Imatges de pÓgina
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a name, has no local habitation discoverable well as its reappearance, predicted by by telescopes. There is no “ behind the our illustrious countryman fifty-four years scenes" in the heavens whence new stars beforehand. So proud was the Oxford and comets may make their entrance and professor of his discovery, that he begs strut and fret their hour on the celestial posterity (now our ancestors) to remember stage; no lumber garret or property that it was due to an Englishman. room into which they can retire and be Edmund Halley calculated the elements stowed out of the way. The universe is of his comet's orbit at its perihelium pas. an open, infinite somewhere, at every point sage in 1682, when it blazed in the heavens of its extent as much a real somewhere as with wonderful splendour. He found that it is here, where we happen for the moment orbit to correspond exactly with those of to be bowling through space.

the comets of 1531 and 1607, which led A little thought will, therefore, tell us him to conclude that all the three were one that it is just as interesting to know what and the same individual, making, in 1682, becomes of comets after we lose sight of its third public appearance on the stellar them as to watch their doings while they stage. These three returns of the same are visible.

Tycho Brahe's observations comet gave it a period of revolution of led him to infer that the comet of 1577 about seventy-five years and a half, with a had described round the sun an arc of a variation which might amount to two circle including within it the orbits of years. This incertitude did not prevent Mercury and Venus. Herelius, in spite of Halley from predicting its return in 1758. his erroneous notions respecting the nature Capini was the first to conceive the idea of comets, first discovered that the curves of searching the records of ancient obserin which they moved were parabolic in vations for the orbits of comets, with a their nature; but he appears to have known view to their possible return. If it had nothing—a grand and vital omission of occurred to him to refer their motions to the place occupied by the sun within those the sun's attraction, and to consider the curves, nor of the laws which governed the sun as their centre, he would have made velocities of those bodies as they approached an enormous step in advance. He emthe summits of their parabolas.

ployed the most delicate processes then an immense step when an as- known to astronomy to ascertain when tronomer dared predict that a given comet, comets would reappear, but he had no which he had observed, would one day means of verifying his predictions, because return—a still greater when he ventured to the resemblances which he thought he fix an epoch for its appearance when he found in comets were only apparent

. He would not himself survive to witness the ought to have compared their motions by fact. And our interest in the comets referring them to the sun's influence. whose periodical return is well established Halley was the first astronomer to adopt increases with their increasing number. this grand principle, and he signally sueThere appears no reason why this number ceeded in consequence. His method led to should not augment with a rapidity com- the important conclusion that comets are parable to the quickly successive dis- veritable planets. Their movements, which coveries of the telescopic planets circulating appear extremely irregular, are not so when between Mars and Jupiter. At present referred to the sun. The difference bewe are acquainted with eight comets which tween them (considered as members of the have come back to visit us once or several solar system) lies in the form of the orbits times, after their return had been an- they describe, and which, instead of being nounced as probable in consequence of the almost round, like those of the planets, are circumstances of their previous arrivals. extremely long ovals, which is the reason M. Delaunay, in the Annuaire du Bureau why we lose sight of them during such des Longitudes for 1872, gives sundry lengthened intervals of time. historical details, which we propose to We have seen that there was a margin abridge, relating to the discovery of the of about two years left open for the comet's periodicity of those eight comets.

return. It was an allowance made for the The most important of these in the action of the planets on the comet's course. annals of astronomy is Halley's comet. The exact amount of that action was diffiIt is the first whose periodicity was ascer- cult to determine. Nevertheless, Clairaut tained, and its period of revolution is the set to work to calculate it, in confirmation longest known. Very remarkable also was of his enthusiastic faith in the Newtonian the clue which led to its identification, as system, which was not universally admitted

It was

now is.

then by the world called “learned,” as it of the solar system of which we have been

