Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/May 1877/Movements of Jupiter's Cloud-Masses
|←On the Wonderful Divisibility of Gold and Other Metals||Popular Science Monthly Volume 11 May 1877 (1877)
Movements of Jupiter's Cloud-Masses
By Richard Anthony Proctor
IF Jupiter be regarded as a planet resembling our earth in condition, we find ourselves compelled to believe that processes of a most remarkable character are taking place on that remote world. It is singular with what complacency the believers in the theory that all the planets are very much alike accept the most startling evidence respecting disturbances to which some among those brother worlds of ours must needs on that hypothesis have been subjected. Mighty masses of cloud, such as would suffice to enwrap the entire globe on which we live, form over large regions of Jupiter or Saturn, change rapidly in shape, and vanish, in the course of a few minutes; and many are content to believe that what has thus taken place resembles the formation, motion, and dissipation, of our own small clouds, though the sun pours but about a twenty-seventh part of the heat on Jupiter, and but about a hundredth part on Saturn, which we receive from his rays. The outline of Jupiter, as indicated by the apparent position of a satellite close to his disk, expands and contracts through thousands of miles, yet the theory that Jupiter is still intensely hot must not for a moment be entertained, though the expansion and contraction of the solid crust of a cool planet through so enormous a range would vaporize a portion of its mass exceeding many times the entire volume of our earth. Saturn is seen by Sir W. Herschel and Sir J. Herschel, by Sir G. Airy, Coolidge, the Bonds, and a host of other observers, to assume from time to time the square-shouldered aspect, a change which—to be discernible from our distant standpoint—would imply the expansion and contraction of whole zones of Saturn's surface through 4,000 or 5,000 miles at least; yet it is better to believe that these stupendous changes have affected the solid crust of a planet like our earth than to admit the possibility that the outline we measure is not that of the planet itself, but of layers of cloud raised to a vast height in the deep atmosphere surrounding a planet still glowing with its primeval fires.
The phenomena I am now about to consider belong to the same category. They are utterly inexplicable, or only explicable by the most sensational assumptions as to the processes taking place on Jupiter, if we adopt the old theory of Jupiter's condition; while if we regard Jupiter as an intensely-heated planet surrounded by and entirely concealed within a cloud-laden atmosphere several thousand miles in depth, they at once admit of the most simple and natural explanation.
It has, of course, long been known that the belts of Jupiter are phenomena of his atmosphere, not of his surface. The belts of lightest tint have been regarded as belts of cloud, and the darker belts as either the real surface of the planet seen between the cloud-belts, or else as lower cloud-layers, appearing darker because in shadow. Accordingly, when features of the belts have been watched in their rotational circuit, it has been clearly recognized that the rotation determined in this way is not necessarily or probably the true rotation of the planet itself. Further, it has been proved, beyond all possibility of question, that some at least among the spots upon the planet's belts have a motion of their own; for whenever two spots in different Jovian latitudes have been observed, it has been almost constantly noticed that the one nearer the equator has had a greater rotation rate than the other. Again, it has sometimes happened that instead of two spots, in different latitudes, a well-defined dark streak or opening, having its two extremities in different latitudes, has remained long enough to be observed during several rotations of the planet. In these cases it has been observed that the end of the streak nearest the equator has traveled fastest, not only absolutely, but in longitude, insomuch that the position of the streak has notably altered.
