Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/16

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

occasional interruptions in the production of electricity and in its passage into space.

In ascribing to meteors an important part in the train of events which these widely extended forces are capable of producing, it is not necessary to adopt the extravagant estimates which were made of the numbers of these vagrant bodies in order to support a recently exploded theory in regard to the origin of celestial light. According to some eminent scientists, the amount of meteoric matter which falls to the sun's surface every year would increase his diameter annually about two hundred and forty feet, and it would exceed the mass of Mars. But from their occasional falls to the earth, and from other facts, it may be safely concluded that the number of meteors which become tenants of the solar dominions in the course of one or two millions of years, would afford material enough to form a planet as large as the earth, even if half their numbers could be made to unite into one body, instead of being allowed to rove indiscriminately through the system and to fall to the larger spheres. Now, the arrangement necessary for such a union would arise in our supposed binary system from the movement of the two suns in their magnetized condition around their common center of gravity. The powerful display of electro-magnetism succeeding each stage of dismemberment would gradually bring the majority of all the wandering meteors into the same plane, and give them orbits of a larger size and constantly approaching nearer to a circular form. Though constantly declining, this force must, during many thousand centuries, exert a predominant sway over meteors and comets, collecting them on the verge of the binary system in such numbers and in such a regular array that their aggregation into one body, though long deferred, would be inevitable. A nucleus once formed would increase by appropriating matter from the zone which it traversed, and, though at first much retarded in its growth, it would after many thousand revolutions attain a planetary size. Being largely composed of gaseous matter and therefore very sensitive to the resistance of a space-pervading medium, the newly formed planet would contract its large orbit; and room would be thus made for bringing into being another mundane structure when, after the lapse of millions of centuries, another paroxysmal stage of incorporation awakened electric energy and prepared the way for a new coalition of the vagrant matter of the celestial regions. After numberless ages the recurrence of the dismemberment would give existence to another planetary orb, and increase the mass of the preexisting ones. Accordingly, the verge of a solar system must be considered as the birthplace of all its primary worlds.

It is evidently in this external zone, where solar attraction is most feeble, that we may hope to find the most favorable conditions for the union of small into large masses. In the asteroidal region two spheres of granite, having each a diameter of one hundred miles, could not control the velocity with which they would sweep by one another on meet-