“ The comet we are expecting,” unable to take account-for the comets of he said, in the public sitting of the whose situation and strength we are ignoAcadémie des Sciences, on the 14th of rant-for the resistance of the ethereal November, 1758, “has become the object matter, which we are incompetent to apof much greater interest than the public preciate, and for he numerous quantities usually bestow on astronomical questions. which we are obliged to neglect in an The true lovers of science desire its return, approximative calculation ? The difference because the result will be a brilliant con- of five hundred and eighty-six days befirmation of a system (Newton's) in whose tween two revolutions of the same comet favour every phenomenon gives evidence. -a difference produced by the disturbing Those, on the contrary, who delight to see forces of Jupiter and Saturn—is a more philosophers plunged in trouble and un- striking demonstration than one could certainty, hope that it will not come back, have hoped to obtain of the grand prinand that the discoveries of Newton and his ciple of universal gravity. It places the partisans will fall to the level of other hy- law amongst the number of fundamental potheses, which are the offspring of mere physical truths, of whose reality it is no imagination.”

more possible to doubt than it is of the Undaunted by this scepticism and oppo- bodies which produce attraction.” sition, which we can hardly understand at Halley's comet was again due in 1835. the present day, he traced the constellations M. Damoiseau, taking into account the it would traverse, and the planets it would disturbance to be caused by Uranus, fixed meet with on its way, and found that its perihelic passage for the 4th of NovemSaturn would retard its arrival by one

ber of that year.

Another astronomer, M. hundred days, and Jupiter by five hundred de Pontecoulant, predicted for the 13th and eighteen-in all by six hundred and (according to M. Delaunay); but M. Leeighteen; that is, this revolution of the couturier states that M. de Pontecoulant's comet would be a year and eight months calculation gave the 15th of November, longer than the previous one. In other at midnight, as the date. The comet really words, its passage at its perihelium would passed the point of its orbit nearest to the take place about the middle of April, 1759, sun at nine o'clock in the morning of the within a month, more or less.

16th of November, thus failing to keep Never had a scientific prophecy excited the rendezvous given it by so brief a delay greater curiosity from one end of Europe as nine short hours. As the anxious exto the other. The comet did reappear; it pectant was aware of its coming, he profollowed the path through the constellations bably waited patiently, for astronomy can which Clairaut had traced for it; it reached boast of but few more brilliant feats than its perihelium on the 12th of March, 1759, this. just a month before the date indicated. According to the same gentleman's cal

may note that the difference between culations, twenty-seven thousand two huntheory and observation might be caused by dred and seventeen days must elapse bethe action of the planets Uranus and Nep- tween the comet's departure from its tune, of which (as he did not know of their perhelion in 1835 and its next arrival at existence) Clairaut could take no account that point of its orbit; this calculation in his calculations.

appoints the 24th of May, 1910, for that It was a grand triumph for the New- interesting phenomenon to come off. The tonians.

“We have all witnessed the arithmetic which hangs about Halley's accomplishment of the event," wrote comet in groups of figures, inconceivable by Lalande, who had rendered great assist- unlearned minds, informs us that for thirtyance in the calculations ; so that it is eight years it travels in our direction from placed beyond a doubt that comets are the extreme limits of our solar system to a really planets which turn like the others point distant about forty-eight millions of

M. Clairaut demanded a miles from the sun; that it then retreats month's grace in favour of theory, and the rapidly, and thirty-eight years afterwards, month's grace has not been exceeded. The leaving Uranus behind it

, reaches Nepcomet came, after a period of five hundred tune’s orbit, about three thousand millions and eighty-six days longer than its pre- of miles from the sun. These figures are ceding period, that is, thirty-two days far too enormous to convey any definite before the appointed date. But what is idea of distance; but it would be easy to thirty-two days for the various attractions calculate how many years it would take a


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racehorse to gallop round this course from time of its perihelic passage. But in 1846, the starting point, its perihelion, back again astronomers, without any reproach to their to the winning-post, the perihelion also. sobriety, saw it double. It was two comets,

