are they interesting on account of the singularity of their names, but they present many remarkable differences of appearance, which may be perceived with the instrument he is supposed to be using. The oval form of the Crisian Sea (A), which is the first of the "seas" to come into sight at new moon, makes it a very striking object. With good telescopes, and under favorable illumination, a decidedly green tint is perceived in the Crisian Sea. It measures about two hundred and eighty by three hundred and fifty-five miles in extent, and is, perhaps, the deepest of all the old sea-beds visible on the moon. It is surrounded by mountains, which can be readily seen when the sun strikes athwart them a few days after new or full moon. On the southwestern border a stupendous mountain-promontory, called Cape Agarum, projects into the Crisian Sea fifty or sixty miles, the highest part rising precipitously eleven thousand feet above the floor of the sea. I have seen Cape Agarum very clearly defined with a field-glass. Near the eastern border is the crater-mountain Proclus, which I have already mentioned as possessing great brilliancy under a high sun, being in this respect second only to Aristarchus.
From the foot of Proclus spreads away the somewhat triangular region called the Marsh of Sleep (F). The term "golden-brown," which has been applied to it, perhaps describes its hue well enough. With a telescope it is a most interesting region, but with less powerful instruments one must be content with recognizing its outline and color.
The broad, dark-gray expanse of the Sea of Tranquillity (G) will be readily recognized by the observer, and he will be interested in the mottled aspect which it presents in certain regions, caused by ridges and elevations, which, when this sea-bottom was covered with water, may have formed shoals and islands.
The Sea of Fertility (X) is remarkable for its irregular surface, and the long, crooked bays into which its southern extremity is divided.
The Sea of Nectar (V) is connected with the Sea of Tranquillity by a broad strait (one would naturally anticipate from their names that there must be some connection between them), while between it and the Sea of Fertility runs the range of the Pyrenees Mountains, twelve thousand feet high, flanked by many huge volcanic mountain-rings.
The Sea of Serenity (H), lying northeast of the Sea of Tranquillity, is about four hundred and twenty miles broad by four hundred and thirty miles long, being very nearly of the same area as our Caspian Sea. It is deeper than the Sea of Tranquillity, and a greenish hue is sometimes detected in its central parts. It deepens toward the middle. Three quarters of its shore-line are bordered by high mountains, and many isolated elevations and peaks are scattered over its surface. In looking at these dried-up seas of the moon, one is forcibly reminded of the undulating and in some places mountainous character of terrestrial sea-bottoms as shown by soundings and the existence of small islands in the deep sea, like the Bermudas, the Azores, and St. Helena. The Sea of Serenity is divided nearly through the center by a narrow, bright streak, apparently starting from the crater-mountain Menelaus (36 in the map), but really taking its rise at Tycho far in the south. This curious streak can be readily detected even with a small operaglass. Just what it is no one is prepared to say, and so the author of the "Moon Hoax" was fairly entitled to take advantage of the romancer's license, and declare that "its edge throughout its whole length of three hundred and forty miles is an acute angle of solid quartz-crystal, brilliant as a piece of Derbyshire spar just brought from the mine, and containing scarcely a fracture or a chasm from end to end!" Along the southern shore, on either side of Menelaus, extends the high range of the Hæmus Mountains. South and southeast of the Sea of Serenity are the Sea of Vapors (L), the Central Gulf (M), and the Gulf of Heats (N). The observer will notice at full moon three or four curious dark spots in the region occupied by these flat expanses. On the north and northwest of the Sea of Serenity are the Lake of Death (D), and the Lake of Dreams (E), chiefly remarkable for their names.
The Sea of Showers (O) is a very interesting region, not only in itself, but on account of its surroundings. Its level is very much broken by low, winding ridges, and it is variegated by numerous light streaks. At its western end it blends into the Marsh of Mists (I) and the Marsh of Putrefaction (K). On its northeast border is the celebrated Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows (P), upon which stenographers have exhausted the adjectives of admiration. The bay is semicircular in form, one hundred and thirty-five miles long and eighty-four miles broad. Its surface is dark and level. At either end a splendid cape extends into the Sea of Showers, the eastern one being called Cape Heraclides, and the western Cape Laplace. They are both crowned by high peaks. Along the whole shore of the bay runs a chain of gigantic mountains forming the southern border of a wild and lofty plateau, called the Sinus Iridum Highlands. Of course, a telescope is required to see the details of this "most magnificent of all lunar landscapes," and yet much can be done with a good field-glass. With such an instrument I have seen the capes at the ends of the bay projecting boldly into the dark, level expanse surrounding them, and the high lights of the bordering mountains sharply contrasted with the dusky semicircle at their feet, and have been able to detect the presence of the low ridges that cross the front of the bay like shoals, separating it from the "sea" outside. Two or three days after first quarter, the shadows of the peaks about the Bay of Rainbows may be seen. The Bay of Dew (R) above the Bay of Rainbows, and the Sea of Cold (C), are the northernmost of the dark levels visible. It was in keeping with the supposed character of this region of the moon that Riccioli named two portions of it the Land of Hoar Frost and the Land of Drought.