Thus, in February, 1860, Mr. Long, of Manchester, noticed across a bright belt an oblique dark streak. "Its position" ( I quote from a paper of my own written six years ago, when as yet the theory now before us was in its infancy) "might be compared to that of the Red Sea on the globe of the earth, for it ran neither north and south nor east and west, but rather nearer the former than the latter direction. The length of this dark space—of this rift, that is, in the great cloud belt—was about 10,000 miles, and its width at least 500 miles; so that its superficial extent was much greater than the whole area of Europe." It remained as a rift certainly until April 10th, or for six weeks, and probably much longer. It passed away to the dark side of Jupiter, to return again after the Jovian night to the illuminated hemisphere, during at least a hundred Jovian days; and assuredly nothing in the behavior of terrestrial clouds affords any analogue to this remarkable fact. "This great rift grew, lengthening out until it stretched across the whole face of the planet, and it grew in a very strange way; for its two ends remained at unchanged distances from the planet's equator, but the one nearest to the equator traveled forward (speaking with reference to the way in which the planet turns on its axis), the rift thus approaching more and more nearly to an east and west direction." The rate of this motion was perhaps the most remarkable circumstance of all. Mr. Baxendell, one of the observers of the rift, and one of our most experienced telescopists, thus describes the changes seen in the belt: "Since Mr. Long first observed the oblique streak on February 29th, it has gradually extended itself in the direction of the planet's rotation, at the average rate of 3,640 miles per day, or 151 miles per hour, the two extremities of the belt remaining constantly on the same parallels of latitude. The belt also became gradually darker and broader."
Apart from the evidence afforded by this rift respecting the swift motions of the cloud-masses enwrapping Jupiter (for a velocity of 151 miles per hour exceeds that of the most tremendous hurricanes on our earth), it has always seemed to me that this one series of observations should suffice of itself to show that the phenomena of Jupiter's cloud-laden atmosphere are not due to solar action. For the rift itself continued, and the changes affecting it continued whether Jovian day was in progress or Jovian night. For one hundred Jovian days or more, and for one hundred Jovian nights, the great cloud-masses on either side of the rift remained in position opposite each other, slowly wheeling, but still continuing face to face, as their equatorial ends rushed onward at a rate fourfold that of a swift train, even measuring their velocity only by reference to the ends remote from the equator, and regarding these as fixed. Probably the cloud-masses were moving still more swiftly with respect to the surface of the planet below.
Of course, it is just possible that a great dark rift, such as I have described, might appear thus to change in position without any actual transference of the bordering cloud-masses. Mr. Webb, speaking of a number of phenomena, of which those presented by the great rift of 1860 are but a few, says that "they prove an envelope vaporous and mutable like that of the earth, without, however, necessarily inferring" (? implying) "the existence of tempestuous winds: even in our own atmosphere, when near the dew-point, surprising changes sometimes occur very quietly: a cloud-bank observed by Sir John Herschel, April 19, 1827, was precipitated so rapidly that it crossed the whole sky from east to west at the rate of at least 300 miles per hour; and alterations far more sudden are conceivable where everything is on a gigantic scale." It does not seem to me altogether probable that more rapid alterations would affect cloud-banks covering millions of square miles than occasionally affect terrestrial cloud-banks covering perhaps a few tens of thousands of square miles; on the contrary, as small terrestrial clouds change relatively in a far more rapid way than large ones, and these than cloud-masses covering a county or a country, so it would seem that the changes affecting our largest cloud-layers would be relatively far more rapid than those affecting cloud-masses which could (many times over) enwrap the whole frame of this earth on which we live. But apart from that, and apart also from the important consideration that all such processes as evaporation and condensation, so far as the sun brings them about, should proceed far more sluggishly in the case of a planet like Jupiter than in that of our earth, which receives some twenty-seven times as much heat from the sun (mile for mile of surface), it is utterly incredible that precipitation should have occurred so steadily and swiftly along one edge of the great rift, and condensation—with such exactly equal steadiness and swiftness—on the opposite edge, that, while the rift as a whole shifted its position during a hundred Jovian nights and days at the rate of 150 miles per hour, its sides should nevertheless remain parallel all the time. Such processes may be spoken of as possible, in the same sense that it is possible that a coin tossed fifty times in succession should always show the same face; but we do not reckon such possibilities among scientific contingencies.
But the motion of great rounded masses in the atmosphere of Jupiter is still more decisive as to the existence not only of a very deep atmosphere, but also as to the swift motions taking place in that atmosphere.