So much for the comet's excursions into travelling side by side, with a tendency space. It was natural to trace it back re

rather to quit than to approach each other. trospectively into the night of ages. The The quarrel, too, had come on suddenly; result has been to establish, with more or shortly before its complete accomplishless certainty, that our coy visitant has ment, such observers as Maury, of Washbeen detected, at sundry intervals agreeing ington, and Challis, of Cambridge (Engwith the periods required, up to October of land), declare that they saw no symptoms the year 12, b.c.

of the separation. The disunited couple Encke's comet, named after the cal. are expected back in the autumn of 1872, culator of its elements, completes its revo- and we shall be curious to see whether lution in about three years and a half. they have made it up, and behave as beDiscovered in 1818 by M. Pons, at Mar- comes their high position. seilles, it was suspected to be identical with After this specimen of eccentricity, the a comet observed in 1805, which suspicion other return comets are valuable rather as

confirmed by Encke. Regarding increasing the list of periodicals than for merely the rapidity of its successive re- any special interest they offer to the general turns, this object might be considered a reader. There is Faye's comet, with a planet; but

has been left on the list of period of seven years and a half, discovered comets, both on account of the appearances at the Paris Observatory in 1843. M. le it presents, and because it is not visible to Verrier, calculating the perturbations it us throughout the whole course of its orbit. would experience on its way, fixed its

The most noteworthy point about Encke's perihelic passage for the 3rd of April, 1851, comet results from a comparison of the a little after midnight. The prediction, dates of its successive returns to the same wonderfully exact, was fulfilled on the 2nd point of its orbit. Making every possible of April, about ten in the morning. The allowance for the disturbing forces exer- same comet was seen again in 1858 and" cised on it by the planet's attraction, 1865. It ought to show itself once more Encke found that the period of its revolu- in 1873. tion is constantly diminishing, which would Brorsen's, with a period of five years and indicate the presence of a resisting medium a half, discovered at Kiel in 1846, is a more

—that interstellar space is not a vacuum, slippery comet than the preceding. It was but is filled with an ether possessing some searched for in vain in 1851, but found density, however slight. Such a medium, again in 1857. Similarly, in 1862, it was by gradually checking the comet's velocity, not forthcoming, but was detected again would cause it to yield to the sun's at- in 1868. Doubtless Astronomer Brorsen is traction; its orbit, contracting more and himself more punctual than the untrustmore, would be run through in shorter worthy vagabond who bears his name. and shorter periods of time. Encke's comet D’Arrest's comet, discovered at Leipzig was last seen in November, 1871.

in 1851, has a period of six and a half Biela's comet (with a period of six years years nearly. Its return was announced and three quarters) is another instance of for the end of 1857; but as it would not fantastic resemblance between the largest be visible in the earth's northern hemi. i and the smallest works of the Creator. sphere, the documents, and, if we may say There are microscopic plants and animals so, its passport, prepared by M. Yvon Vil. (examples, closterium and trichoda) which, larceau, were sent to observatories in the after attaining a certain age, contract in southern hemisphere in anticipation of its the middle, become fiddle-shaped, hour arrival. The result answered the French glass-shaped, and finally separate into two astronomer's predictions. The comet kept independent, thrifty individuals. Micro- its appointment within twelve hours. În scopists call this process “fissiparous mul- 1864 it gave no sign; but in 1870, on the tiplication.” But who would suppose that 31st of August, it answered to its name. a comet would ever adopt that mode of in- On the 4th of January, 1858, Mr. Tuttle crease? Nevertheless, Biela's has, beyond discovered a comet at Cambridge, United the possibility of doubt, done so. Dis- States. Tuttle's comet has a period of revolucovered in 1826, seen again in 1832, it could tion of something more than thirteen years not be observed in 1839 in consequence of and a half. It was recognised at Marseilles the unfavourable position of its orbit at the by M. Borelly, in October, 1871. Finally,


Winnecke's comet was discovered by its their fur paletôts, made of thick cobwebs godfather, also in 1858, at the Bonn Obser- and mould. Another weakness of onr friend Fatory. Its period is five years and a half, Bracker was his taste in glass; his flasks, and is believed to be identical with the third decanters, and glasses were all of the choicest comet of 1819. After 1858 it contrived kind. His theory was that a noble vintage to elude observation for awhile, but was should be nobly received, and that, as a caught by Winnecke himself on the 9th of lord used to be entitled to be hanged with April, 1869.