Extending along the eastern side of the disk is the great Ocean of Storms (Q), while between the Ocean of Storms and the middle of the moon lies the Sea of Clouds (S). Both of these are very irregular in outline, and much broken by ridges and mountains. The Sea of Humors (T), although comparatively small, is one of the most easily seen of all the lunar plains. To the naked eye it looks like a dark, oval patch on the moon. With a telescope it is seen, under favorable conditions, to possess a decided green tint. Humboldt Sea (B) and the South Sea (Z) belong principally to that part of the moon which is always turned away from the earth, and only their edges project into the visible hemisphere, although under favorable librations, their further borders, lined as usual with mountain-peaks, may be detected. For our purposes they possess little interest.
Let us now glance at some of the mountains and "craters." The dark oval called Grimaldi (1) can be detected by the naked eye, or at least it has been thus seen, although it requires a sharp eye; and perhaps a shade of London smoke-glass, to take off the glare of the moon, should be used in looking for it. It is simply a plain, containing some fourteen thousand square miles, remarkable for its dark color, and surrounded by mountains. Schickhard (7) is another similar plain, nearly as large, but not possessing the same dark tint in the interior. The huge mountains around Schickhard make a fine spectacle when the sun is rising upon them shortly before full moon.
Tycho (9) is the most famous of the crater-mountains, though not the largest. It is about fifty-four miles across and three miles deep, In its center is a peak five or six thousand feet high. Tycho is the radial point of the great light-streaks that, as I have already remarked, cause the southern half of the moon to be likened to a peeled orange. It is a tough problem in selenography to account for these streaks. They are best seen at full moon. They can not be seen at all until the sun has risen to a certain elevation above them, 25° according to Neison; but, when they once become visible, they dominate everything. They turn aside for neither mountains nor plains, but pass straight on their courses over the ruggedest regions of the moon, retaining their brilliancy undiminished, and pouring back such a flood of reflected light that they completely conceal some of the most stupendous mountain-masses across which they lie. They clearly consist of different material from that of which the most of the moon's surface is composed—a material possessing a higher reflective power. In this respect they resemble Aristarchus and other lunar craters that are remarkable for their brilliancy under a high illumination. Tycho itself, the center or hub, from which these streaks radiate like spokes, is very brilliant in the full moon. But immediately around Tycho there is a dark rim some twenty-live miles broad. Beyond this rim the surface becomes bright, and the bright region extends about ninety miles farther. Out of it spring the great rays or streaks which vary from ten to twenty miles in width, and many of which are several hundred miles long—one, which we have already mentioned as extending across the Sea of Serenity, being upward of two thousand miles in length. It has been truly said that we have nothing like these streaks upon the earth, and so there is no analogy to go by in trying to determine their nature. It has been suggested that if the moon had been split or shattered from within by some tremendous force, and molten matter from the interior had been thrust up into the cracks thus formed, and had cooled there into broad seams of rock, possessing a higher reflective power than the surrounding surface of the moon, then the appearances presented would not be unlike what we actually see. But there are serious objections to such a view, which we have Fig. 3.—Sunrise on Clavius, Tycho, Plato, Etc. not space to discuss here. It is enough to say that the nature of these streaks is still a question awaiting solution, and here is an opportunity for an important discovery, but one not to be achieved with an opera-glass.
Clavius (11) is one of the most impressive of all the lunar formations. There probably does not exist anywhere upon the earth so wild a scene upon a corresponding scale of grandeur. Of course, its details are far beyond the reach of the instrument we are supposed to be using, and yet even with a field-glass, or a powerful opera-glass, some of its main features are visible. It is represented in our third illustration, being the lowest and largest of the ring-like forms seen at the inner edge of the illuminated half of the disk; the rays of the rising sun touching the summits of some of the peaks in its interior have brought them into sight as a point of light, and at the same time, reaching across the gulf within, have lighted up the higher slopes of the great mountain-wall on the farther or eastern side of the crater valley, making it resemble a semicircle of light projecting into the blackness of the still unilluminated plains around it. I should advise every reader to take advantage of any opportunity that may be presented to him to see Clavius with a powerful telescope when the sun is either rising or setting upon it. Neison has given a spirited description of the scene, as follows:
Newton (12) is the deepest of the great crateriform chasms on the moon. Some of the peaks on its walls rise twenty-four thousand feet above the interior gulf. Its shadow, and those of its gigantic neighbors—for the moon is here crowded with colossal walls, peaks, and craters—may be seen breaking the line of sunlight below Clavius, in our third picture. I have just spoken of these great lunar formations as chasms. The word describes very well the appearance which some of them present when the line separating day and night on the moon falls across them, but the reader should not be led by it into an erroneous idea of their real character. Such formations as Newton, which is one hundred and forty miles long by seventy broad, may more accurately be described as vast depressed plains, generally containing peaks and craters, which are surrounded by a ring of steep mountains, or mountain-walls, that rise by successive ridges and terraces to a stupendous height.