I would, in the first place, note that the very existence of belts in the Jovian atmosphere, and especially of variable belts, implies the great depth at which the real surface of the planet must lie below the visible cloud-layers. Atmospheric belts can only be formed where there are differences of rotational velocity. In the case of our own earth we know that the trade-wind zone and the counter-trade zone owe their origin to the difference of absolute rotational velocity between the equatorial parts of the earth and parts in high latitudes. In the case of Jupiter the difference of this kind is not sufficient to account for the observed belts—partly because there are many, partly because they are variable, but principally because Jupiter is so much larger than the earth that 'much greater distances must be traversed ia passing from any given latitude to another where the rotational velocity is so many miles per hour more or less. Combining with these considerations the circumstance that the solar action which causes the atmospheric movements from one latitude to another in the case of our earth is reduced to one twenty-seventh part only of its terrestrial value in the case of Jupiter, we must clearly look to some other cause for the difference of absolute rotational velocity necessary to account for the belts of Jupiter.
Now, it seems to me that we are thus at once led to the conclusion that the cloud-masses forming the belts of Jupiter are affected by vertical currents, up-rushing motions carrying them from regions nearer the axle, where the absolute motion due to rotation is slower, to regions farther from the axis, where the motion due to rotation is swifter, and motions of down-rush carrying them from regions of swifter to regions of slower rotational motion. This view seems certainly encouraged by what we find when we come to study more closely the aspect of the Jovian belts. The white spots—some small, some large—which are seen to form from time to time along the chief belts present precisely the appearance which we should expect to find in masses of vapor flung from far down below the visible cloud-surface of Jupiter, breaking their way through the cloud-layers, and becoming visible as they condense into the form of visible vapor in the cooler upper regions of the planet's atmosphere. Then, again, the singular regularity with which in certain cases the great, rounded white clouds are set side by side, like rows of eggs upon a string, is much more readily explicable as due to a regular succession of up-rushes of vapor, from the same region below, than as due to the simultaneous up-rush of several masses of vapor from regions set at uniform distances along a belt of Jupiter's surface. The latter supposition is indeed artificial and improbable in the highest degree, and in several distinct respects. It is unlikely that several up-rushes should occur simultaneously, unlikely that regions whence up-rush took place should be set at equal distances from each other, unlikely that they should lie along the same latitude parallel. On the other hand, the occurrence of up-rush after up-rush from the same region of disturbance, at nearly uniform intervals of time, is not at all improbable. The rhythmical succession of explosions is a phenomenon, indeed, altogether likely to occur under certain not improbable conditions—as, for instance, when each explosion affords an excess of relief, if one may so speak, and is therefore followed by a reactionary process, in its turn bringing on a fresh explosion. Now, a rhythmical succession of explosions from the same deep-rooted region of disturbance would produce at the upper level, where we see the expelled vapor masses (after condensation), a series of rounded clouds lying side by side. For each cloud-mass—after its expulsion from a region of slow, absolute, rotational motion, to a region of swifter motion—would lag behind with reference to the direction of rotational motion. The earlier it was formed the farther back it would lie. Thus each new cloud-mass would lie somewhat in advance of the one expelled next before it; and if the explosions occurred regularly, and with a sufficient interval between each and the next to allow each expelled cloud-mass to lag by its own full length before the next one appeared, there would be seen precisely such a series of egg-shaped clouds, set side by side, as every careful observer of Jupiter with high telescopic powers has from time to time perceived.