On the 30th of June follow- a silken rope, so should a nobly-born vintage ing, it slipped round the perihelic corner be carried to its doom in the most elegant and got out of the way, leaving us to lay vessels. He used to say, also, that the telescopes on it by-and-bye if we can. system of introducing black bottles which

Whatever harm comets may have done epicures affected was too plebeian; you by frightening half-witted people out of missed the rich purple and all the glories their intellectual remnant, comet wines of the grape; and thus it was that his sidehave in some slight measure made up for board and the shelves of his cabinet were it. M. Babinet tells us that we may lined with flasks and bottles, each exquifurther improve their errors. The per- sitely engraved all over with trees, and turbations of Encke's comet have helped birds, and flowers-marvels of workmanns to weigh the planet Mercury. By-and-ship. But this did not exhaust the special bye we shall verify the weight already tastes of Bricker Bracker. His gem of assigned to the earth by the irregularities a house was fitted with all kinds of meof Biela's comet. Faye's will one day tell chanical devices for saving trouble ; the as the mass of Mars. And, lastly, the hope bells were electric, everything was done by is held out to us that the comets which tra- machinery, and the quantity of labels all verse the circumsolar regions will reveal to about the house, with the word "patent" us, by their unsteady march, the existence inscribed, was inconceivable. He was, inand quantity of chaotic matter which cir- deed, a species of modern Sir Abel Handy. culates with the planets round our central Every guest had in his dressing-room a star and supplies the meteoric masses sort of simple telegraph, six little knobs, known as aërolites.

inscribed clothes, " hot water," "fire out," "coffee," "boots," "spirits."

spirits.” Be

side these, was a little door, which would THE MODERN TANTALUS. fly open, discovering a tiny lift, which

brought up the article wanted. All this I ACQUIRED this singular soubriquet was in the view of dispensing with seramong my friends from the following ad- vants, of whom our friend had a sort of venture.

horror. He said they broke his glass, and Our friend Bricker Bracker is well known destroyed property generally, and he hoped as being the possessor of a lodge situated soon, with improved machinery, to disin a deliciously sequestered locality, but, pense with all but one or two. His appaaccording to Sydney Smith's measure of ratus for uncorking bottles was of singular inconvenient distance, much more than ingenuity, and he had adapted a recent "five miles from a lemon.” This was invention-a sort of screw-stopper, with a really a drawback to his abundantly prof-key, which has recently come into use—as fered hospitality, as the nearest railway a protection against the peculations of dostation, village inn, public-house, or human mestics, and as also useful in keeping the habitation, was at least eight miles away. precious juice air-tight. But if there was this drawback in the case The world was naturally curious about of the lodge, there was the advantage this little ménage, and people were eager that it was so luxuriously victualled, so to be asked down. But Major Philips, howstored with the choicest wines, spirits, ever, a rather sneering officer, who had beers, &c., that a band of epicureans might spent his life in “fadging about," and, with ask for nothing better than to stand a his wife, trying to get meat, drink, and month's siege there, and be regularly be- quarters gratuitously, was almost snarling leaguered.

in his condemnation of the system. Bricker Bracker, indeed, prided himself “All this machinery is shabbiness and on his cellars, where, in bins well lit and stinginess," he said. “The man wants to comfortably warmed, slept veteran bottles save. While you are staring at and adof Bordeaux and Burgundy, keeping each miring his devices, he is starving you. Deother comfortable, wrapped in what seemed | pend upon it, though his bottles are fine,


the wine he puts in them is poor. It's all “There !" I cried, “is that the telegram stinginess, I know. Cogs and wheels cost of an inhospitable man ?” very little, for they eat nothing; men and “I don't know,” said Philips, “ the whole women cost a great deal, for they do.” looks to me more fishy than ever. Asked

