Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/236

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224
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
DRIFTING OF THE STARS.
HON. SECRETARY OF THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY.

FROM time to time, during the last three years, I have brought before the readers of this magazine the various arguments and considerations on which I have based certain new views respecting the constitution of the sidereal universe. In so doing I have had occasion to deal chiefly with facts already known, though not hitherto viewed in that particular light in which I sought to place them. Indeed, it is an essential part of my general argument that much that is contained in observations already made has been escaping us. In the eagerness of astronomers to ascertain new facts, they have been neglecting the interpretation of facts already ascertained.

But I have long felt that it would greatly tend to advance the new views which I have advocated, if some process of research, pursued by one of those astronomers of our day who possess the requisite means and leisure for prolonged inquiries, should confirm in a clear and decisive way some definite point of my new theories. Thus, if new observational evidence should be found in favor of my theory that the nebulæ are not external to our galaxy, or if new evidence should be obtained to show that the stars are aggregated in certain regions within our system and segregated from others; or, again, if my theory of star-drift should be confirmed by new and striking evidence, I felt that a greater measure of confidence in my analysis of former evidence would thenceforward be accorded. I had no occasion, indeed, to complain of cavil or opposition; in fact, a degree of attention had been given to the new opinions I advocated which was certainly much greater than I had looked for. But there must always be such an inertia in the general weight of opinion in favor of accepted views, that only a steady reiteration of reasoning during a long period, or else some striking and impressive discovery, can cause the weight of opinion to tend in the contrary direction.

I cannot but regard myself as most fortunate in finding the first confirmation of my views (1) coming from one of the most eminent astronomers and physicists of the day, (2) bearing upon one of the most definite and positive of my vaticinations, and (3) relating to one of the most interesting subjects in the whole range of recent astronomical research.

It will be in the remembrance of many readers of this magazine that, nearly four years ago, Dr. Huggins succeeded in showing that the bright star Sirius is travelling at an enormously rapid rate away from us. In other words, besides that rapid thwart-motion which is shifting the place of this star upon the heavens, the star has a rapid