Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/68

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58
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

fluence and recorded his gratitude in its name, we are not informed. Thus, at every step, we find how shreds of history and bits of superstition are entangled among the stars. Surely, humanity has reflected itself in the heavens, at least as lastingly as it has impressed itself upon the earth.

Starting from the group of stars just described as making the Water-Bearer's urn, follow with a glass the winding stream of small stars that represents the water. Several very pretty and striking assemblages of stars will be encountered in its course. The star Tau (τ) is double and presents a beautiful contrast of color, one star being white and the other reddish-orange—two solar systems, it may be, apparently neighbors as seen from the earth, though really enormously far apart, in one of which daylight is white and in the other red!

Point a good glass upon the star marked Nu (ν), and you will see, somewhat less than a degree and a half to the west of it, what appears to be a faint star of between the seventh and eighth magnitudes. You will have to look sharp to see it. It is with your mind's eye that you must gaze, in order to perceive the wonder here hidden in the depths of space. That faint speck is a nebula, unrivaled for interest by many of the larger and more conspicuous objects of that kind. Lord Rosse's great telescope has shown that in form it resembles the planet Saturn; in other words, that it consists apparently of a ball surrounded by a ring. But the spectroscope proves that it is a gaseous mass, and the micrometer—supposing its distance to be equal to that of the stars, and we have no reason to think it less—that it must be large enough to fill the whole space included within the orbit of Neptune! Here, then, as has been said, we seem to behold a genesis in the heavens. If Laplace's nebular hypothesis, or any of the modifications of that hypothesis, represents the process of formation of a solar system, then we may fairly conclude that such a process is now actually in operation in this nebula in Aquarius, where a vast ring of nebulous matter appears to have separated off from the spherical mass within it. This may not be the true explanation of what we see there, but, whatever the explanation may be, there can be no question of the high significance of this nebula, whose form proclaims unmistakably the operation of great metamorphic forces there. Of course, with his insignificant optical means, our observer can see nothing of the strange form of this object, the detection of which requires the aid of the most powerful telescopes, but it is much to know where this unfinished creation lies, and to see it, even though diminished by distance to a mere speck of light.

Turn your glass upon the star shown in the map just above Mu (μ) and Epsilon (ε). You will find an attractive arrangement of small stars in its neighborhood. The star marked 104 is double to the naked eye, and the row of stars below it is well worth looking at. The star Delta (δ) is interesting, because, in 1756, Tobias Mayer narrowly escaped making a discovery there that would have anticipated that