That these egg-shaped clouds are really egg-shaped—not merely oval in the sense in which a flat, elliptic surface is oval—is suggested at once by their aspect. But it is more distinctly indicated when details are examined. It appears to me that considerable interest attaches to some observations which were made by Mr. Brett in April, 1874, upon some of the rounded spots then visible upon the planet's equatorial zone. It will not be thought that I am disposed, as a rule, to place too much reliance upon the observations and theories of Mr. Brett, seeing that on more than one occasion I have had to call attention to errors into which, in my judgment, he has fallen. For instance, I certainly do not think he has ever seen the solar corona when the sun was not eclipsed, though I have no doubt he saw what he described, which he supposed to be the corona, but which was in reality not the corona. Nor, again, do I accept (though I do not think it worth while to discuss) his theory that Venus has a surface shining with metallic lustre, and is surrounded by a glassy atmosphere; though in that case, again, his description of what he saw may be accepted as it stands, and all that we need reject is his interpretation thereof. In the case of Jupiter's white spots, Mr. Brett's skill as an artist enables us to accept not only his observations, but his interpretation of them, simply because the interpretation depends on artistic, not on scientific, considerations.
"I wish," he says, "to call attention to a particular feature of Jupiter's disk, which" (the feature, probably) "appears to me very well defined at the present time, and which seems to afford evidence respecting the physical condition of the planet. The large, white patches which occur on and about the equatorial zone, and interrupt the continuity of the dark belts, are well known to all observers, and the particular point in connection with them to which I beg leave to call attention is, that they cast shadows—that is to say, the light patches are bounded on the side farthest from the sun by a dark border shaded off softly toward the light, and showing in a distinct manner that the patches are projected or relieved from the body of the planet. The evidence which this observation is calculated to afford refers to the question whether the opaque body of the planet is seen in the dark belts or the bright ones, and points to the conclusion that it is not seen at all in either of them, but that all we see of Jupiter consists of semi-transparent materials. The particular fact from which this inference would be drawn is, that the dark sides of the suspended or projected masses are not sufficiently hard or sharply defined for shadows falling upon an opaque surface; neither are they sharper upon the light background than upon the dark. The laws of light and shade upon opaque bodies are very simple and very absolute; and one of the most rudimentary of them is that every body has its light, its shade, and its shadowy the relations between which are constant; and that the most conspicuous and persistent edge or limit in this association of elements is the boundary of the shadow—the shadow being radically different from the shade in that its intensity is uniform throughout in any given instance, and is not affected by the form of the surface on which it is cast, whereas the shade is distinguished by attributes of an opposite character. Now, if the dark spaces adjoining the light patches on Jupiter, which I have called shadows, are not shadows at all, but shades, it is obvious that the opaque surface of the planet on which the shadows should fall is concealed; whereas, if they are shadows, their boundaries are so soft and undefined as to lead to the conclusion that they are cast upon a semi-transparent body, which allows the shadow to be seen, indeed, but with diminishing distinctness toward its edge, according to the acuteness of its angle of incidence. Either explanation of the phenomenon may be the true one, but they both lead to the same conclusion, viz., that neither the dark belts nor the bright ones are opaque, and that, if Jupiter has any nucleus at all, it is not visible to us. It is obvious that the phenomena I have described would not be visible at the time of the planet's opposition, and the first occasion on which I noticed it was the night of the 16th of April last."