It was in vain to argue with this sceptic; to dine, and the first thing is, the host flies! that I assured him that Bricker Bracker However, you shall see, my boy.” was the most generous and lavish of men; We drove down in great spirits, musternothing would convince him, and he went ing seven at the least. Arrived at the about describing the thing as a good joke, lodge we were received by the single servant contemptuously holding up my friend in charge—an excellent cook-and were to ridicule for this elaborate system of shown to our rooms. There each brought stinginess. Somehow, Philips always con- all the mechanical resources into play, try. trived to be right in his bitter publicly ing this button and that for “hot water," expressed opinions, or to have the appear- “ boots,” &c., and all working admirably


” ance of being so, which amounts to the When we came down the servant brought same thing; and on this occasion was to me and Philips into the dining-room, prove equally right, or have the appear- and the most elegant appetising sight met ance of right, to my confusion. The ad- our gaze. A choice little round table was venture was as follows:

laid out with exquisite taste, and on the Our Bricker Bracker sent out invita- shelf of the little sideboard were ranged, I tions for a choice little party of ten, who suppose, at least a dozen decanters of the were to come down and stay the night most elegant shapes, each engrossed over of the feasting with him. Major Philips with birds, beasts, landscapes, &c., and was with me at the time, and I turned on each already in possession of the rich juice him triumphantly. “Now,” I said, “I that was to recruit us. know Bracker suficiently well to ask him "Well,” I said to the sceptic, what do to let me bring a friend to his house; and you say now? Here is," reading the silver he knows me sufficiently well to agree to labels round the neck of each, “ Amontil. such a proposition. I will bring you if you lado, Chateauneuf de Pape, Clos Vougeot

, like, and then you will see how ill-founded 57 claret, port, and your own favourite, and even ungenerous is your judgment.” some noted old East India Madeira. What

This was putting him in an ingenious do you say now ?” state of embarrassment, as it would put "Wait a little,” he said, coolly. " When

" him to proof, as it were, of his assertions, it is in our glasses time enough for all that." or make him accept a hospitality he had I could have retorted that even when spoken of so contemptuously. But the good wine had reached Mr. Philips's inselfish cynicism of Philips was unassailable. terior, he had been known to reserve his

“I shall go,” he said, “ because I owe it gratitude, but I held my peace. On to myself, and it will give you a lesson. another corner shelf we found liqueurs Mark my words, the whole thing will break and cognacs, prime old Scotch and Irish down.

whiskies, and a silver punch-bowl, of old I said we should see.

repoussé pattern, with lemon and sugar, in On the very morning of the day on which the correct quantity, lying at the bottom. the festival was to take place, å telegram A neatly written card exhibited minute was brought in. Again Philips was with directions for quantities; a lemon-squeezir, me at the time. “What did I tell you ?” | one of the most ingenious bits of machinery, he said. I opened it with dreadful mis. lay beside it, and also a little engine for givings. It was not a put off. But it went shaving off the peel. All these incitements very near it. Bracker had been summoned whetted the appetites of our party, who away to the bedside of a sick aunt.”

were many-bottle men, excellent connois“ Has money, of course," said Philips. seurs, and protested they never were in “No one would go to a sick aunt pure such vein. and simple, still less to a sick aunt's bed- Dinner was serv

erved, sent up by the lift: side."

we waited on ourselves. We were sharp But Bracker wrote, he had left every- set, and some one suggested a glass all thing ready for the dinner-the wines all round of the particular old cognac. ranged on the sideboard, ready for drink- up myself to fetch the precious cordial. In ing. Key would be sent by post. “But fact, I was to act as my friend's deputy. take care of my glass. I must not find This,” I said, holding it up to the light, even a scratch on my precious decanters." I know to be of immense value, and was


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