Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/14

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

leagues a second. From well-established principles and from facts made known by recent experimental researches of Edlund and Zollner, it is evident that immense currents of electricity would circulate around each mighty orb, but in different directions. On the most stupendous scale the two suns, or the sun and its great planetary attendant, would thus acquire magnetism, but have opposite polarities; and, in moving around their common center of gravity, they would exert over a wide domain the peculiar phenomenon which is but feebly manifested by a rotating horseshoe magnet.

Though the calorific effects of the encounters of great spheres have monopolized the attention of modern scientists, many facts show that mechanical action of the most extreme violence is attended with a larger conversion of energy into electricity and magnetism, and that in the case under consideration these forces must be developed on a more gigantic scale than heat and light. On the fall of a meteorite to the sun after a long course through his atmosphere on November 1, 1859, a disturbance occurred in terrestrial magnetism so quick and remarkable as to excite much attention at several stations of Europe and America. Even this circumstance alone would give grounds for a very high estimate of the magnetic agency called into being, if an amount of matter more than a thousand times that contained in our globe were hurled almost horizontally over a solar surface with a velocity of two or three hundred miles a second.

The consequences of the movements of the two great bodies, with the new properties which they assume in these convulsive stages, may be accurately traced by the aid of scientific principles for which Arago furnished a basis in 1825. Observing that, in the neighborhood of copper, water, glass, and other substances, a magnetic needle had its oscillations curtailed in the same manner as if it encountered the resistance of a medium, he endeavored to unravel the mystery by additional experiments, and was finally led to the discovery of magnetism of rotation. The researches which he commenced were continued successfully by Babbage, by Sir John Herschel, and others; it was found that a horseshoe magnet rotating around its axis would impart its circular motion to disks of copper with which it had no connection; but the inquiry was carried still further by Faraday, who proved all the effects on the electrical development attending the movement. Reasoning from what is known of such kinds of action, it is evident that the rapid revolution of the two great magnetized orbs could not sensibly affect the motion of preexisting planets nor even of asteroids in the solar system; but it would alter much the courses and velocities of meteorites and meteoric dust; and it would be likely to make its influence felt in whirling the nebulous matter supplied by comets or separated from the equator of the greater central sun. At that theatre of violence, the matter would be dissociated perhaps into the sub-elements of Lockyer, and it would be quickly spread around, along the equatorial plane; so