This reasoning, so far as it relates to the laws of light and shade and shadow, is, of course, altogether sound. Nor are there any points requiring correction which in any degree affect the astronomical inferences deducible from what Mr. Brett actually saw. I may note that somewhat later Mr. Knobel observed the shadow of white cloud-masses, and, as the shadow had not so much greater a length at that time, two months from opposition, as it had when the planet was much nearer opposition, he infers that the true explanation of the appearance has hardly been found. He appears to have overlooked the fact that the assumption made in the explanation is not that Jupiter has a semitransparent atmosphere always equally translucent and penetrable to the same depth by the solar rays. When the shadow was shorter than it should have been, had the atmosphere been in the same condition as when Mr. Brett made his observation, it is probable that a layer of clouds interrupted the rays, and thus the shadow was much closer to the cloud-mass throwing it than it would have been had that layer not been there, Mr, Knobel's paper contains very striking evidence of the variability of Jupiter's atmosphere, or rather of the clouds which float in it, "The greater distinctness of the satellites when near the edge," he says, "is a curious phenomenon which has been repeatedly observed by astronomers, but which seems to require explanation." On an occasion described "the second satellite transited a dark limb which was" (seemed) "most dark near the centre, and fainter toward the edge, yet the satellite was almost invisible when on the darkest part of the belt, and was bright and distinct when the background of the belt was faintest." This practically proved that on the occasion in question the dark, central part of the belt seemed darker than it really was by contrast with the bright belts on either side, while the edge seemed lighter than it really was by contrast with the dark sky on which the planet was projected. In reality the part near the edge must have been darker than the part near the middle, or the satellite could not have appeared brighter when near the edge. No doubt the darkness near the edge (which, by-the-way, my friend Mr. Browning tested photometrically, and demonstrated, at my suggestion, eight years ago) was due to transparency, the darkness of the sky beyond being to some degree discernible through the edge. But this transparency is not always to be observed to the same degree, or through the same extent of Jovian atmosphere as to depth. Mr. Knobel proceeds, illustrating this the more effectively that he does so unintentionally: "The third satellite, on March 25, 1874, appeared as a dark spot when in mid-transit, and on nearing the edge appeared as a bright spot without trace of duskiness. But on March 26, 1873" (observe the difference of years), "the fourth satellite made the whole transit as a dark spot, and was not perceptibly less dark at egress than in mid-transit."
It appears to me demonstrated by the evidence thus far noted that in a semi-transparent atmosphere of enormous depth, surrounding Jupiter, there float vast cloud-masses, sometimes in layers, at others in irregular heaps, at others having well-rounded forms. These cloud-masses undergo sometimes remarkable changes of shape, often forming or disappearing in a very short time, and thus indicating the inferior activity of the forces at work below them—in other words, the intense heat of Jupiter's real globe. As to the actual depth of the semitransparent atmosphere in which these cloud-layers and. cloud-masses float, it would be difficult to express an opinion. We do not know how many cloud-layers there are, how thick any cloud-layer may be, how great may be the depth of the vast rounded masses of cloud whose upper surface (that is, the surface remotest from Jupiter's true surface) we can alone see under favorable conditions. But we can indicate a minimum than which the atmosphere's depth is probably not less; and, from all the observations which I have examined as bearing on this point, I should be disposed to assign for that minimum at least 6,000 miles. I am strongly of opinion that in reality the depth of the Jovian atmosphere is still greater. I cannot doubt that Jupiter has a solid or liquid nucleus, though this nucleus—glowing, as it must be, with a most intense heat—may be greatly expanded; yet I should conceive that, with the enormous attractive power residing in it, containing as it must nearly the whole mass of the planet, its mean density cannot be less than that of the earth. Now, a globe of the mass of Jupiter, but of the same mean density as our earth, would have one-fourth of Jupiter's volume—the mean density of Jupiter, as at present judged, being equal to one-fourth that of the earth. The diameter, therefore, of such a globe would be less than the present diameter of Jupiter, in the same ratio that the cube root of unity is less than the cube-root of 4, or as 1 is less than 1.5874. Say, roughly (remembering that the atmosphere of Jupiter must have a considerable mass), the diameter of Jupiter's nucleus would, on the assumptions made, be equal to about five-eighths of his observed diameter, or to about 53,000 miles. This is less than his observed diameter by about 22,000 miles, so that the radius of his nucleus would be less than his observed radius by about 11,000 miles—which, therefore, would be the probable depth of his atmosphere.
But we have still to consider the velocities with which rounded masses of cloud travel in the very deep atmosphere of Jupiter. "There is clear evidence," I have pointed out in the article "Astronomy" of the "Encyclopædia Britannica," "that spots on Jupiter are subject to a proper motion like that which affects the spots on the sun. Schmidt, in No. 1,973 of the Astronomische Nachrichten, gives a number of cases of such proper movements of spots, ranging in velocity from about seven miles to about 200 miles an hour. It may be noted, also, that from a series of observations of one spot, made between March 13 and April 14, 1873, with the great Rosse reflector, a period of 9 h. 55 m. 4 s. was deduced, while observations of another spot in the same interval gave a rotation period of 9 h. 54 m. 55.4 s." The actual difference of velocity would depend in this case on the actual latitudes of the two spots, which were not micrometrically measured. Taking 200,000 miles as about the circumference of a parallel of latitude passing midway between the spots (only a very rough calculation need be made), we should find that in a period of one rotation, or, roughly, of ten hours, one spot gained on the other about 51 seconds, or, roughly, about 700 part of a rotation—that is, in distance (dividing 200,000 by 700) about 286 miles in ten hours, or nearly 29 miles an hour.
