Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/204

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194
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
PLEASURES OF THE TELESCOPE.

By GARRETT P. SERVISS.

V. — IN SUMMER STAR-LANDS.

IN the soft air of a summer night, when fireflies are flashing their lanterns over the fields, the stars do not sparkle and blaze like those that pierce the frosty skies of winter. The light of Sirius, Aldebaran, Rigel, and other midwinter brilliants possesses a certain gemlike hardness and cutting quality, while Antares and Vega, the great summer stars, and Arcturus, when he hangs westering in a July night, exhibit a milder radiance, according with the character of the season. This difference is, of course, atmospheric in origin, although it may be partly subjective, depending upon the mental influences of the mutations of Nature.

The constellation Scorpio is nearly as striking in outline as Orion, and its brightest star, the red Antares (a in map No. 12) r carries concealed in its rays a green jewel which, to the eye of the enthusiast in telescopic recreation, appears more beautiful and inviting each time that he penetrates to its hiding place.

We shall begin our night's work with this object, and the four-inch glass will serve our purpose, although the untrained observer would be more certain of success with the five-inch. A friend of mine has seen the companion of Antares with a three-inch, but I have never tried the star with so small an aperture. When the air is steady and the companion can be well viewed, there is no finer sight among the double stars. The contrast of colors is beautifully distinct — fire-red and bright green. The little green star has been seen emerging from behind the moon, after an occultation, ahead of its ruddy companion. The magnitudes are one and seven and a half or eight; distance 3", p. 270°. Antares is probably a binary, although its binary character has not yet been established.

A slight turn of the telescope tube brings us to the star α, a wide double, the smaller component of which is blue or plum-colored; magnitudes four and nine, distance 20", p. 272°. From α we pass to β, a very beautiful object, of which the three-inch gives us a splendid view. Its two components are of magnitudes two and six; distance 13", p. 30°; colors, white and bluish. It is interesting to know that the larger star is itself double, although none of the telescopes we are using can split it. Burnham discovered that it has a tenth-magnitude companion; distance less than 1", p. 87°.

And now for a triple, which will probably require the use of our largest glass. Up near the end of the northern prolongation