The double chain of great crater-plains reaching half across the center of the moon contains some of the grandest of these strange configurations of conjoined mountain, plain, and crater. The names of the principal ones can be learned from the map, and the reader will find it very interesting to watch them coming into sight about first quarter, and passing out of sight about third quarter. At such times, with a field-glass, some of them look like enormous round holes in the inner edge of the illuminated half of the moon. Theophilus (23), Cyrillus (24), and Catharina (25), are three of the finest walled plains on the moon—Theophilus, in particular, being a splendid specimen of such formations. This chain of craters may be seen rapidly coming into sunlight at the edge of the Sea of Nectar, in our second illustration. The Altai Mountains (26) are a line of lofty cliffs, two hundred and eighty miles in length, surmounting a high table-land.
The Caucasus Mountains (38) are a mass of highlands and peaks, which introduce us to a series of formations resembling those of the mountainous regions of the earth. The highest peak in this range is about nineteen thousand feet. Between the Caucasus and the Apennines (44) lies a level pass, or strait, connecting the Sea of Serenity with the Sea of Showers. The Apennines are the greatest of the lunar mountain-chains, extending some four hundred and sixty miles in length, and containing one peak twenty-one thousand feet high, and many varying from twelve thousand to nearly twenty thousand. It will thus be seen that the Apennines of the earth sink into insignificance in comparison with their gigantic namesakes on the moon. As this range runs at a considerable angle to the line of sunrise, its high peaks are seen tipped with sunlight for a long distance beyond the generally illuminated edge about the time of first quarter. Even with the naked eye the sun-touched summits of the lunar Apennines may at that time be detected as a tongue of light projecting into the dark side of the moon. The Alps (41) are another mountain-mass of great elevation, whose highest peak is a good match for the Mont Blanc of the earth, after which it has been named.
Plato (42) is a very celebrated dark and level plain, surrounded by a mountain-ring, and presenting in its interior many puzzling and apparently changeable phenomena which have given rise to much speculation, but which, of course, lie far beyond the reach of opera-glasses. Plato is seen in our third illustration, being the second ring from the top.
Copernicus (46) is the last of the lunar formations that we shall describe. It bears a general resemblance to Tycho, and is slightly greater in diameter; it is, however, not quite so deep. It has a cluster of peaks in the center, whose tops may be detected with a field-glass, as a speck of light when the rays of the morning sun, slanting across the valley, illuminate them while their environs are yet buried in night. Copernicus is the center of a system of light-streaks somewhat resembling those of Tycho, but very much shorter.
We must not dismiss the moon without a few words as to its probable condition. It was but natural, after men had seen the surface of the moon diversified with hills and valleys like another earth, that the opinion should find ready acceptance that beings not unlike ourselves might dwell upon it. Nothing could possibly have been more interesting than the realization of such a fancy by the actual discovery of the lunar inhabitants, or at least of unmistakable evidence of their existence. The moon is so near to the earth, as astronomical distances go, and the earth and the moon are so intimately connected in the companionship of their yearly journey around the sun, and their greater journey together with the sun and all his family, through the realms of space, that we should have looked upon the lunar inhabitants, if any had existed, as our neighbors over the way, dwelling, to be sure, upon a somewhat more restricted domain than ours, vassals of the earth in one sense, yet upon the whole very respectable and interesting people, with whom one would be glad to have a closer acquaintance. But, alas! as the powers of the telescope increased, the vision of a moon crowded with life faded, until at last the cold fact struck home that the moon is, in all probability, a frozen and dried-up globe, a mere planetary skeleton, which could no more support life than the Humboldt glacier could grow roses. And yet this opinion may go too far. There is reason for thinking that the moon is not absolutely airless, and, while it has no visible bodies of water, its soil may, after all, not be entirely arid and desiccated. There are observations which hint at visible changes in certain spots that could possibly be caused by vegetation, and there are other observations which suggest the display of electric luminosity in a rarefied atmosphere covering the moon. To declare that no possible form of life can exist under the conditions prevailing upon the lunar surface would be saying too much, for human intelligence can not set bounds to creative power. Yet, within the limits of life, such as we know them, it is probably safe to assert that the moon is a dead and deserted world. In other words, if a race of beings resembling ourselves, or resembling any of our contemporaries in terrestrial life, ever existed upon the moon, they must long since have perished. That such beings may have existed is possible, particularly if it is true, as generally believed, that the moon once had a comparatively dense atmosphere and water upon its surface, which have now, in the process of cooling of the lunar globe, been withdrawn into its interior. It certainly does not detract from the interest with which we study the rugged and beautiful scenery of the moon to reflect that if we could visit those ancient sea-bottoms, or explore those glittering mountains, we might, perchance, find there some remains or mementoes of a race that flourished, and perhaps was all gathered again to its fathers, before man appeared upon the earth.
