Page images
PDF
EPUB

Brewster as to the habitability of the planets. The new arguments are not yet generally accepted. Lowell believes he has, with the spectroscope, proved the existence of water on Mars.

One of the most unexpected and interesting of all telescopic discoveries took place in the opposition of 1877, when Mars was unusually near to the earth. The Washington Observatory had acquired the fine 26-inch refractor, and Asaph Hall searched for satellites, concealing the planet's disc to avoid the glare. On August 11th he had a suspicion of a satellite. This was confirmed on the 16th, and on the following night a second one was added. They are exceedingly faint, and can be seen only by the most powerful telescopes, and only at the times of opposition. Their diameters are estimated at six or seven miles. It was soon found that the first, Deimos, completes its orbit in 3oh. 18m. But the other, Phobos, at first was a puzzle, owing to its incredible velocity being unsuspected. Later it was found that the period of revolution was only 7h. 39m. 22s. Since the Martian day is twentyfour and a half hours, this leads to remarkable results. Obviously the easterly motion of the satellite overwhelms the diurnal rotation of the planet, and Phobos must appear to the inhabitants, if they exist, to rise in the west and set in the east, showing two or even three full moons in a day, so that, sufficiently well for the ordinary purposes of life, the hour of the day can be told by its phases. The discovery of these two satellites is, perhaps, the most interesting telescopic visual discovery made with the large telescopes of the last , half century; photography having been the means of discovering all the other new satellites except Jupiter's fifth (in order of discovery). Jupiter. — Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's satellites was followed by the discovery of his belts. Zucchi and Torricelli seem to have seen them. Fontana, in 1633, reported three belts. In 1648 Grimaldi saw but two, and noticed that they lay parallel to the ecliptic. Dusky spots were also noticed as transient. Hooke' measured the motion of one in 1664. In 1665 Cassini, with a fine telescope, 35 feet focal length, observed many spots moving from east to west, whence he concluded that Jupiter rotates on an axis like the earth. He watched an unusually permanent spot during twenty-nine rotations, and fixed the period at 9h. 56m. Later he inferred that spots near the equator rotate quicker than those in higher latitudes (the same as Carrington found for the sun); and W. Herschel confirmed this in 1778–9. Jupiter's rapid rotation ought, according to Newton's theory, to be accompanied by a great flattening at the poles. Cassini had noted an

* R. S. Phil. Trans., No. 1.

oval form in 1691. This was confirmed by La Hire, Römer, and Picard. Pound measured the ellipticity = ra's 5.

JUPITER.

From a drawing by E. M. Antoniadi, showing transit of a satellite's shadow, the belts, and the “great red spot” (Monthly Motices, R. A. S., vol. lix., pl. x.).

W. Herschel supposed the spots to be masses of cloud in the atmosphere — an opinion still accepted. Many of them were very permanent. Cassini's great spot vanished and reappeared nine times between 1665 and 1713. It was close to the northern margin of the southern belt. Herschel supposed the belts to be the body of the planet, and the lighter parts to be clouds confined to certain latitudes. In 1665 Cassini observed transits of the four satellites, and also saw their shadows on the planet, and worked out a lunar theory for Jupiter. Mathematical astronomers have taken great interest in the perturbations of the satellites, because their relative periods introduce peculiar effects. Airy, in his delightful book, Gravitation, has reduced these investigations to simple geometrical explanations. In 1707 and 17 13 Miraldi noticed that the fourth satellite varies much in brightness. W. Herschel found this variation to depend upon its position in its orbit, and concluded that in the positions of feebleness it is always presenting to us a portion of its surface, which does not well reflect the sun's light; proving that it always turns the same face to Jupiter, as is the case with our moon. This fact had also been established for Saturn's fifth satellite, and may be true for all satellites. In 1826 Stower measured the diameters of the four satellites, and found them to be 2,429, 2, 18o, 3,561, and 3,046 miles. In modern times much interest has been taken in watching a rival to Cassini's famous spot. The “great red spot” was first observed by Niesten, Pritchett, and Tempel, in 1878, as a rosy cloud attached to a whitish zone beneath the dark southern equatorial band, shaped like the new war balloons, 30,000 miles long and 7,000 miles across. The next year it was brick-red. A white spot beside it completed a rotation in less time by 5% minutes than the red spot — a difference of 260 miles an hour. Thus they came together again every six weeks, but the motions did not continue uniform. The spot was feeble in 1882–4, brightened in 1886, and, after many changes, is still visible.

[graphic]

Galileo's great discovery of Jupiter's four moons was the last word in this connection until September 9th, 1892, when Barnard, using the 36-inch refractor of the Lick Observatory, detected a tiny spot of light closely following the planet. This proved to be a new satellite (fifth), nearer to the planet than any other, and revolving round it in 11h. 57m. 23s. Between its rising and setting there must be an interval of 23 Jovian days, and two or three full moons. The sixth and seventh satellites were found by the examination of photographic plates at the Lick Observatory in 1905, since which time they have been continuously photographed, and their orbits traced, at Greenwich. On examining these plates in 1908 Mr. Melotte

« PreviousContinue »