We have, however, instances of yet greater relative proper motion among cloud-masses. One of these cases I proceed to consider at length:
In June, 1876, two spots were visible upon the disk of Jupiter, so distinct and isolated as to be well adapted for measurement to determine the rate of the planet's rotation. Mr. Brett, observing them first as illustrative of the phenomenon to which he had called attention in 1874, turned his attention afterward to their rate of motion. He would seem not to have been aware of the fact that the proper motion of bright spots and other markings on Jupiter was already a recognized phenomenon; for he asks whether his "observations of these spots, forming a series extending over a period of 280 hours 20 minutes, afford evidence of proper motion, or whether, on the other hand, they tend to cast any doubt on the accepted rotation of the planet." However, his observations are all the freer from the bias of preconceived opinions. "There were several peculiarities about these two spots," he says, "which seemed to me to give them an eminent claim to attention. They occurred very near to the equator, and were very well defined, and free from entanglement with other markings—an advantage which they have maintained with singular uniformity throughout the period mentioned; but the special peculiarity to which attention is asked is, that during an interval of five days they remained in the same relative position without any variation whatever. Their stability in respect of latitude during those five days is undoubted; but the question is, whether or not they were equally stable in longitude. This remark only applies to the first five days of the series, because at the end of twelve days a certain deviation was obvious. The distance between the two spots occupied about 42° of Jovian longitude, or about 33,000 miles. Their diameter is nearly equal, being estimated at about one-fourteenth of the planet's diameter, or 6,310 miles." The interval of time between these first two observations "was 119 hours, that is to say, twelve rotations of the planet according to Airy's determination, during which time their distance apart and their latitude remained constant." Between the first and second observations the two spots had gained "44 m. 6 s. in time. Assuming Airy's rotation, viz., 9 h. 55 m. 21 s., the spots have gained on the planet's surface at the rate of 4 m. 2 s. in each revolution."
Between the second observation and the third "there was an interval of seven days, or seventeen rotations of the planet; and the same two spots turn up again somewhat earlier than the calculated time. It unfortunately happens," proceeds Mr, Brett, "that on this occasion their configuration had undergone some change; but their dimensions and the distance between them remain very much as before. The most important circumstance respecting them is, that their rate of progress shows a certain acceleration." The change, however, in these seven days, is not such as to permit us to believe that the same pair of spots was under observation. If so, a change in latitude much more remarkable than the change in longitude had taken place; for the one which was the most northerly by about 6,000 miles at the beginning of the seven days was the most southerly by nearly the same amount at the end of that period. Considering that in the five days between the first and second observations no change of latitude took place, it may fairly be doubted whether a change of the kind, and so rapid, amounting, in fact, to nearly 900 miles per day, could have taken place in the interval. Proper motions in latitude may indeed be regarded as not less likely to occur in the case of Jupiter than in that of the sun, where they certainly sometimes occur; but all the observations hitherto made on Jupiter assure us that, in his case as in the sun's, proper motions in latitude would be very much slower than proper motions in longitude. We must be content with the evidence of proper motion afforded by the first five days of observation. (The fourth observation only followed the third by about twenty minutes.)
