Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/139

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



JUNE, 1873.



THE CONSTITUTION OF NEBULÆ.
By Dr. H. SCHELLEN.[1]

WHEN the starry heavens are viewed through a telescope of moderate power, a great number of stellar clusters and faint nebulous forms are revealed against the dark background of the sky which might be taken at first sight for passing clouds, but which, by their unchanging forms and persistent appearance, are proved to belong to the heavenly bodies, though possessing a character widely differing from the point-like images of ordinary stars. Sir William Herschel was able, with his gigantic forty-foot telescope, to resolve many of these nebula? into clusters of stars, and found them to consist of vast groups of individual suns, in which thousands of fixed stars may be clearly separated and counted, but which are so far removed from us that we are unable to perceive their distance one from the other, though that may really amount to many millions of miles, and their light, with a low magnifying power, seems to come from a large, faintly-luminous mass. But all nebulæ were not resolvable with this telescope, and, in proportion as such nebulæ were resolved into clusters of stars, new nebulæ appeared which resisted a power of 6,000, and suggested to this astute investigator the theory that, besides the many thousand apparent nebulas which reveal themselves to us as a complete and separate system of worlds, there are also thousands of real nebulæ in the universe composed of primeval cosmical matter out of which future worlds were to be fashioned.

Lord Rosse, by means of a telescope of fifty-two feet focus, of his own construction, was able to resolve into clusters of stars many of the nebulæ not resolved by Herschel; but there were still revealed to the eye, thus carried farther into space, new nebulæ beyond the power even of this gigantic telescope to resolve.

  1. Abridged from Schellen's "Spectrum Analysis."