That slight physical changes, such as the downfall of mountain-walls or crater-cones, still occasionally occur upon the moon, is an opinion entertained by some selenographers, and apparently justified by observation. The enormous changes of temperature, from burning heat under a cloudless sun to the freezing cold of space at night with no atmospheric blanket to retain heat (which has generally been assumed to be the condition of things on the moon), would be expected to exert a disintegrating effect upon the lunar rocks. But the question is now in dispute whether the surface of the moon ever rises above the freezing-point of water, even under a midday sun.
The Sun.—That spots upon the sun may be seen with no greater optical aid than that of an opera-glass is perhaps well known to many of my readers, for during the past half dozen years public attention has been drawn to sun-spots in an especial manner, on account of their supposed connection with meteorology, and in that time there have been many spots upon the solar disk which could not only be seen with an opera-glass, but even with the unassisted eye. At present we are approaching a minimum period of sun-spots, and the number to be seen even with a telescope is comparatively very small, yet only a few days before this page was written there was a spot on the sun large enough to be conspicuous with the aid of a field-glass. During the time of a spot-maximum the sun is occasionally a wonderful object, no matter how small the power of the instrument used in viewing it may
Fig. 4.—The Sun. September 1, 1883.
be. Strings of spots of every variety of shape sometimes extend completely across the disk. Our fourth illustration shows the appearance of the sun, as drawn by the author on the 1st of September, 1883. Every one of the spots and spot-groups there represented could be seen with a good field-glass, and nearly all of them with an opera-glass.
As in all such cases, our interest in the phenomena increases in proportion to our understanding of their significance and their true scale of magnitude. In glancing from side to side of the sun's disk, the eye ranges over a distance of more than 860,000 miles—not a mere ideal distance, or an expanse of empty space, but a distance filled by an actual and, so to speak, tangible body, whose diameter is of that stupendous magnitude. One sees at a glance, then, the enormous scale on which these spots are formed. The earth placed beside them would be but a speck, and yet they are mere pits in the surface of the sun, filled perhaps with partially cooled metallic vapors, which have been cast up from the interior, and are settling back again. It is worth anybody's while to get a glimpse at a sun-spot if he can, for, although he may see it merely as a black dot on the shining disk, yet it represents the play of physical forces whose might and power are there exercised on a scale really beyond human comprehension. The imagination of Milton or Dante would have beheld the mouth of hell yawning in a sun-spot.
In order to view the sun, it is, of course, necessary to contrive some protection for the eyes. This may be constructed by taking two strips of glass four or five inches long and an inch wide, and smoking one of them until you can without discomfort look at the sun through it. Then place the two strips together, with the smoked surface inside—taking care to separate them slightly by pieces of cardboard placed between the ends—and fasten the edges together with strips of paper gummed on. Then, by means of a rubber band, fasten the dark glass thus prepared over the eye-end of your opera-glass in such a way that both of the lenses are completely covered by it. It will require a little practice to enable you to get the sun into the field of view and keep it there, and for this purpose you should assume a posture—sitting, if possible—which will enable you to keep the glass very steady. Then point the glass nearly in the direction of the sun, and move it slowly about until the disk comes in sight. It is best to carefully focus your glass on some distant object before trying to look at the sun with it.
As there is some danger of the shade-glass being cracked by the heat, especially if the object-glasses of the instrument are pretty large, it would be well to get the strips of glass for the shade large enough to cover the object-end of the instrument instead of the eye-end. At a little expense an optician will furnish you with strips of glass of complementary tints, which, when fastened together, give a very pleasing view of the sun without discoloring the disk. Dark red with dark blue or green answer very well; but the color must be very deep. The same arrangement, of course, will serve for viewing an eclipse of the sun.
- The letter L has accidentally been misplaced in the map. It should be on the dark expanse below its present place.