Now, taking this evidence as it stands, and making fair allowance for probable error in an observation of the sort, we may consider that during the 119 hours the two spots were gaining on the estimated rotation-period of the planet by about four minutes per rotation. As they both lie on the equatorial belt, we may take the circuit accomplished by each at about 267,000 miles, or, say, their rate at about 270,000 in ten hours, or 27,000 miles per hour. Hence, the distance traversed in four minutes would be about 1,800 miles, which would be about the gain per rotation. One-tenth of this, or 180 miles, would be the hourly gain, as compared with the estimated rotation-rate. Mr. Brett takes the least proper motion at 165 miles per hour.
He points out justly that the rotation-rate has been derived from observations of some such spots. So that in reality the only inference we can form is, that the rotation-rate derived from some spots is different from the rotation-rate derived from others, and that some spots (if not all) are certainly not constant in position with respect to the solid nucleus of the planet. That the spots observed by Airy, Mädler, and others, should have indicated a slower rate of rotation than those observed by Mr. Brett, may fairly be ascribed to the fact that the former were at some distance from the equator, while the latter were nearly equatorial. For matter thrown up from the equatorial parts of the true surface of the concealed planet would manifestly differ less in velocity from the superincumbent atmosphere into which they were driven than would masses expelled from higher latitudes. (It is probable that the same explanation applies also in the case of the sun.)
This conclusion, that the spots of Jupiter have rapid rates of relative motion, would of itself be of singular interest, especially when we remember that the larger white spots represent masses of cloud 5,000 or 6,000 miles in diameter. That such masses should be carried along with velocities so enormous as to change their positions relatively to each other, at a rate sometimes of more than 150 miles per hour, is a startling and stupendous fact. But it appears to me that the fact is still more interesting in what it suggests than in what it reveals. The movements taking place in the deep atmosphere of Jupiter are very wonderful, but the cause of these movements is yet better worthy of study. We cannot doubt that deep down below the visible surface of the planet — that is, the surface of its outermost cloud-layers — the fiery mass of the real planet. Outbursts, compared with which the most tremendous volcanic explosions on our earth are utterly insignificant, are continually taking place beneath the seemingly quiescent envelope of the giant planet. Mighty currents carry aloft great masses of heated vapor, which, as they force their way through the upper and cooler strata of the atmosphere, are converted into visible cloud. Currents of cool vapor descend toward the surface, after assuming, no doubt, vorticose motions, and sweeping away over wide areas the brighter cloud-masses, so as to form dark spots on the disk of the planet. And, owing to the various depths to which the different cloud-masses belong, and whence the up-rushing currents of heated vapor have had their origin, horizontal currents of tremendous velocity exist, by which the cloud-masses of one belt or of one layer are hurried swiftly past the cloud-masses of a neighboring belt, or of higher or low cloud-layers. The planet Jupiter, in fact, may justly be described as a miniature sun, vastly inferior in bulk to our own sun, inferior to a greater degree in heat, and in a greater degree yet in lustre, but to be compared with the sun — not with our earth — in size, in heat, and in lustre, and, lastly, in the tremendous energy of the processes which are at work throughout his cloud-laden atmospheric envelope.
Since the above article was written, news has been received by the Astronomical Society that Mr. Todd, a well-known observer of Adelaide, New South Wales, has been able to trace the motions of satellites behind the parts of the planet near the edge, or, in other words, through those parts of the planet's atmosphere which have hitherto been regarded as belonging to the mass of the planet itself.
- Two pictures of this belt, as seen March 12, 1860, and April 9, 1860, will be found in my article on "Astronomy," in the "Encyclopædia Britannica," vol. ii., p. 808.
- Webb thus describes the egg-shaped clouds: "Occasionally the belts throw out dusky loops or festoons, whose elliptical interiors, arranged lengthways and sometimes with great regularity, have the aspect of a girdle of luminous, egg-shaped clouds surrounding the globe. These oval forms, which were very conspicuous in the equatorial zone (as the interval of the belts may be termed) in 1869-'70, have been seen in other regions of the planet, and arc probably of frequent occurrence. The earliest distinct representation of them that I know of is by Dawes, March 8, 1851, but they are perhaps indicated in drawings of the last century."