Page images
PDF
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

I

srei.

..,« •-■•■'■■

[graphic]

INTRODUCTION.

Astronomy (astron, a star, and nomas, a law) treats of the Heavenly Bodies—the sun, moon, planets, stars, and, as our globe itself is a planet, of the earth also. It is, above all others, a science that cultivates the powers of the imagination. Yet all its theories and distances are based upon the most rigorous mathematical demonstrations. Thus the study has at once the beauty of poetry and the exactness of Geometry. ,,.

The Appearance of the Heavens to:an Observer.— The great dome of the sky filled with glittering stars is one of the most sublime spectacles in nature. To enjoy this fully, a night must be chosen when the air is clear, and the moon is absent. We then gaze upon a deep blue, an immense expanse studded with stars of varied color and brilliancy. Some shine with a vivid light, perpetually changing and twinkling; others, more constant, beam tranquilly and softly upon us; while many just tremble into our sight, like a wave that, struggling to reach some far-off land, dies as it touches the shore. In the presence of such weird and wondrous beauty, the

tenderest sentiments of the heart are aroused—a feeling of awe and reverence, of softened melancholy mingled with a thought of God, comes over us, and awakens the better nature within us. Those far-off lights seem full of meaning to us, could we but read their holy message; they become real and sentient, and, like the soft eyes in pictures, look lovingly and inquiringly upon us. We come into communion with another life, and the soul asserts its immortality more strongly than ever before. We are humbled as we gaze upon the infinity of worlds, and strive to comprehend their enormous distances, their magnificent retinue of suns. The powers of the mind are aroused, and eager questionings crowd upon us. What are those glittering fires? What their distances from us? Are they worlds like our own? Do living, thinking beings dwell upon them? Are they carelessly scattered through infinite space, or is there an order of the universe? Can we ever hope to fathom those mysterious depths, or are they closed to us forever? Many of these problems have been solved; others yet await the astronomer whose keen eye shall be strong enough to read the mysterious scroll of the heavens. Two hundred generations of study have revealed to us such startling facts, that we wonder how man in his feebleness can grasp so much, see so far, and penetrate so deeply into the mysteries of the universe. Astronomy has measured the distance of many of the stars, and of all the planets; computed their weight and

« PreviousContinue »